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Restrictive Sales Practices on the Web? 736

Posted by Cliff
from the it's-not-who-you-are-but-where-you-live dept.
Ed Almos asks: "I don't know about other Slashdot readers, who happen to live outside the US, but I'm in Hungary, and am finding it more and more difficult to purchase goods and services over the web. The sites are there, the money is in my account, but the sites won't sell me anything! Can someone come up with a logical reason for these policies? Last time I checked I was using the WORLD Wide Web, and there seems little point wasting bandwidth to post your website to the world when only those living in the USA can buy and/or use the product. Then again, is this yet another example of the Internet and the rest of the world becoming more and more centered on the continental USA? The final irony? I'm originally from Maine. These folk won't even sell to one of their own!"

"Here are a few examples:

IBM, Apple and Dell operate web stores that sell almost their entire range of kit, they only ship to the USA. Power Notebooks have the same policy but cite different reasons (see below). Some manufacturers have local country websites but these offer a restricted range compared to the main site.

Apple has their new iTunes system. As I am outside the USA they will not let me logon to the system.

Amazon.com are willing to sell me books but nothing else.

The reasons for this policy range from the (almost) reasonable to the downright silly. Amazon cite difficulties with warranty returns as their reason and while most of the rest won't tell me why they don't want my business Power Notebooks told me that recent anti-terrorist legislation stops them from exporting equipment. Quite why they cannot export a notebook originally manufactured in the Far East is beyond me.

Getting the kit to me in Hungary is no problem either. FedEx and UPS have local offices and if that fails there is always the Hungarian Postal Service. Shipping time from the USA can be as short as two working days, I know this because my company obtains spares from the USA for our products."

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Restrictive Sales Practices on the Web?

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  • by ObviousGuy (578567) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:47PM (#6405127) Homepage Journal
    Get off the web and learn how to paint. The countryside is beckoning.
  • by Speare (84249) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:48PM (#6405136) Homepage Journal

    It costs money and time and expertise to establish a world-wide shipping channel. You have to know a lot more about international trade law, and liabilities in cases of returns/exchanges/credits are much more complex.

    Most small companies can't be bothered to grow that kind of capability, as the short-sighted shareholders (public or private) won't accept the large up-front cost in that kind of expansion.

    • by retto (668183)

      It is a pain in the ass to ship something overseas. A friend of mine tried to get some stuff shipped to him in India, and when the package arrived (no minor miracle in its own right) it had been opened and anything of value had been removed.

      There is also the issue of licensing. We've had people call in from Canada and tried to buy our product, but do to a license agreement we had with another company, we aren't allowed to ship the product outside the US.

    • by RALE007 (445837) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:39AM (#6405398)
      The original article cites:

      ...IBM, Apple and Dell operate web stores that sell almost their entire range of kit, they only ship to the USA....

      IBM, Apple, and Dell are hardly small businesses, and I think the original question of "why don't they ship international?" is still valid. I also do not buy "(small) companies can't be bothered to grow that kind of capability..."

      What capabilities are necessary to grow? Purchaser still pays shipping, and you create seperate national and international warranty/exchange programs. The national program is the standard warranty, international terms can be whatever you deem, eg:

      "Warranty only good in the US."

      "International purchasers are liable to shipping costs for returned/exchanged items..."

      et cetera. It doesn't seem like much capability growth to me. Perhaps I'm missing something.

      To answer the original question of "why won't they ship international" has more of a simple direct response. The poster of the original article was looking at the wrong places to buy. As stated in his original post, companies usually have a local (national, within the US) website, and an international one. If you ask the American division of Dell to sell you a computer, they will not (and should refer you to the correct division of the company that handles purchases for the location of the purchaser). Sadly many of those within a national division are unaware of their own corporations international offices.

      For example, IBM (International Business Machines) allows you to select the country of your location on their webpage. To solve the authors ordering difficulties, he should visit IBM's Hungarian Website [ibm.com].

      If he wishes to buy direct from Dell, he should see Dell's Hungarian Website [dell.com].

      Lastly, he said he couldn't buy Apple. I am not finding an Apple Hungarian website, but from Apple's main page I see they do have a european website, and also a site for neighboring Austria [apple.com]. I think if he inquired with Apple's european offices, as oppossed to inquiring the American, he could find how to have products shipped to him in Hungary.

      This is not a troll, but I don't think the author of the original article has much merit to claim he cannot buy products internationally. I think he's a guy originally from Maine who doesn't speak Hungarian so he can't order of off the Hungarian website.

      I think the companies listed in his example have uninformed or undertrained representatives who do not even know to refer a customer such as the original author to the Hungarian/European offices instead of simply telling him "we don't sell to anyone who isn't in the United States".

      So, in closing, it's easy for companies to operate internationally, there isn't much of a "process growth" involved. Our original article poster doesn't really have a problem, he just doesn't know where to go to order his equipment. When he inquired at the wrong place to see if he could purchase, whomever he communicated with was unaware of where to direct an international customer and misinformed him that international customers are not desired.

      • by dbrutus (71639) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:01AM (#6405480) Homepage
        What he can't get is goods that have not been released for the respective country. For instance, Apple puts out a new version of their OS but they haven't got around to updating the Magyar language strings. Well, should they delay release? No, they just don't release the product to Hungary and release it later when they've finished localizing it. Buying goods in other markets and then importing it is called grey market purchasing and is perfectly legal, if frowned upon by the manufacturer. That's what this fellow wants to do. he doesn't want to wait for the new Hungarian language instructions on the new iPod to be ready, he wants his iPod now and screw the fact he'll have to read the directions in English.

        There's a real need for an expat friendly cross shipping service that will allow you to have a virtual US presence, e-mail you your postal mail, and ship your stuff further on, once it has arrived at your US address. If you can have a credit card issued to you with a US billing address nobody gives a damn that the check is drawn on a Hungarian bank when you pay your bills.

