1.19.2011

Open Sky Scam



You know when you meet a new friend and you feel like you've known each other forever? You want to spend lots of time together and wonder where they have been your whole life? Then remember that feeling of foolishness and disappointment when they do something to show they are not who you thought they were? You look back and see signs you ignored during the "honeymoon phase" of your relationship and feel even more foolish...

This is how my experience has been with Open Sky during the past several months. When I first learned of this new platform to connect products I love with my own readers, it sounded like a match made in heaven! I spent lots of time interviewing and training, lots of time locating and contacting the manufacturers of my favorite products to encourage them to allow me to sell their products on Open Sky, lots of time writing about these products, lots of time choosing just the right items.

I felt proud of my little 23 item Open Sky Shop that I had curated myself over the past months. I loved each and every product in there and was happy to share. I loved that Open Sky marketed themselves as joining forces with the little guys, us bloggers, to promote a new concept in online shopping.

Looking back I realize that there were warning signs that our relationship was in trouble...poor communication from administration, lots of confusion in setting up my shop (that I assumed was just me being thick headed!), mistakes on the orders I placed to purchase items myself, lots of featured sellers on the front page that were always the same (and who weren't me or any of the other shop owners I knew)...ahhh, hindsight...

But, you know, we were moving along and getting to know each other and I pushed the doubts aside and focused on my own little shop. Last week I received an email from Open Sky with the subject line "IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OPEN SKY" - it looked kind of shouty with all the capitals!

I opened it and saw doom in the opening sentence "We have some news and wanted to make sure you heard it directly from us" Come on, nothing good ever follows that sentence. They went on to explain the changes, including this new rule: "You must have at least 4,000 followers and have expertise in women's lifestyle to become a curator and sell products on OpenSky."

Huh. I went to their front page and saw this:


Lots of "curators" who all had some sort of celebrity connection.
Okay, they added "follow" buttons to our profiles. So, I went to my profile to see how many followers I had and saw this:


No followers because I had no "follow" button. Interesting. It was all becoming clear. All those profiles I had seen every time I logged onto the front page had received all kinds of publicity over the past several months and they had decided to discard all the other "little guys". So, the rule should have read "You cannot sell if you don't have 4000 followers and you can't get followers unless you sell. Ha ha, see ya!"

Several posts on the Open Sky discussion board have been ignored by administration. Yet another sign that they can't be bothered with us little guys. No explanation and no answers to our questions.

Researching it further on this blog
, I learned this change had been in the works for about a year and they continued to accept new sellers all along knowing they were just going to shut them down come March. That friend I thought I had made was beginning to look shadier and shadier. How foolish I felt. How disappointed.

So, Open Sky will revoke my ability to sell items on March 1st, but I have decided to close my shop now. Why keep up the facade? Why pretend our friendship is still intact for a few more weeks? So, it was fun but in the end it was a giant waste of time and a lesson learned. I feel like they used us bloggers to generate buzz and interest in their new venture - free publicity - before shutting us out and moving on with their "real" shop curators.

Anyone out there have any experience with Open Sky?

**There is still time to join Tutorial Tuesday for some fun and inspiration!
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49 comments :

  1. My blood is boiling just reading this post. How deceptive. They have shown their true colors and you are better off without them. I am so sorry that you are feeling so betrayed, but hey, we 1379 friends are still here and we promise never to send you an e-mail like that.

    You are right to cut the ties and move on.

    your friend,
    Janet xox

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  2. I actually purchased a couple of things from someone's Open Sky shop. . . and I was shocked at what I got for the money. Poor service, VERY high shipping costs, and a very high cost of the item in the first place. Now that I know that it's not been a good deal for the curators, either, I'll certainly never use the service again.

    I'm glad you posted this! I hope all your followers (and there are lots of us!) read this and see what's what.

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    Replies
    1. It was probably high shipping costs because Opensky passes on all of their promotional costs to their vendors, which I have never heard of before. So, if you sell an item for $40, and they run a promotion for 30% off, you just get 30% less. It makes it very difficult to be sure you have a profit margin. It's a crap company.

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  3. What a shame....for OPEN SKY...not you...THEY are the ones that will suffer from your loss.
    So sorry to hear. I even bought some things from you..the cupcake holders.
    I hope something else comes along for you instead.

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  4. That completely sucks!!!
    BOO OPEN SKY!!!
    BOO!!!!!!!!

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  5. thanks for this. Looking into them was on my short list for this year!

