Selling products over the Web can be a cumbersome process.
You need to get a credit-card merchant account from a bank, pay a Web hosting service about $100 a month to set up a "shopping cart," on your site, and then pay the normal credit-card transaction fees on any sale.
But Internet powerhouse Amazon.com has thrown down the e-commerce gauntlet with its new zShop product.
In about 10 minutes, potential sellers can offer their products via Amazon for credit-card sales. To begin, a seller provides Amazon with some basic information, including a checking account to which sales are credited.
Each item up for sale carries a 10-cent fee for a 14-day listing. (Amazon indicates this fee will rise somewhat at the end of the year.)
The seller enters a description of the product, the available inventory, and possibly a picture.
In addition, the seller can link up to as many as eight books being sold by Amazon to their product.
Once everything looks good, a single click of the button places the item up for sale.
For large-quantity sellers, Amazon also offers bulk-rate pricing. Sellers can list up to 500 items for $9.95 a month ($29.95 beginning next year).
Besides the listing fee, sellers also must pay a transaction fee on items sold via credit card (typically around 5 percent of the cost).
Once an item is purchased, the seller is sent an e-mail indicating that his checking account will be credited and requesting that he ship the item to the purchaser.
As a peace-of-mind feature, Amazon guarantees purchases up to $250 against fraud. This should make many nervous purchasers more comfortable with the online shopping experience, especially when buying from small companies and individuals.
Several competing Web-hosting services indicate they will offer similar low-cost aggregate shopping services next year.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society