        I've informally done this kind of work for a Romanian firm who needed to buy a copy of some specific variant of Fortran but couldn't get anybody to take their money. No, you can't patent it as I claim prior art but feel free to open a formal business on this plan.
        • by siskbc (598067) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @09:53AM (#6406865) Homepage
          That's what this fellow wants to do. he doesn't want to wait for the new Hungarian language instructions on the new iPod to be ready, he wants his iPod now and screw the fact he'll have to read the directions in English.

          Considering he's an American expat, I expect he prolly wants his crap in English anyway. I suspect this is the deal - he wants AMERICAN stuff while living in Hungary. Sorry, tho, that's just not how things work sometimes. The poster acts like this is some big US conspiracy to 0wnz0r the WWW, but it's generally a logistics thing - the few sales companies would get from Hungary isn't worth dealing with Hungary.

          Considering the US has anachronistic laws dealing with export control of encryption and such, as well as other problems, it isn't worth the trouble of having the main sales unit deal with each country. For big companies like IBM, they have a unit for each country that are (hopefully) experts in local issues. So really, the only people with problems here are US expats who want stuff in English instead of the local language. In other words, him.

          My advice to the guy would be to have some family in the states to order it for him and ship it. But complaining isn't going to help, and making it into some US vs. the world thing is silly.

          • If that's his problem, then he should get it ordered to somewhere in Britain (it would be the Queen's English, but that's pretty much the same as UStatian). Then he could take a short vacation trip to pick it up. (Or he might find someone who would ship it to him.)

            And perhaps, instead of dealing with the vendor he might try dealing with a store. Byte Shop of Britain or some such. Perhaps that Scots outfit McIntosh Computers.

        • by ponxx (193567) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @10:00AM (#6406902)
          A lot of big companies keep their markets quite seperate. What do you think the whole region encoding on DVDs was about? They try to maximise their profits, which in some instances might mean different pricing levels or different release dates in different markets.

          These companies don't only frown on grey market imports, they do everything in their power to stop them. Particularly bad are car manufaturers (ridiculous price differences for the same thing even inside Europe, very restrictive sales practices to "authorised dealers" etc) and clothing/shoes people (I seem to remember Reebok stopping supermarkets in Germany from re-importing from China, as it would "dilute their brand" or something).

          Anyway, the big companies want globalisation, have factories where the work is cheapest etc. Lawmakers should make sure that individuals have the same capabilities, and for instance make things like "region encoding" illegal.

          Ponxx
      • by anonymous loser (58627) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:22AM (#6405566)
        I also do not buy "(small) companies can't be bothered to grow that kind of capability..."

        What capabilities are necessary to grow? Purchaser still pays shipping, and you create seperate national and international warranty/exchange programs. The national program is the standard warranty, international terms can be whatever you deem, eg:

        "Warranty only good in the US."

        "International purchasers are liable to shipping costs for returned/exchanged items..."

        et cetera. It doesn't seem like much capability growth to me. Perhaps I'm missing something.

        Speaking as the manager of an international sales channel, I can hopefully fill you in on the big picture.

        • Here's a few items off the top of my head:
        • Infrastructure. There's a lot of little things that you have to do to enable international sales. You need targeted sales and marketing materials. You have to know how much it costs to ship stuff to that country. You need access to people who speak the native language that can help you out with all the business and legal issues that crop up, etc.
        • Payment. Suppose you ship off an order of widgets to another country, and the credit card turns out to be stolen, or the Purchase Order is reneged, or a myriad of other things that could go wrong with payment happens. You've basically just lost that money, with very little way to recover it. Thanks to the fact that it is an international payment, it might very well cost you much more to attempt to recover the money than the value of the sale. Of course there are steps you can take to mitigate this problem. I had an associate tell me that if I ever sell something to country XYZ, be sure that I have all the money in my bank and accounted for before I even ship anything. This works, but it's a bad solution for other reasons. As the RIAA has shown, there's nothing like treating your customers like criminals to win their loyalty.
        • Warranties are not necessarily whatever you put on the box. There are laws that state minimum warranties for products, and those laws vary country-to-country and sometimes state-to-state.
        • Like warranty claims, liability can be a big issue. If the product breaks and causes financial or other damages, the laws of that country take over and determine the liability of the seller. It is very difficult and expensive to sort out these legal issues and establish policies for every country in the world. If you think lawyers are already expensive, you should try hiring a specialist like those that handle international contract law. It is a major bank-buster just to do the proper groundwork and establish a beachhead in a new country.
        • Customer support is a big issue. It is expensive and difficult to provide adequate customer support to the international community, especially when there are language issues involved. In this particular case the guy happens to be a native English speaker, but I can certainly see why a company would establish a general policy of not selling to some countries. Generally speaking, it's a major pain in the ass. I dunno about Dell, IBM, etc. but I want my company to provide the best customer support possible, and just the language barrier by itself is a detriment to providing a level of support I am comfortable with. Add to that issues with time zones covering reasonable business hours in the country you're selling to, shipping expenses for returns, etc. and customer support can quickly get out of control.
        • by ces (119879)
          Oddly enough companies outside the US are almost always willing to sell to US customers. I've ordered things from Canadian, UK, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Austrailian web sites and companies. I've rarely had a problem and in the few cases where I did it was mostly communication problems due to language difficulties.
          • Oddly enough companies outside the US are almost always willing to sell to US customers. I've ordered things from Canadian, UK, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Austrailian web sites and companies. I've rarely had a problem

            Sure, it's a matter of size and being worth their while. America has a 280 million potential customers and a $10 trillion economy and a single, well established (fairly) predictable legal system. Singapore by contrast has 4 million potentia
      • by MickLinux (579158) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @02:26AM (#6405759) Journal
        Quite simply, Apple has less marketing; they tend to go for the larger markets (such as Poland, Austria, and Norway), and leave alone the smaller countries in between (such as Lithuania and Hungary). If you want an Apple in Lithuania, you can (1) go to the one store in Vilnius, place an order, and wait two weeks, or (2) Go to Warsaw on a bus, get your computer same day, and return.

