Merchants and shoppers are complaining that Google Inc.'s Checkout service often takes too long to complete sales transactions and sometimes cancels orders unjustifiably and without warning.
The problem apparently stems from the review process Google performs on the Checkout transactions to prevent fraud. While they applaud antifraud efforts, users of this high-profile service, which was launched in late June, say Google needs to speed up the review process and improve its review-related customer service and communications. Otherwise, Checkout, which observers have characterized as a potential "killer" of rival service PayPal, risks failure, some warn.
Google hasn't replied to a request for comment, but at its Web site, Google explains that it employs standard credit-card verification methods in Checkout, as well as more specialized risk modeling, fraud detection and manual reviews if deemed necessary. Moreover, in the official Checkout discussion board for merchants, a Google staffer in the Checkout team routinely posts comments and answers under the name GoogleCheckoutPro, and on July 27 addressed the review delay issue, saying Google is committed to fighting fraud and minimizing risk.
"I know there's frustration about the delays due to the order review process," the official wrote, adding to what is one of the longest threads on the board with over 30 postings. "At times it may seem we are overly cautious, especially when an order from someone you know personally is being held up. We are working as fast as possible to fix this issue. The good news is that we have some upcoming changes which will both speed up the review process and make it more effective at filtering out the bad guys."
The planned changes may come too late for a disappointed buyer. "I'd have to hear a lot of good things about Checkout before I try it again," says Rhys Ludlow, who tried buying a camera from RitzCamera.com using Checkout.
After four days, with the order still under review, Ludlow contacted RitzCamera.com and was told the Checkout approval process could take a week. This floored him.
"These days you expect things to move at the speed of, you know, the Internet," says Ludlow. He needed the US$106 camera for his business Ludlow Media Services in Corte Madera, California.
He canceled the transaction and bought the camera directly from RitzCamera.com over the phone. Ritz Interactive Inc., which runs RitzCamera.com, declined to comment.
Review glitches also affect merchants. A corporate client attempted to buy a photo from David Sanger's Web site, but Checkout unilaterally and without warning canceled the order.
After several attempts, a flustered Sanger reached a Checkout official by phone. This official acknowledged a Google mistake in canceling the order when Checkout couldn't match the buyer's name with the credit card number. This is a common discrepancy when employees use corporate credit cards. The official told Sanger that Google was aware of this problem and that his client should try again.
On the second try, the client encountered technical difficulties placing the order and gave up.