How does COMC calculate and charge processing fees?
This is a question that frequently comes up so I would like to take a few minutes to explain exactly how we calculate and charge processing fees. This is particularly interesting recently because of our new partial deposit functionality.
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In order to provide this service, we need to charge some fees. The least expensive service is our Basic service, and it takes 2-8 weeks for us to process your items through our patented system. It only costs $0.25 per standard raw trading card for this service, and our goal is to process your items in less than 4 weeks on average.
Unfortunately, we are a bit behind at the moment because of the massive amount of work we have put in to building a new sports card catalog completely from scratch. We are now 85% done with the basic catalog information, but that last 15% will take a bit of effort. What this means is that some items have missed their 8 week guaranteed due date. For those items we only charge 50% of our normal processing fees.
Well, that is what’s supposed to happen, but due to some growing pains we had a couple of bugs that caused these fees to not be charged correctly, and I will explain those below. Last year, the odds of us missing a due date were about 1 in 700 and our system for calculating and charging fees was a bit simpler. This year, we had to make some innovative changes to how we process items so that we can do everything more efficiently, but it is now a bit more complicated.
How We Used to Do It
For the past several years, when we received your shipment of cards, we would estimate the processing fees up front, charge your account, then begin processing the items. When the processing was completed, we would deposit all of the cards at one time into your account, and we would update the estimated processing fees to the exact processing fees based on the items that went into your account.
If you were to closely monitor your store credit history doing this process, you would have noticed a fee charged to your account when we first received your items. Later, once we completed processing all of your items, that original estimate would be removed, and the correct, final fee would be charged to your account.
How We Do It Now
For our Basic processing service, we no longer charge anything up front. When your items arrive, we simply create a placeholder transaction. We then process your items in efficient groups of similar items based on the themes for the week. When items are ready to be deposited in your account, we no longer wait until all of your items are done before letting you start to sell them. Instead, we partially deposit the transaction and only charge you for the items we processed.
This is where the complexity has come in recently. Because we have a huge demand for our processing service and because we are using many of our sports card experts to create the new COMC catalog, we have some items that are taking more than 8 weeks to process. These items are supposed to be charged 50% of the standard processing fees. That is how we stand behind our guarantee. As you can imagine, we lose money if we don’t hit these due dates, so we are very motivated to do everything we can to meet those deadlines, but sometimes it simply isn’t possible.
Prioritizing Due Dates
We have 30 employees that all help with different aspects of our processing system. This doesn’t count our shipping, administration, and other teams. As you would expect, they have a variety of responsibilities, experience, and skills. In order to give you the best experience possible, we only have certain employees tackle the hardest cards. Many of the newer employees can help out with easier items and can pass on the more difficult items in order to avoid mistakes. As a result, we do not process items in the exact order that they arrive. So, some items that are more difficult to identify need to wait on some of our experts, while others that were easy to process may get done sooner. Processing items exactly in the order they arrive is inefficient, so we have to charge more for that. That is a significant part of why we need to charge $1 per Premium item in order to guarantee 3 day processing.
A couple weeks ago, we discovered the code that discounted the processing fees for past due items was only in the code path we use for final deposits when a batch of items is completely done. This was the first time we missed any due dates with our new partial deposit system. So I changed the code to make sure that we also give the discount when we calculate fees during partial deposits.
In order to fix up existing transactions that had been overcharged, we simply needed to do another partial deposit or do a final deposit. In either case, we completely recalculate the fees, delete the old fee that was previously charged, and charge the newly calculated fee.
When we do a partial deposit, we send an email notification that explains how the fees were adjusted and what items were deposited. In some cases, this resulted in people being charged a negative amount (a.k.a being credited) even when we deposited some items into their account.
Great, Bug #1 was fixed. We were factoring in our 50% discount guarantee and not overcharging our customers. For the next couple weeks, everything looked good. People were getting their overcharged credits back, and then I got an email yesterday informing me that we were crediting some people back even when they weren’t affected by Bug #1.
So I walked through the code and realized that I had missed one line of code when I incorporated the 50% discount into the partial deposit code path. I forgot to recalculate exactly which items were now past due. So the code assumed that everything that hadn’t been recalculated was past due if we were now past the due date. It didn’t factor in any of the items that had already been deposited over the past couple weeks before the due date.
This bug has been fixed, and now people are being charged the correct processing fees. Unfortunately, some people were affected by these bugs, and they got a couple confusing emails where there account was overcharged and/or undercharged and finally, correctly charged.
I personally apologize for any confusion this bug may have caused you, and I want you to be assured we will own up to our mistakes and fix them as quickly as we can. I care deeply about the experience you receive with our service, and our entire team is doing everything we can to give you the best we can afford while also making it as cost effective as possible. This is a hard challenge to balance, and we are not perfect. However, at the end of the day, I hope you enjoy our service more than any other. After all, that is our mission. “Optimize Enjoyment: Maximize what you care about; minimize what you don’t.“