        Clearly, the Vilnius operator just consolidates #2 for those who don't want to go to Warsaw.

        Aside from that, there are still the issues of international law, taxes, tariffs, and dealing with criminality. Quite simply, if you send something valuable through Lithuanian post, it has an excellent chance of disappearing, computer equipment especially. Apparantly international studies point one finger (bribes) at the Customs department, but local people say no, it's the post workers themselves. I myself am kindof divided on the issue: I don't really know where the stuff disappears, just that it definitely does. I also know that I had tons of trouble even getting stuff through UPS, and UPS did not even inform me that it was held up! I had to start calling around, asking pointed questions before I finally found the item, convinced them that there was no legal way to apply a tariff, and they then sent it on. Note that they did not even send a note asking the intended recipient for the product. It seems they were just going to delay it until a time limit ran out, and take it. And UPS did not seem to have any ability to help, except to tell me where in their system the package had disappeared.

        But that being the case, there's not a lot of point in paying a 500% insurance rate on shipping. Maybe it's the same in Hungary.
        • Glad you mentioned customs delays and "disapperances" of packages inside the post office. both have happenied to me. And, don't forget that custom officers often assume that anyone who can afford to ship something from the U.S. can afford to slip them some cash. It's amusing how money can help find you "lost" package.
      • by ojQj (657924) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:45AM (#6406046)
        Speaking as an American who lives in Germany, I can provide a few examples of unexpected problems in international business from my own experience:

        Tolls at Customs: I recently shipped myself software that I had bought in the US a few years ago. When you ship things internationally you have to note the value. I was charged about 30% of the value that I notated in order to get my own possessions back from the post office. Companies also have to pay import fees and they vary by country. Often they also have to pay sales tax in the country in question. Unless you want to piss your customer off with unexpected expenses, you have to include this in the price you state up front.

        Export laws -- The US prohibits the export of certain types of goods to certain countries. The laws are often complex and subject to interpretation. Some companies choose not to hire an expert to look at questions of this nature alone. These companies have to limit the countries in which they will sell. It may well be that the easiest way to deal with this is to only sell in the US.

        Warranties -- in Germany electronic goods are required to be warrantied against failure for 3 years. If you read through one of those warranty books that is printed in several languages, and you are multi-lingual, you'll notice that the warranties have contents which vary by language. Some companies don't make their goods to last 3 years, and as such don't want to be subject to warranty law in Germany. These companies don't sell their goods in Germany. I imagine that a lot countries have highly varying warranty law. If I were a business person, I wouldn't be willing to go blind into that potential mine field. I would either choose not to go, or hire someone who knows the territory.

        Varying demand curves -- People in different cultures have different average incomes and differing desires to buy a product. This leads to varying intersection points between the supply and demand curves. A company that wants to earn more money won't just choose an average from the global market -- they'll adjust their prices locally to reflect local demand. In order to do this though, they need to isolate the markets. This means that the web-sites need to become country specific. We can argue about morality, but it's not illegal to run a business this way, so many businesses do.

        Oh and your argument that US salespersons/websites should direct international customers to the sales site set up for them runs face first into the problem the original poster stated -- that the local product offering may not include the product the customer wants. It also may be selling locally for a higher price than it does in the US.

      • Lastly, he said he couldn't buy Apple. I am not finding an Apple Hungarian website
        [...]

        www.apple.hu [apple.hu]
        store.apple.hu [apple.hu] (Apple Store in Hungary)

        Have fun. Bring someone who reads Hungarian. :)

  • Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:48PM (#6405138) Homepage
    I don't know if it is a problem in Hungary, but some countries get blacklisted due to credit card fraud.
    • Re:Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rossz (67331) <ogre&geekbiker,net> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:11AM (#6405264) Homepage Journal
      American Express pulled out of Hungary a few years ago due to credit card fraud. They only recently returned. I understand our own F.B.I. sent a team over to Hungary to help train the rendõrség (police).
    • Re:Fraud (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dargaud (518470)
      Yes. I sell some images [gdargaud.net] online, and I use a quite serious external payment system [kagi.com] that makes several additional checks. All the orders I get from strange countries (Afghanistan, anywhere in Africa...) never get confirmed.
  • by El (94934) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:49PM (#6405139)
    If US companies are too silly to ship to your country, why not start your own e-commerce site? Lease a warehouse in the US, have them ship to that, and then fly it over daily and fulfill your own orders...
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:49PM (#6405140)
    I'd imagine that a lot of small companies don't want to deal with this sort of thing. Why a larger company wouldn't, I don't know.
  • by Gojira Shipi-Taro (465802) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:50PM (#6405147) Homepage
    You do know that the US is where DARPAnet began, right? that little network that was the precursor of the internet?

    Do you propose that companies that aren't prepared to undertake the expense and risk involved in doing business with every last country on the planet not be able to do business on the web?

    I'm sorry but I don't see the basis for complaint in the original poster's musings. It costs MONEY to, for instance do business in Hungary, handle transactions and currancy conversions, and deal with fraud. If a particular market doesn't offer enough profit to justify the expense, that market simply isn't worth doing business with.

    I'm a little suprised that Hungary is on the list of "not worth it", but perhaps that's not universal.

    The web is planet wide. Not every company on the planet is obligated to do planet wide business to participate.
    • by Endareth (684446) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:29AM (#6405363) Journal
      I'm sorry but I don't see the basis for complaint in the original poster's musings. It costs MONEY to, for instance do business in Hungary, handle transactions and currancy conversions, and deal with fraud. If a particular market doesn't offer enough profit to justify the expense, that market simply isn't worth doing business with.

      Of all the online stores that ship worldwide, I'm yet to see one of them charging in different currencies depending on their ship-to location. Pretty much all business charge in the currency of their own location, be it Canada, UK, USA, or wherever. The buyer pays whatever it costs to convert the currency. Fraud can be an issue, and often is, but many countries are at least as easy to prosecute fraud in as the USA, and it's not that hard to build up a "safe list" of countries. Shipping is easy, many of the standard shipping methods in the USA will ship internationally, they just charge a different rate--again, this is paid for by the buyer.