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  6. I am glad you posted this, I have seen a few people with Open Sky shops but never checked them out and now I know I won't be!!

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  7. I would be angry too!!! I never quite understood the concept, so I didn't browse, and now I'm glad I didn't. Kudos to you for being done with it now and recognizing a bad situation for what it was for!

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  8. That is really sad. I'm not even a "curator" (whatever that's supposed to mean), but I still feel kind of used because I know they were sponsoring some blog events for women just like us. What a shame.

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  9. I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you, Jen. It really did SEEM like a good fit when you started out. Sad how shady companies have gotten lately.
    Ya know what, though...you've got a beautiful product and have grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years on your OWN. Keep putting your time into YOUR business and you will continue to grow. Pat yourself on the back for learning such a terrible lesson with such grace.
    Love ya.

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  11. Crazy! How awful that you expelled so much time an denergy doing what you thought was the right thing.

    Your blog is the perfect forum to spread the truth about open sky and hopefully another person will read this post and stay far away.

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  12. Rats! That is really a horrible thing to have happen! You can be sure they've lost a possible would-be customer...and I'll tell everyone I know about this!

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  13. Oh, I'm SOOOO sorry.
    Really, really stinks.

    I sell on Etsy and I couldn't love it more. But, the condition is you have to sell Vintage (20yrs +), handmade/upcycled, or supplies.

    Some of your stuff could fit under supplies, I think.

    It's a great community, if you are interested.

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  14. Update.
    Just bought the "Family Talk" game from you on Open Sky. Looks like a great conversation started.

    Oh, and your handmade photo frames would be a PERFECT match for Etsy buyers. Just saying.

    (I know it's too soon to make a new best friend after the last one betrayed you so badly, but you can date Etsy. Come visit, open a account (not a shop), and even join us in the Virtual Labs for a chat where Newbies and, er, oldbies? Ask questions from A to Z.)

    www.CafeD.etsy.com

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  15. Oh my, so now I know the story. I'm a supplier on OpenSky, or was, and only saw a post on the discussion wall regarding changes coming. But being a supplier, they felt we didn't need to know I guess.

    I wonder if suppliers are next for the chopping block. Quite honestly, the way it was setup, without havng categories for the shop owners and a decent search, and many other things, it wasn't buyer friendly. It took me numerous emails to get paid for the products sellers sold of mine. I have not been impressed.

    Now, to do this to all the sellers who put in time and effort is horrible. OpenSky has financial backers, and perhaps they are setting up for a big push or move forward, like taking the company public down the road. Who knows. Leaves a terrible taste in my mouth for sure.

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  16. I had a really bad experience buying something on Open Sky. The item never arrived and I could never get proof of shipment even though I had requested it. I got no help from Open Sky with my problem. Thankfully, since I made the purchase with my credit card I was able to get it taken care of (thank you Visa). It was enough to lose me as a customer permanently.

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  17. Jennifer,

    I think there’s been some misunderstanding between us and I’d like to clear things up.

    I’m sorry to hear you're upset by the changes coming to OpenSky. At the end of 2010 we evaluated our business and a year’s worth of data and tests to determine what works (and what doesn’t) for our community. The changes ahead are designed to create the best possible experience for everyone.

    I think you may have missed that when we announced these changes in the email, we invited everyone from our community to learn more about how they can participate and that definitely includes you! Here's what we wrote:
    “If you’re interested in hearing more about our new direction and discussing how you can participate, we’d love to hear from you.”

    As you noticed, there are some sellers who already are participating as beta curators. They are part of a test group, which is why they were given “follow” buttons already. We had to do this test and analyze the results before embarking on these changes, which is why you’ve seen it in the community before it was officially announced.

    Again, if you'd like to become a curator, we'd love to have you. If you have any more questions about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out anytime at emily@shopopensky.com.

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  18. I am also a fellow and former Open Sky shopkeeper. When I first heard the big news like you, I thought "uh oh, some folks are going to be pretty darn mad". But I have to admit that I do disagree with some of things you're saying (and I hope that doesn't make you mad either!)

    First of all, I was one of the faces on the old "homepage" and my profile didn't get any extra attention because of it. I wasn't chosen for the homepage because I was a celebrity or sold tons of products (trust me, I wish I did!), but because I'd always tried to find really new, innovative ways to market my shop and approach my readers (even if sometimes I failed miserably).

