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Hipstamp And The American Philatelic Society Announce Strategic Partnership

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Posted 12/21/2022   9:59 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rismoney to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Can someone articulate why to use APS if they are just listing stamps on hipstamp? Why wouldn't a seller just hipstamp directly? I don't understand.

Benefits of avoiding APS on hip:
Fully autonomy
You still have to ship stuff
You can adjust listing easily
You can track your own stuff
You can describe and scan to your hearts content.
You can distinguish yourself as better than the least common denominator
Someone with one bad experience on APS listing will never use it again. Fool me 2x

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Posted 12/21/2022   10:14 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This is a quote from a few years ago on the APS Stamp Store process; this person was/is involved in the daily tasks.

Quote:
We started with 10,000 items and a full-time staff of five (Director, two entering data, two scanning); there are now over 300,000 items on the site, with 500 to 1000 added every day. With the reorganization of the former Circuit Sales Division and ISU into a single unit - the APS Sales Division - there are now only two full-time staff dedicated to StampStore, doing nearly all of the data entry. Another full-time staffer splits time between the two units, doing much of the scanning. The overall director does some data entry and the rest of the scanning is done by volunteers, including me. I am the only one with philatelic knowledge. It is impossible to pre-screen the submissions from sellers due to the sheer volume. Those entering data must rely on the information provided by the seller on the submission form. They also have to decipher handwriting, which isn't always the best. Even when I'm scanning (usually two or three items at a time), I can't take the time to examine each item. That said, I'm on the computer every night and on the weekends looking at the latest submissions and either making corrections or identifying items for later review. We also rely on our members to identify issues to the staff through the "Ask a Question" button. We receive dozens of emails every day and each one is investigated and appropriate action taken. I research many of those, as well as looking at many of the returned items to judge whether they can be corrected/reposted or need to be returned to the seller. StampStore, like every other aspect of the APS, is a huge undertaking, performed by too few people doing the best they can.

I do not know how much the process may have changed since this was written but it seems to me that that much of the original process will still be needed and may now even have additional tasks.
Don.
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Posted 12/22/2022   12:57 am  Show Profile Check jamesg's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jamesg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It does seem that they need:

A new listing form, process/checklist, improve on information in the headline title (as we must do on other hip/ebay listings)
A requirement for 2 scans front and back (?)
A new higher quality scanner (device), done consistently by a few trained people, whether volunteers or otherwise (not just casual drop in volunteers).
Definitely improve/add ability to search within store and site for descriptive text not in the title

A training video online (link to) on how to best use search on Hipstamp (?):


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Posted 12/22/2022   12:58 am  Show Profile Check jamesg's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add jamesg to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Ebay search, especially if you're expert at their search tricks can be quite useful, BUT it doesn't allow these VERY useful, basic things I do on HIP.

Example:
#1 after choosing Country/Sub-Country, pick a date issued range (i.e. 1847 to 1900)
#2 sort by country / catalog number
#3 choose used or unused or mint/never hinged (etc....)

Using these steps (if you don't start directly with a scott # specifically first), makes it pretty easy to get what you want to see (nicely grouped adjacent to each other comparison of specimens).

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Posted 12/22/2022   03:54 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add mestephil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I just did my first order from the APS store on HipStamp. It was a smaller order and I was mainly interested to see how my member discount was being accounted for, but it was not indicated,. So I logged into the APS website to see if the order was listed under MyAPS/MyAccount/Transactions, and sure enough the order was there and itemized. So looks from my email on HipStamp, APS recognized me as a member and I received the discounted price as a result?

What I did not expect was that APS totaled my order 2 cents more than HipStamp invoiced (and I paid via PayPal), so the order is listed as "unpaid". It seems to be rounding errors of a penny on two items. Suspect this will have to wait until after the holiday to see how it closes.

Ken
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Posted 12/30/2022   4:58 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ZebraMan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Long time listener, first time caller.

I have enjoyed buying things from the APS StampStore for many years. Yes, there is a wide range of prices and quality from different sellers, that is why I use the Search by Seller ID feature. When I see a seller that has things that I like at good prices, I look at what else they have for sale. The postage charge for single items is outrageous so I always try to bundle up a lot of items in my cart before paying (and hope that no one else snags something before I complete my checkout). I do appreciate the great variety of modern stamps that the APS uses as postage on the shipments.