      The web is planet wide. Not every company on the planet is obligated to do planet wide business to participate.

      Certainly, but it's not unreasonable for the business that specifically choose a .com domain for themselves to offer their business internationally. Otherwise they really should consider sticking to a .co.uk, .com.au, .com.us, or wherever they do restrict their business to.
    • by ahfoo (223186) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:40AM (#6405630) Journal
      This is all quite off base.
      The guy was wrong from the beginning. It's not becoming more US centric. It's quite the opposite.
      I say that as an American that has lived overseas for fifteen years. The world was infinitely more US centric to me back in the eighties. In order to understand this you need to realize that the definition of being from any particular place has broken down enormously in the last few decades.
      It's like saying that Japanese automakers are edging out detroit. Well, that's a bit ridiculous since many Japanese automakers are largely owned by both European and American interests and vice versa. To speak of anything being centered on any one physical region is a rapidly deteriorating notion that was far more defensible in previous decades.
  • Shipping and taxes. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:51PM (#6405150)
    The reason, as far as I can figure out - shipping costs, and paying appropriate taxes.

    Even between the US and Canada, anything being shipped across the border gets taxes and a brokerage fee tacked on, and extra postage. Handling all of that for a wide range of countries, automatically, would be a logistical nightmare.

    A simpler approach would be to set up a branch office in the target country and sell locally.
    • by lingqi (577227) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:07AM (#6405245) Journal
      maybe also because of price differences? - I don't speak for hungary, but the below situation is my understanding of some tricky thing that goes on between danmark and germany:

      danmark has 25% VAT, and germany 13% (VAT = sales tax); to equalize final prices, car manufactures price the cars so that the final price (after the VAT) is about the same in both countries.

      a lot of germans used to go over to danmark, buy a car, go back to germany (get a refund on that 25% on the way out of danmark) and pay the VAT for germany. pocket a good chunck of change.

      manufactures were not happy about it, so that changed in a zippy (lobbied some legislation, IIRC).

      so, for example apple products are 30% more expensive in japan than the US. I can't imagine them being happy about me shipping a powerbook over here.

      on the other hand, amazon japan seem to be all for shipping things to the US, though - any maybe to other countries like hungary too; so maybe give them a try.
      • manufactures were not happy about it, so that changed in a zippy (lobbied some legislation, IIRC).

        Manufacturers are definitely not happy about that, but they're treading on very thin ice here.

        In fact Volkswagen got slapped with a record fine [bbc.co.uk] for uncompetitive behaviour.

        They where also the ones that thretened their north Italian dealers with revoking dealership privileges if they sell to Swiss customers.

        The EU frowns most definitely on such uncompetitive behavior, so I really can't imagine legislation t

      • by Sentry21 (8183)
        on the other hand, amazon japan seem to be all for shipping things to the US, though - any maybe to other countries like hungary too; so maybe give them a try.

        It might be a better idea to try Amazon UK [amazon.co.uk] if you're in Hungary, as opposed to Amazon Japan. If nothing else, the shipping would be cheaper. It's what people do in Israel, anyway.

        --Dan
    • by Sentry21 (8183)
      Even between the US and Canada, anything being shipped across the border gets taxes and a brokerage fee tacked on, and extra postage. Handling all of that for a wide range of countries, automatically, would be a logistical nightmare.

      A nightmare for all involved, no less. Even ordering from the US into Canada is a nightmare. For example: I wanted to order a copy of Fallout 1/2 (in one package) for ten bucks online. Tack on another $7 for shipping to Canada, that's $17 USD, and I figure, that's about what I
  • by $exyNerdie (683214) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:52PM (#6405156) Homepage Journal

    So true !!

    But wait, I can't buy Yopy 3700 Linux PDA [about.com] in US.
    (The Yopy 3700 is developed in South Korea and is currently available in France, Austria and the UK for a MSRP of $499 US.)
  • Here's some reasons (Score:5, Informative)

    by flowerp (512865) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:54PM (#6405166)
    Credit card clearinghouses charge more money to US companies for clearing international credit card transactions. Hence a lot of US retailers do not accept foreign credit cards for online orders.

    Fraud is more likely to occur on international shipments where the receiver is harder to track down.

    Foreign people's credit information/scores are not easily available to US companies (this applies to financing options).

    Music businesses may not yet have acquired the rights to distribute the music outside of the US. Local monopolies hamper global distribution.

    There are issues with international shipping and customs. Customs may confiscate or return shipments. Export restrictions may prevent exporting certain technologies and goods. ...extend this list at will...
  • by sting3r (519844) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:55PM (#6405170) Homepage
    FRAUD.

    Hungary is one of about ten countries worldwide that are responsible for a whopping 55% of credit card / bank / wire fraud. Serving the few legitimate customers in these ten countries often takes a back seat to preventing $3000 laptops from disappearing into the ether.

    Sad but true. Even in the U.S., where our large cities are cesspools of scams and larcenies, the authorities have a better handle on the situation (mostly because the police forces here are rarely in cahoots with organized crime).

    • by dwillden (521345) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:48AM (#6405430) Homepage
      This issue has nothing to do with any particular countries. I can speak from personal experience on this.

      In the last three years I've been deployed to the Balkans twice by the US Army. I go nowhere without my laptop. But good luck trying to get updated software or Accessories, As the original article mentioned Amazon will at least sell books and movies, but little else.

      The last time I deployed I had just purchased a new laptop, and realized after I was enroute that Norton System Tools 2002 did not support the XP the system ran, so I tried to order Norton System Tools 2003. Nobody would ship it, and it the PX didn't stock it. I ended up ordering it to my home and having my family send it to me. The same issue came up when I decided I wanted an ergonomic keyboard. Unable to ship the Norton, I could kind of understand as there maybe some export restirctions for some reason, but a funky shaped keyboard? And I have to note that all this stuff was being sent to my APO address. All I should have had to do was find companies that used the US Postal Service as all APO's are treated as stateside mail addresses. No Luck and again the Post Exchange(PX) system's lousy tech selection didn't help me either. Supposedly anything I want the PX has it online, right. At least Amazon would send my books and most important my DVD's quickly. (Hint to anyone deployed or looking at getting deployed, when ordering to an APO select the cheapest shipping option, they automatically upgrade it to first class mail at no charge.)