    I personally know that OpenSky valued the new ways in which I marketed my shop and the different promotions I created (and not because they were enormously profitable, but because I was clearly passionate about what I'm doing).

    I know that Open Sky said anyone who wanted to be a curator should contact them, but I (like you) knew that I wouldn't have 4,000 followers. I'm not upset by this though because I understand the following things:

    The folks at OpenSky are JUST as heart broken as we are to have to change the model. I know this to be true because they really believed in the original idea, and weren't afraid to shout if from the rooftops.

    I was one of the very first OpenSky sellers (who put literally a year or more into building my shop with hundreds of hand picked products)- and I know that John Kaplan (the founder) really did want to create something new and fresh.

    However, I also understand that if something isn't working, it isn't going to benefit any of us. Instead of continuing with the old model, I think it's pretty smart of OpenSky to try something that benefits the consumers more. So many other websites (Ebay, Etsy, Amazon) keep going with this pyramid layout, so that very few can ever benefit or profit again.

    Yes, we are losing our shops (and trust me, I'm just as sad as you are), but I also know that they're going to be offering enormous savings to those who buy from the new model (thus benefitting my friends and family who shop on the website more).

    I understand why you're bummed out, but personally, I feel like I'm taking something away from this experience. I built life long contacts and relationships with the brands I worked with (and chose to put in my shop) and am thankful for it. I also know that OpenSky didn't want to have to make this decision, but couldn't continue with a model that wasn't working for us as bloggers or our friends as consumers. In the end, THAT would have been the definition of truly using someone.

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  19. Kind or ironic you had questions and unanswered emails from Open Sky that were never addressed but then you show them for what they are and all of a sudden - they are there for you wanting to help.
    That is pathetic.

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  20. I'm so sorry to read about your disappointment in losing your shop. It's hard to say goodbye to something you put alot of time and effort in.

    I do have to say that I disagree with some of what you've said. I understand that you read on another blog that she heard the change had been in the works for about a year... but Open Sky has only been in existence for that long.

    I was one of the first shops and I can tell you with confidence that the Open Sky model was from its inception for the "little guy" to be able to run a shop full of their favorite things.

    How do I have such confidence in this? Because I saw the very first live presentation of the business model. And I saw it a dozen more times as I traveled the country on staff with Bloggy Boot Camp this past year.

    It was never the intention of Open Sky to draw in a back log of bloggers and then kick them to the curb. The original model just didn't create the kind of results they had hoped for.

    Was I sad when I heard my shop was closing? Yes. I was. Even though I was one of the first shops to open... I am not going to be part of the beta. I was given the option to find out how I could still participate... just as you were in your letter. I'm sure I could get the 4,000 followers needed... but I'm not passionate about any of the topics they are moving forward with. And those are hot topics right now.

    I have taken something something valuable with me though. I've taken a bunch of great connections with brands and independent sellers with me. I've used those connections to build campaigns of my own, get sponsorships, and do giveaways.

    I do feel for your loss, but to say that they've been planning this all along is a tad bit far fetched... especially since the initial model was indeed geared to bloggers.

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  21. Is it just me or does the comments from Kelle, Bailey and Emily sound like the same comment stated a little differently??

    Just sayin'

    never used them...never will...

    I am so sorry you put so much time into this only to find out they are not ethical...and the way handled this was not ethical! A cattle call email is not the way to have handled this.

    Again, just sayin'

    Lou Cinda

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  22. Oh shoot! Sorry you had this happen to you. I've tried a few things on line but haven't found my niche 'yet'. Thanks for letting us know about this site!
    Sandra

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  23. Well said! Could not have said it better myself. Beautiful blog, by the way :)

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  24. How could Open Sky know that the current model wasn't going to work if they put less than a year into the current model?

    Why can't Open Sky try harder to work with the smaller blogger? There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to have a curated list of items that they're selling, and give you a commission if any buyer comes from your page. Looks like they tried to build a name and lots of free name recognition from bloggers, then dumped them when they served their purpose. Sounds like business. I don't like the way they do it, and won't be a customer.

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  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. Hi Lou Cinda,

    Jennifer's question at the end of the post is if anyone has had experience with Open Sky... not if they had a bad experience. Just what is our experience. I appreciate her being open to all experiences.

    There are some similarities but my comment is more about the original model. I did mention the participation letter... because "participate" is the word used in the letter. I suppose I could've thought of a synonym...

