The Google Checkout scare, and the birth of Ruppix

Android, Web apps  |  July 23, 2012  |  4 responses  

About a month ago I decided to buy another Galaxy Nexus, so I went to Google Play and purchased it as anybody else would. The only difference from previous purchases I had done in Play was that I decided to use a debit card I had never used before, so I had to enter my billing information anew.

Everything seemed normal, until I got an email from Google Wallet with the subject “Your order from Google Inc. has been cancelled”. Sucks, but oh well, I thought. I opened the email and found the following message: We were unable to verify the account information for your recent purchase with Google Wallet. As a result, your account has been temporarily suspended and your recent order has been cancelled.

I suspected that maybe I had entered the billing information wrong, which flagged a warning in the system. So I try to log into Google Wallet to see what’s up and get basically the same message. I have been suspended and can’t access any of my previous purchase history. Then, just a tad nervously, I attempt to log into Google Checkout and I get the same message. Now, that really sucks.

The research

I’ve read tough things about Google and this kind of situation, like that Google can and will close any Checkout account at any time for apparently no reason. I Googled around to see what other people’s situation had been, and many were unable to get their accounts reinstated. When this happens, the merchant would lose any money paid by their customers, which would get a refund.

Since most of the cases I read about were real world merchants, this means that many lost thousands of dollars in products that were already shipped, but whose payment had not been deposited in the merchants bank account. Also, since when this happens you are totally blocked from the system, you lose a lot of valuable information about your customers, payments, taxes, etc. In a lot of cases it seemed that Google was trying to protect it’s ecosystem from shady merchants with a lot of complaints, unshipped products or chargebacks, but every once in a while a good guy would get suspended.

Help!

Google has a form through which you can request your account be reinstated. I had read that you can normally only fill this out once, and that if denied you would be blocked from Google Checkout for life. So as diplomatically as possible I tried to explain the situation, and let them know that I can’t be a fraud since I only sell Android apps which were delivered by Google itself.

I went to bed without much hope, and actually scheming which other channels I would use to get my apps out there. The next morning I got an email saying that my account was reinstated! Yeah! The powers that be in Google had looked at my case and found me innocent. A huge sigh of relief.

Lessons learned

That episode left a lot of lessons learned for me:

  • I shouldn’t count on the money made from app sales for really important things, since it can come and go really fast. For example, had I reached enough monthly income to quit my day job and live off of this, I would be in a pretty bad situation.
  • I should publish through as many channels as possible. This is actually a no-brainer, but it’s something I haven’t taken the time to do. It’s specially easy for the free versions of the apps, however it’s a bit harder for the paid versions, since I would have to find an app store that takes payments, and possibly update my apps to work with their licensing service.
  • Ads might not make much, but it’s better than nothing. It provides an extra channel of income should income from just sales decrease.

In summary, the best thing you can do is to diversify.

The birth of Ruppix

During this ordeal I was also made aware of a pretty big need: some way to backup your Google Checkout data in case something like this happens. It occurred to me that I already do this, via the Live Stats page! What I do there is request the sales info via the Google Checkout API, and store it in a database. So I thought I could make a web app that would make this functionality available to other Google Checkout merchants, and Ruppix was born!

Of course, why stop at just showing simple stats? Once you have data in a database, you can make all kinds of interesting analysis which could give valuable insights to the merchant.

The web app can also automate a lot of things. Did you know that when a person buys a copy of the Electrician Calculator Pro or the Flashcards, he automatically gets a welcome email from me? This is a script I hacked a while ago, and it’s a functionality that can be built into this web app.

This sounds like a good idea not only because of this need, but because it’s a way to diversify my online income. If normal Google Checkout merchants don’t seem too interested, the system can be tweaked for Android app developers and get individual app sales data, a-la Andlytics. Another possibility later on is to also work with Paypal and Amazon payments merchants.

Be a beta tester!

I’m just starting to work on this, but I’m going to need beta testers soon. If you have apps for sale in Google Play or are a normal Google Checkout merchant and would be willing to beta test version 0.1 of this web app, please let me know! I promise you free access for life!

The sales site is a work in progress. Some of the images where taken from another sales site, but are just place holders for now. Check it out here:

Ruppix

www.ruppix.com