      Try to order something of an electronic or software nature to an overseas address. Most online retailers have their systems set up to serve only the US and maybe Canada. They aren't limiting to trouble countries like Hungary, they usually won't even give any shipping option or purchase option outside the US, not even to APO's which are legally considered stateside addresses.

      Again as I said above, I can understand it if the merchants are forced to balk on some items with export restrictions such as encryption restrictions. However, instead they have made it a blanket blockage on items that don't fall into those categories.

      Okay you say, but I've just mentioned difficulties with APO addresses using US mail, and what about other forms of shipping. So add the higher shipping charges as necessary. UPS, DHL FEDEX and other shippers do ship overseas. I will grant some difficulties due to customs tarrifs, but wonder how much a burden that really is considering how widespead the aformentioned delivery companies's operations are.

      Determining the shipping charges may take some additional time, but thats easy to handle. Simply put into the transaction software a point where the purchaser may have to wait a brief time until the purchase and shipping charges can be confirmed and then emailed to the purchaser with a link back to the purchase to complete the transaction.

      In conclusion I agree with the Original Article, in this day of international commerce and the World Wide Web why can't we get basic electronics software and computers and components shipped overseas?

      • by aussersterne (212916) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:25AM (#6406016) Homepage
        I've worked for some major e-commerce sites (unfortunately I can't name them), but they're top-10 outfits. On the inside of these businesses, there are huge mechanisms in place specifically to deal with credit card fraud. Romania was the number one when I was involved -- basically every transaction that could be connected in any way to Romania was assumed bad -- but Hungary was on the list as well.

        The incredible volume of credit card and other kinds of fraud occurring in this handful of countries basically created a kind of sour taste in these businesses' mouths. Pretty much the only two trusted non-US sites were the UK and Canada.
    • And the other one is Nigeria?
    • ok, i accept that reasoning for Hungary.

      but what about Canada? i live in Vancouver and it seems like a majority of online retailers based in the US won't ship here! i mean... i live less than 3 hours away from Seattle (by car) but Seattle-based online retailers won't ship stuff to me. what a joke.

      there must be something else.
  • Chargebacks (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikeophile (647318) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:55PM (#6405173)
    The chargeback levels from some countries are enormous. When a country accounts for only 2% of your business but makes up 20% of your chargeback, it doesn't take a business genius to decide that country's purchases aren't worth it.
  • by Heartz (562803) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:55PM (#6405179) Homepage
    Dell does ship to Hungary. Just visit their local Hungarian site [dell.com].

    Your best bet is to look for a localized site so that it's not only easier for you to return the product but also save on postage.

  • Therefore (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:56PM (#6405183)
    Last time I checked I was using the WORLD Wide Web, and there seems little point wasting bandwidth to post your website to the world when only those living in the USA can buy and/or use the product.

    So they should only put their website up on the USA Wide Web? I'd like to know how to access that.

    If i find site that won't ship to me, i'll be unhappy, and maybe try to convince them otherwise, but i'm not going to demand that they leave and go make their own damn web.

  • Brokers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by femto (459605) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:57PM (#6405185) Homepage
    I also run into this problem from Australia.

    Is anyone aware of any brokers who specialise in buying stuff from US web sites, shipping it to a US addess, then forwarding it to an international address?

  • by waikerie (124232) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:57PM (#6405186)
    No one in the US can find Hungary on a map.
    • Re:The real reason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dJCL (183345) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:14AM (#6405280) Homepage
      The parent is modded funny, and the best part is that the comment could be true. How many out there can find Hungary on a map? Do you have much of an idea of where it is? I've gotten the impression in the past that many in the US do not have an impression of the rest of the world(Just watch "Talking to Americans" on CBC some time, if you get the jokes )

      So... Do you know where Hungary is? Can you find it on a map? Without Google?

      I had a general idea when I started reading the story, and when I thought of this comment I was able to place it exactly in my head, and could even tell you nearby countries...(no hints for you!)


      Enjoy!

      • by Niadh (468443) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:36AM (#6405386) Homepage
        Do you know where Indiana is? Can you find it on a map without googling? What is its capital? What about imports and exports? Crops? Climate? Terrain? Population?

        No you say? Why is this relevant?

        Indiana is bigger then Hungary. It's GSP(Gross State Product) is $190 billion compared to Hungary's $134.7 billion. And Indiana has 4 million less people. (just to name 3 reasons)

        And it is just a State.

        Why is it so important to you for Americans to know where every 2nd and 3rd world country is? I'm sure you couldn't name every country out there, much less point them all out.

        *sources*
        http://www.in.gov/doc/compare/
        http: //www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/prin t/hu.html
        • Re:The real reason (Score:5, Informative)

          by Valar (167606) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:33AM (#6405607)
          *sigh* Hungary is NOT a 3rd world country. It is a first world country. That's right. There is no such thing as a 2nd world country anymore, btw, because there is no soviet union anymore, and the definition of 2nd world depended on the existance of a superpower to rival the US. And no, I can't name every country out there. One thing you must consider though, is that there are more countries in the world than states in the US. Can you name all of the states in the US? Without any help? Go for it. Even for Americans this is tough, apparently. Most get 45 or so and can't think of the rest (there are 50, if you need a hint).
      • I can find it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lpret (570480) <lpret42.hotmail@com> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:14AM (#6405532) Homepage Journal
        But I think you've hit on something that is much deeper. Many times Americans will say "So what? Who cares about country X?" (See reply at same level) but as an American who has lived overseas most of my life, I have to say that it has helped a lot. It helps you understand where everyone else is coming from, especially in regards to their view of the US. It's similar to finding out who your neighbours are down the street. It may seem trivial, but it will help you understand your neighbourhood better and also understand what they think of you (and if you're a different race, what they think in general). Knowledge is always a good thing, and once we start to understand where people are coming from, we are better equipped to communicate and create solutions instead of blunders.
        /soapbox
  • by IronTek (153138) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:57PM (#6405187) Homepage
    I know, I know...what a crime it is that most places only ship to the US because that's where 99.8%* of the potential market that would actually buy the widget you want is, but instead of blaming websites for selling to their largest market, shouldn't you be complaining that there aren't enough Hungary-based web sites that well sell you stuff locally. ...How did this make the front page?