    I don't discount how she feels at all. I felt sad too. I commented because I felt the need to after being a part of the Open Sky launch. Thank you for trying to stir things up a bit though. Sorry to disappoint. I'm just a regular blogger who felt the need to point out a timeline issue in the OTHER blog. Not this one... Again. I do feel for you. Best of luck to you.

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  27. It always amazes me when a company ignores letters and e-mails sent privately to their attention, but they're pretty quick to respond on Twitter and to blog posts. As Kevin Spacey said in the movie "The Negotiator," "I wonder why that is?" The answer - because they don't think twice about blowing someone off who contacts them, but they definitely don't want to get trashed on a popular blog such as yours where the world can see it. And that's BS. They responded on here to try to save face. But it's too late. I'm glad you decided to post this.

    Like you said, we all know that companies make changes. But to know for one year, continue to accept new clients and not revise their policies in any way is wrong.

    I'm glad you're shutting down your store now. And it's a shame that you put so much hard work into getting it up and running. We've all gotten wrapped up in scams like this and stuff that looks too good to be true, you know. It happens.

    But the best thing you can do at this point is tell people to avoid Open Sky.

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  28. Wowzers! This was a fun, sintilating and scandelous and oh so fun serises of comments to read. And I too, thought those face saving replies felt the same. Either the same author or the same amway-coolaide- brain washed responces.

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  29. Suspicious about a couple of these responses... they sound very "corporate." Behind you 100% Jennifer. Open Sky should be ashamed. They ignore you because they think you don't make a difference, then they patronize you when they realize that you do.

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  30. You're probably much better off without them!! It doesn't sound like the kind of place you want to be involved in anyway.

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  31. OpenSky kept my shop open after I resigned, and they put products up that I'd never seen or heard of. I stumbled on "my shop" in a Google search.

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  32. I know this is an old post. I too was one of the founders and had all the same troubles and concerns you did. I actually never put anything in my shop because the samples the vendors sent me for review we all discontinued items or have only 2 or 3 in stock. So I assumed there would be none left by the time I put it in my store. I took my buttons down long before I got that notice.

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  33. Hi Jennifer (and anyone else who had a bad experience with OpenSky)!

    I'm a former engineer and recent Harvard MBA grad. I'm currently working on a start-up idea idea building a new toolkit for bloggers (at the intersection of content & commerce). I recently came across OpenSky as an example of a company that tried to build something in this space and failed miserably...

    I was hoping to talk to people who worked with OpenSky so I can learn from what they did wrong! I'm also very interested in understanding what's most important to bloggers / community owners, so my team can build something that's useful and relevant (we're very early stage).

    Please let me know if you would be willing to do a call/chat to help shape my start-up! Hope to speak with you soon.

    Best,
    Sonia
    sonia@smarketplaces.com

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  34. Hi Jennifer (and anyone else who had a bad experience with OpenSky)!

    I'm a former engineer and a recent Harvard MBA grad. I'm currently working on a start-up idea building a new toolkit for bloggers (at the intersection of content & commerce). I recently came across OpenSky as an example of a company that tried to build something in this space and failed miserably...

    I was hoping to talk with people who worked with OpenSky to get perspectives and learn from what they did wrong! I'm also very interested in understanding what's most important to bloggers / community owners, so my team can build something that's useful and relevant (we're very early stage).

    Please let me know if you would be willing to do a call/chat to help shape my start-up! Hope to speak with you soon.

    email me at: sonia@smarketplaces.com

    Best,
    Sonia

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  35. I was really thinking of opening a shop on Open Sky. Thanks to your report and the experience you had I will be looking elsewhere. Thanks for saving me lots of time and anguish!
    Mary Kay @Studio23Thirty

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  36. I am a small biz owner and sell successfully on OpenSky. This blog us either outdated or not true.

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    Replies
    1. Well, #1 I was not referring to businesses who sell their items on OpenSky I was referring to the curators.
      And, #2 you can see it is an old blog post from 2011...so, yep, not up-to-date since I don't care to learn anything about this particular website today.
      Thanks for your message, I guess.

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    2. I sell on OpenSky and am loving it there! Although I just signed up as a seller in December of last year, I find it fun and there are so many great people there. The people who work there answering phones and helping are very nice. Even John Caplan jumps in to LOVE products and post nice comments. I feel like John's a celebrity! Come see my shop sometime, you are missing out on giving them another try! www.opensky.com/southshoreart

      Delete
    3. Again, Martha, not talking to or about you or other sellers in this post. taking about "curators". Whatever, John Caplan is awesome and gives you nice comments...whoop de doo...