Before buying anything from the HipStamp APS store, I am waiting for a few things to be resolved, like understanding how the APS member discount works. On the old site, the member discount was 10%. On the new site, it looks to be just 2% (from what I can tell from the markup on stamps I have listed in the store). Something that was member priced at $9.95 is now listed at $10.15 on Hip, where it was non-member priced at $10.95 on the old store. Or, is the 2% markup to pay for the the HipStamp commission, and the 10% member discount (or non-member markup) is calculated elsewhere?

How does APS know to charge the member discount if it is not mentioned during HipStamp checkout? Is it adjusted afterwards on the APS site? How does APS know what I buy on Hip, does it match by email address? But, from the APS FAQ,

> Q: When setting up a new buyer account on HipStamp will I need to use the same email address as provided to APS?
> A: No, the email address does not have to be the same as the one on file with APS.


My next problem with the new site is the Search feature. As was mentioned earlier, it seems impossible to search for anything but country and catalog number. I like to search for varieties like Proof, Specimen, Essay, Misperf, or "used block" and that does not work anymore. There are checkboxes for "used" and "multiple" but "multiple" also includes a ton of used sets or any other listings with multiple stamps sold together in one lot. That does not meet my definition of "multiple". I also like Alaska cancels and covers, and I can't search for that anymore either.

My third disappointment, I'm pretty sure the old site listed the catalog value of every item, but I cannot find that on the new site. Am I missing something?

Finally, the "About Us" page and even the individual listings themselves could have more detail and do better to promote the APS. Other stores go overboard here, but for the APS, this page is a bit terse.

I will add that I submitted some corrections to items that I found were miscategorized using the "Ask a Question" feature, and they were fixed right away, even though the "seller is currently on vacation." Great customer support there.

It is a huge endeavor to migrate a database of this size from one system to another, and I am optimistic that the functionality will improve over time, I just hope for the sake of buyers and sellers that things get better sooner rather than later (first impressions are everything).
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Posted 01/09/2023   11:52 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ZebraMan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi @ScottEnglish,
Do you have any responses to my questions from earlier?

- Is there still an APS member discount for APS Stamp Store items purchased through HipStamp?
- How does a member obtain the discount?
- What is the discount? (10% 2% x% ?)

- Is it possible to search for keywords on HipStamp like was possible in APS Stamp Store (e.g. Proof, Specimen, Essay, Misperf, Alaska, Rabbits, "used block", etc.)?
- As a seller, is there a way I can edit my items' listings to add the desired keywords to the title so that they can be searched?

- Am I correct that the old APS StampStore listed the catalog value of each item, if provided by the seller? Is this available on HipStamp listings?


I am getting ready to send in a batch of items to APS store and wanted to know if there will be a new form (hopefully not) or if there is anything I can do as a seller to improve the visibility of keywords in the title so they are searchable.

Thanks.
-Zeb
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Posted 01/09/2023   1:52 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ScottEnglish to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Zeb --

I do not have specific helpful responses to your questions. Have you contacted our StampStore staff?

You can find the contact information at the bottom of this page: https://stamps.org/services/how-to-buy-online
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Posted 01/09/2023   5:25 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add essay_proof to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I think the participants of this now lengthy thread are getting the runaround. These questions were posted quite early in the thread. Some of them by myself. The thread is now 12 pages long and it's only now we're being asked to go to a webpage for info (more on this below) or pose these critical questions to someone else and not the chief spokesperson for this "strategic partnerership."

By the way, as of late, the description of the HS/StampStore has been downgraded that of a "promotional partnership". What's that all about?

So anyway... I went to that web page, "How to Buy Online." The advertised link to www.stampstore.org results in a redirect that's not secure. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. But then again, this entire endeavor has been sloppy from the start, and remains so.

Under "Check Out and Make Payment," there's zero mention of an APS member discount. Then, contrary to previously published information, apparently APS members can use funds on account to pay for purchases. While that's a good thing, it reveals yet another shoddy aspect of this whole endeavor.