    *Please note that 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot, including mine.
  • by admbws (600017) on Wednesday July 09, 2003 @11:59PM (#6405202) Homepage Journal
    It would probably be better to buy things from either European or Hungarian resellers. Instead of Amazon.com, use Amazon.co.uk [amazon.co.uk]. Instead of Dell.com, use Dell.hu [www.dell.hu] IBM, again, use IBM.hu [www.ibm.hu] instead of IBM.com. Simple really.
  • by G27 Radio (78394) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:00AM (#6405203)
    I work for a webhosting company. We've had a couple instances where people have set up accounts via credit card, then we later were notified that the owners of the cards had no knowledge their cards were being used.

    In each instance the cards and billing info were from overseas. None yet from within the US. I'm guessing that credit card fraud is a little more common in other coutries.

    For us it's not a really big deal. We shut off the accounts and refund the money. However, if we were actually shipping a physical product I'm not sure we'd be as willing to deal with customers from overseas.
  • by drgroove (631550) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:00AM (#6405208)
    Credit card companies are one of the major stop gaps to allowing truly online, global commerce from happening.

    No major credit card company will validate a credit card from one country to the next. Hence, if I live in Canada, and want to purchase a product from a company in the UK, Visa (or Mastercard, Discover, American Express, etc) won't do a check on my credit card for the company in the UK to ensure that I'm the cardholder, that my address & postal code match, etc.

    If credit card companies would allow cross-border validation to occur, online commerce would see an enormous increase in activity. Unfortunately, fraudulent purchases would be one of those increases, hence why the credit card companies won't budge. If there is a solution to the fraud issue (.NET? Liberty Alliance?), then convincing the credit card co's/banks/financial institutions to allow cross-border validation would be much easier...

  • Channel conflict (Score:4, Informative)

    by ChartBoy (626444) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:01AM (#6405212)
    IBM, Apple, and Dell probably have a channel for selling their products in Hungary, with agreements not to compete with those distributors. The distributors may not have a web presence, but that would be the Hungarian distributors' problem, not the manufacturers'.
  • Can you say.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:03AM (#6405225)
    EU taxes?

    Hightened security on shipping?

    Cost to verify overseas c'cards?

    Cost of refused delivery?

    Cost of RMAs?

    Import duties?

    English only packaging?

    ...need more, let me know. I've been around this tree over and over, for years now.
  • by mjhans (55639) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:10AM (#6405261)
    Why does it mean that just because a site is on the web it must provide all its services to the entire world? The web is worldwide, not the services of each specific site.

    That's like complaining that the front page of the New York Times on the web isn't world-centric (hint: it's not even US-centric, it focuses on New York)
  • by silverhalide (584408) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:10AM (#6405262)
    Having been in a small mail order business for quite a while, I can tell you why US companies hate shipping internationally:

    It's a pain in the ass.

    An international package takes at least 3 times the paperwork to fulfill. There's a 4-part customs form, customs declarations, and not to mention ungodly postage. It also screws up shipping calculations. In the US, you can safely charge a flat rate fee for shipping and that's that. You can even run actual shipping rates through the current USPS And FedEx rate tables. Now, bump it up to international shipping. You HAVE To insure everything that goes international, since the package is handed off between organizations many times if you use the US Post Office. UPS and FedEx are ungodly expensive internationally and hardly pay to use. Not to mention that many international customers don't have English as their first language making correspondance that much more difficult.

    Now what about your return policy? I sure as hell don't want to be sending a call tag for $100 to get a computer shipped back to me because they didn't like it and it's broken. It's just impossible to provide the same level of customer service to someone not in the same country as you.

    So if you were wondering, that's why US Companies hate shipping abroad. Canada and Mexico are a little easier since they have more relaxed borders, but still a pain in the butt.
    • As someone who gets a fair bit of stuff from the US and UK into NZ, I can see your points, but from a customer perspective it's lousy.

      A few points:

      PIA? Your call, but many businesses are built on exports, my own included. If you want to limit your market to your own backyard then fine, but remember that you're missing out on most of the world. The forms might be a hassle, but only until you get used to it and the processes involved.

      Shipping costs and insurance? Of course they're different, nobody expects

  • by esconsult1 (203878) * on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:12AM (#6405271) Homepage Journal
    As a merchant, i've stopped selling my software product to certain Eastern European countries because of the fraud problem.

    At one point the level of chargebacks almost drove me out of business. Imaging you selling so many copies and then a month or so later almost all of them get charged back!!

    It leaves a pretty bad taste in the mouth.

    Now, my friends and family in Jamaica will ask me to purchase stuff for them and ship it. I am glad to do it. The submitter better find some friends here that can do it for her/him.

    Until the day comes around when the laws and financial instutions play catch up in those countries, we will always be reluctant to do business overseas.

  • by PingXao (153057) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:13AM (#6405276)
    Department of Homeland Security Chief Patriot Tom Ridge just announced a new push aimed at thwarting economic aid to you-know-who. This glorious new program will result in all financial transactions being monitored and recorded and archived forever. In this way credit card fraud will be stopped. In fact, it's going to be called the War On Credit Card Fraud And Money Laundering. Once appropriate policies are in place in the U.S., other nations of the world will also adopt the same standards. Or else. Recent action by the OECD and the FATF in blacklisting offshore tax havens was just the opening salvo in the War.