      Delete
    4. This is an older blog post -- but I still find it quite useful. As a seller on opensky I am perplexed at the buisness model and haven't decided if I am going to leave it yet. It's a daily battle -- one between "well I am selling items well," and "but damnit if they are eating any profit I could have." An example -- today there is a sitewide sale of 25% off. I as the seller / producer / shop owner have to eat that 25% off. In addition, once the 25% is taken off, Opensky will take another 20% if an item is purchased by someone I didn't bring into opensky as a 'follower'. So now my item is about 45% less than I would sell it on another venue -- where I may have to eat a listing fee and say 3 - 3.5%.

      Delete
  37. Hi, I came upon this blog post when searching for information on how to close my opensky shop. I could not find any information in how to do this on their website despite several searches. Ironically, I imported my etsy listings just to see how easy it would be to use the sight and immediately regretted the decision when I saw how un-user-friendly the site is for merchants. The lack of information transparency on the site made me completely disgusted and I ended up having to waste a bunch of time unpublishing listings. I've emailed their customer service, but after reading about your experience I don't expect to get any answers so I figured I'd ask someone who's actually closed their opensky store how they did it! Any information is greatly appreciated!

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  38. I didn't even realize my shop was live on OPENSKY until I received an email telling me someone "loved" something in my shop. Can you please tell me how to delete my Shop!? aaktaria@gmail.com

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  39. To all those who are commenting about how great it is to sell on Open Sky - my post is not directed toward you. If you read my post beyond the title, you will see I'm talking about the treatment of "curators" by Open Sky.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think you need to explain yourself. I've been a merchant on OS since Feb 2015 and I'm still kicking myself for having wasted precious time and money there when I should have devoted my resources elsewhere. I was upsold on a $500/month 'Co-pilot' program by Andrew with the promise that I'll be featured prominently in their emails, search results and affiliate advertising. I learned later that $500 just gets you SOME probability of being featured...at their fashion editors discretion.

      There's very little transparency and communication with these guys once they take your money. Anyway, I'm doing better selling on my own shopping site and Ebay and running my on marketing campaign via Facebook. I suspect for every fictitious 'happy' OS seller, I can find you ten more who had my experience.

      Delete
  40. Wish I had read this article 3 weeks ago. I am a Seller on OpenSky and was very excited about the response I received to my product. I didn't care for the ideas that Opensky pays sellers 2x's per month. But, the orders were coming through so consistently, I forked up the money to bake, pack, and ship my cakes and desserts. After 2 weeks, it's time for OpenSky to pay up. No answer. Called them first thing Monday morning. I am the first in queue, on hold for 40 minutes. No answer. Sent email to office. No response. Sent email to Tech Support. No response. hmmmm. This is interesting. In the process of contacting other Sellers because now I'm pissed. I will make sure that everySeller and small business owner knows. As a Seller, were bustin' our azz to make a living, risking what few dollars we have, to get scammed???? No today OpenSky. I will get paid for my work, even if I have to shame you into paying up.

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  41. I started selling on opensky in December of last year and the sales were nice for the first few months but it all changed. They then introduced pay for advertising email campains and placements in promotions and it's not cheap. If you aren't a big seller who can afford 59,00 for one email advertisment and up to 599.00 a month for advertising. My products were show in almost every email they sent out to all customers, but not any more. I no longer get sales and I never see my products advertised.
    I am so sad this has happened. I thought this was a great place to sell on. They do have great people who make and sell awesome things. But if I don't make money I can't buy things let alone pay my bills. sad. Oh and the customer service is horrible to get a hold of by phone and they never returned my email. Oh and to have to LOVE or smile at a ton of other peoples products is too time consuming and if you don't so it for several hours a day you can hang it up getting any sales!

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  42. I looked into it-before all this latest grief you are experiencing. My gut level said NO WAY. Just read too many bad consumer comments. NOW glad I didn't pursue. It's very hard being a small seller-try eBay, Bonanza, & Etsy-you will find a home there in one or all of them. good luck to you!

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  43. I had the same experience with the Co-Pilot program :( we were out $500 for Absolutely Nothing. It's really sad that they are getting away with taking advantages of small business owners. Even though $500 is a big lost for a small company like us, we are continuing to build our company Thaw Claw. I hope you are continue to live your dream :)

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