    So, be Happy! Soon, thanks to the efforts of the patriots at the Department of Homeland Security, the entire WORLD-Wide-Web will be safe for you to reliably conduct credit card transactions. More importantly, it will be safe for merchants to collect their payments and banks to earn their interest. (You didn't really think anyone cared about you, did you?)
  • iTunes Music Store (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mikey-San (582838) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:18AM (#6405303) Homepage Journal
    Don't blame Apple for this one (even if you aren't, sorry). Apple wants to expand overseas with its music service, but at the moment, the big 5 record labels either aren't interested or won't do it for some More Ominous Reason(tm) like distribution control fears or something else stupid. :-/
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:18AM (#6405304)
    Believe it or not there actually are differences between the differnt countries in the world. Companies that don't sell to a foreign market usually do so because they have either found it to be more costly than profitable or they haven't found a reason to expand into that market. Comapnies are usually trying to make money and if it costs more to setup your company to do business in some foreign company then more than likely you aren't going to. Its not as simple as just telling UPS to ship to some country. There are lots of hurdles to doing business in a foreign country. Logistically, financially, and legally. And if anything the amount of small business transactions has improved tremendously. 10 years ago the average consumer wouldn't have bought a damn thing from some other country, even with mail order. The fact that we dont have universal commerce between all countries shouldn't surprise anyone.
  • Hello McFly? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:28AM (#6405355) Homepage
    A lot of the response posts are centering on reasons as to why companies would not ship to other countries at all. However, this person has stated that many companies have localized (country-centric) sites, however, these sites only have a partial catalog when compared to the US version of the website. Why is that? What is stopping, say, Dell from selling Model A, B, and C in Hungary rather than just Model A and C.

    Along the same lines.... why is it that Amazon will ship this person books, but nothing else? I can see region coded DVD's, but not CD's, or consumer electronics?

    In this day and age, if a country is willing to ship some products overseas, there really isn't a reason why they can't ship all of them. They've already got the infastructure in place, yet they aren't fully using it.
  • I have it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:32AM (#6405373) Homepage Journal
    This might be an opportunity for a someone in the US to handle shipping for people outside the US. They could also proxy returns, if they felt adventurous. Sure, they'd be exposing themselves to the aforementioned fraud, but if the business plan was well designed, there could be profit.

    That just leaves services like iTunes. I'm sure Apple would not take too kindly to that service being proxied. But what's the harm in a merchandise proxy service? Not that I'm too interested in getting into that. Sounds too complicated for me (read: I'm just the idea man :).
  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BJH (11355) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:20AM (#6405555)
    How many posts have I seen on /. bitching about how people can't get their hands on the latest games/PlayStation/laptop/gadget/whatever from Japan?

    How many people in this article are defending business practices that prevent people outside the US from ordering from US companies?

    Do I smell the scent of hypocrisy? Naaah...
  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:34AM (#6405609) Homepage Journal
    Dell forbids U.S. purchasers to export Dell products from the U.S. The customer has to agree not to transport a Dell product outside the U.S., or else Dell will not sell you a unit. That means you're not allowed to take your Dell laptop on a business trip with you to a foreign country.

    While air travelers can bring SARS with them halfway around the globe in hours, they can't bring their Dell laptop. Not legally anyway - Dell customers have a contractual obligation not to do so.

    I don't know if that's still the case, but it was when I decided against purchasing a Dell so I could work during a long trip to Canada. I lived in California at the time.

    Compaq, on the other hand, will not service a U.S. purchased unit outside the U.S. I was very happy doing my development on my Compaq Presario 1800T [goingware.com] while living in Newfoundland the year of my wedding, but the unit failed and I had to send it back for service.

    Good thing I had a recent backup.

    First, Compaq Canada wouldn't service it because, although Compaq sells Presarios in Canada, they didn't sell that model. They connected me to the U.S. support center.

    The U.S. support center wouldn't accept shipment from Canada, not even if I paid the shipping. There was no question of them expediting me a shipping container and getting it picked up after I packed my laptop. They simply said it had to be shipped from within the U.S.

    Newfoundland is a long way from anywhere in the U.S. While it is geographically considered part of North America, it is actually an island separated from the mainland by a seven-hour ferry ride. Air travel to the U.S. from Newfoundland is quite expensive.

    What I did was ask my client very nicely to FedEx me a check, paying me in advance for work I hadn't done yet, then I bought a brand-new Pentium III box from a screwdriver shop in St. John's. I restored my backup onto it and continued work until my next trip to the U.S., several months later.

    I finally brought my dead Compaq to my parents' when I visited them for thanksgiving, in the U.S. Only then would Compaq agree to repair my laptop. But I had to fly back to Canada before Compaq returned it. They wouldn't return it to Canada either - they sent it to my parents' house. Then I had to ask my mom to FedEx me the laptop. FedExing a laptop is expensive.

    The icing on the cake was that although Compaq had agreed to do a warranty repair, they said I voided my warranty by installing Windows NT, BeOS and Linux on it - the Presario came with Win98. They charged me $400 for a new motherboard.

    They did so just as the dot-com crash started to affect my consulting business. It took several months for me to raise the money for the repair, during which my dead laptop was stored in Compaq's repair facility. They telephoned me periodically to ask about the money, and each time I said I was working on it.

    Then, when I finally sent them their damn check, they asked for my authorization to "rebrick" my laptop. They wanted to erase my hard drive and put a factory-fresh Win98 installation on it. I had lots of files (not my development work) that weren't backed up. I didn't give them permission, but was very anxious until I got the laptop shipped by my mom, with my files, Windows NT, Linux and BeOS still intact.

    By the time I was able to pay for the repair, I'd moved back to the U.S., to Maine. But they wouldn't ship to anywhere but the address the laptop came from. So my mom had to FedEx the laptop from Washington to Maine.

    I will never, ever purchase a Compaq product again.

  • by egg troll (515396) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @01:55AM (#6405672) Homepage Journal
    A Dell representative explained to me why they don't ship to Hungary. They're answer: "My hovercraft is full of eels."

    Hope this helps!
  • by z_gringo (452163) <.z_gringo. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @02:11AM (#6405719)
    I have the same problem in Europe. Nearly all of website with this problem are U.S. based websites. It seems like most U.S. companies forget that there exists a civilized world beyond its borders.

    Try using Western Unions website to send money from France to Holland for example. Cant do it. You cant even call them and use the phone service. Its all for U.S. customers only.

    There are loads and loads and loads of examples. Even more often its for stupid reasons, like it requires a phone number, and when you enter your phone number it comes back with "Oops youve entered too many digits for your phone number. Please enter your full 10 digit phone number with area code first" The same problem exists with postal codes.

    European websites dont have this problem. Its just the American ones. Its quite frustrating, as I am also American, and would often like to order stuff from there. I usually just bring an empty suitcase when I go just so I can bring back what I cant buy over the web.

  • by bm_luethke (253362) <<luethkeb> <at> <comcast.net>> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @02:13AM (#6405728)
    Then again, is this yet another example of the Internet and the rest of the world becoming more and more centered on the continental USA?

    No, that is most companies trying to sell a product in thier country on the web.

    For example, I race radio controll cars. Japan has the newest and more "professional" kits (carbon fibre, titanium, etc). Many not available in the US because of tarriffs - companies just don't have enough demand for them at the price. I make enough and want one. Unfortunatly it is VERY difficult to find someone that will ship what you want, replacement parts, and other misc items needed to run the car to the US.

    One of my friends like "foreign" films (not made in the US). He has players for the regions he wants. It is difficult to get many of the DVD's shipped to the US.

    There has never been the implication of everything on world accessable servers to sell to the world, wasn't using gopher, usenet, or the web - all of which had parts that were world visisble. In fact, it is not horribly uncommon to find web sites that will not sale outside of thier states as they do not want to deal with fraud issues and legalities between states, let alone international.
  • No barriers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danila (69889) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @03:26AM (#6405911) Homepage
    In Russia there is a company called Pregrad.Net [pregrad.net] (means "no barriers" in Russian). They take orders for products sold in any online store, then they buy them in the US and deliver to Russia themselves, taking care of customs, credit card problems (you can pay them with domestic money transfer), etc. They even buy products on eBay.

    Of course, that doesn't directly help you in Hungary, but anyway...
  • by BrookHarty (9119) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @03:33AM (#6405926) Homepage Journal
    I found out last weekend that some media companies are actualy blocking domains outside the US. A friend in Japan tried to view sho.com (showtime) and they blocked him, saying they dont allow showtime outside the US, so there is no reason for people outside the US to view it.

    The stupidity of companies doesnt even phase me anymore...

  • insurance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smoking2000 (611012) <.linuxminded. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday July 10, 2003 @04:22AM (#6406013)
    I visited Hungary just a few weeks ago, we wanted to rent a car to get there, but they wouldn't rent it to us because they cannot get the insurance for the car in Eastern European countries.

    So we bought a car, the travel insurance to Hungarije was 15% or so higher then if we would have gone to Spain or some other western european country.

    The economy is low so companies do everything to save money/not pay money. Terrorism is the mainstream accepted excuse. And since Hungary was under Socialist/Communist (which one was it agian?) reign till 1991 or so, places countries as such in the High Risk Countries category.

    I hope things like these will resolve when Hungary joins the European Union. Not that I really want that, cause wealthy west-europeans will move to Hungary and destroy the beautifull countryside to build office buildings and such, and Hungarians will probably move to the west so you culture will be lost aswell... But thats a different discussion..
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @08:23AM (#6406444) Journal
    My wife runs an internet children's book shop (I won't plug it here), and while there are no countries we have 'banned' there are several areas we flag as high risk: Eastern Europe, especially Rumania, and Southeast Asia, especially Singapore and Indonesia.

    An order from there, especially multiple copies of items, books oriented toward teens such as comic book collections, etc., will raise a red flag, especially if a US credit card is used.

    There's a issue with the credit card processors: They charge more for handling ex-US shipments, because of a higher risk, but if you put a foreign address in they make no attempt to verify the address. But what do they care? They don't accept any risk, except for the customer payment of the card. Everything else is risk to the merchant.

    So our typical response is to request a photocopy of both sides of the credit card e-mailed or faxed to us. Often, the customer never replies in cases where we suspect fraud. We've only had one customer refuse to fax us the card (hey, we already had her number, what's the big deal), and she ordered it to her home in the US and shipped it overseas herself.

  • Politics and Greed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Creep73 (647258) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @09:24AM (#6406692) Journal
    again, is this yet another example of the Internet and the rest of the world becoming more and more centered on the continental USA?

    The world wide web started in the US as a government program so it is difficult to make the claim that it is "becoming more and more centered on the USA".

    These policies are an individual companies decision and they have the right to make such policies especially in the face of internet taxation.

    I wish that the internet was as free as it once was however politics and greedy governments are working to destroy it all. It is only going to get worse.
  • by Psychic Burrito (611532) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @10:15AM (#6406976)
    Sigh... nobody posted this, as far as I'm aware:

    A comparison matrix of the 6 major Mail Forwarding Services [mail-forwa...dvisor.com].

    They all work the same way: They give you an US address, and everything shipped to this address is forwarded to your real address anywhere in the world.

    Have fun!
  • by taustin (171655) on Thursday July 10, 2003 @12:03PM (#6407636) Homepage Journal
    50% of all credit card fraud is for consumer electronics. Online fraud is the fastest growing form of credit card fraud. Shipping from the US to non-US addresses is more difficult to track, making it more difficult to collect enough information to prosecute. And eastern Europe is wher the largest chunk of online credit card fraud is coming from.

    Unfortunately, that means you're hosed.

    BTW, it's not the web sites that are your problem, it's the banks that issue the credit cards. They are increasingly willing to refuse transactions on the slightest hint of anything suspicious, using arcane and complicated rules. The merchants can't even find out why a particular transaction was refused, but they don't want to tell that to you, so you get whatever reasonable sounding excuse they can think of.

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