The kicker, however, is under "Receive Order..." where it's revealed that the price gets jacked by a 1% handling and 1% insurance fee. These practices and charges and highly irregular compared to the practices of pretty much every other online seller of stamps. Generally speaking, the HS/StampStore implementation holds little resemblance to long-established paradigms and practices for online stamp sales. More on that shortly.

The list of underwhelming technological features of StampStore site is lengthy, and that's being kind. From the original press release:

Quote:
"By leveraging HipStamp's next-gen technology...the collaboration represents a bold leap forward in how both organizations address the needs of the stamp collection community."

"Next-gen technology?" Where? The search functions alone are abominable. And according to one of the posts in this thread, the system can't even get the math right. Next gen? I call BS.

Rather, HipStamp gets to capitalize on wearing the APS feather in its cap while the APS got sold a bill of goods.

On an even more basic level, the HS/StampStore listings don't live up to the basic tenets of online stamp listing practices, as described by Michael Dodd in his article "How to Use the Online Marketplace," published in The American Philatelist (June 2021). From his article:

Quote:
Sadly, there are also sellers who do not list any statement at all about the stamp they are selling.

It takes but a few clicks to realize that this deficiency is endemic to the HS/StampStore.

Continuing from Mr. Dodd's article (emphasis mine):

Quote:
So, in summary, let me outline a few of the online selling practices to avoid. To summarize, do not list a stamp with

no or poor image
inaccurate or incomplete quality and condition description
wrong catalog reference and perhaps therefore inflated / or undervalued pricing

exaggerated quality terms and language
inflated prices and price reduction offers

You can cut the irony with a knife.

In closing, I want to state categorically that I am a huge advocate of the APS. But APS members' time and patience, and that of members involved in this thread, have been utterly wasted entertaining and discussing what are now two failed APS constructs: the StampStore and the proposed merger.

[minor edits to wording]
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Edited by essay_proof - 01/09/2023 8:04 pm
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Posted 01/09/2023   9:02 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ScottEnglish to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
It's not uncommon that I defer members to the appropriate director when they pose operational questions. In an earlier post, I provided an email address that was removed per the forum's policy, so I used the link, which includes the phone number and email address, to contact the APS staff. More specifically, our Sales Director Carol Hoffman.

I understand the first statement referred to it as a "strategic partnership," and my column referred to it as a "promotional partnership." I don't see much distinction between the two; the agreement is as it was described.

Members will not be able to use accounts to make purchases on StampStore. More FAQs here: https://stamps.org/news/c/news/cat/...ons-answered

The charges are consistent with StampStore practices for the past 20 years. The insurance fee goes to the insurance fund for stamps lost or damaged in shipping; we have a similar fee for Circuit Sales to protect against property loss. The handling fee is for postage on items purchased, set to recoup the total cost of shipping. We ship all orders with tracking, and insurance is a condition of the insurance fund for higher-priced items. I cannot speak for anyone else, but in the three departments that rely daily on the USPS (circuit, internet, and expertizing), we've experienced a number of problems with items shipped that includes delays, loss of tracking, and during the high-volume periods, failure to track items. We report these issues to the USPS for resolution, but we have a duty to protect the property of our members. We will work to address this in the future with the USPS and HipStamp to provide the lowest cost but secure method of shipping.

As for the descriptions and images, since moving to HipStamp, I will acknowledge we've had a higher level of scrutiny on descriptions and images. I stated in my October column we had 2,000 buyers on StampStore under the old site. We have room for improvement, and the feedback is helpful in working on that. For instance, imaging issues will be addressed through training and enforcement of the rules. We will not eliminate the issues overnight, but we will improve them. The descriptions were simplified in the old system to "just the facts," for lack of a better term, and that's the information that got carried over to HipStamp. Our Sales Director is evaluating the feedback and current best practices to redesign the submission form to give buyers more information in the descriptions.

The immediate issue we are resolving is requesting an APEX certificate on stamps purchased through StampStore. This function was built into StampStore and will be launched in January through HipStamp.

The member discount is tied to the member badging system, which is still in process with HipStamp, and we expect it to be live in Q1 of 2023. I apologize for the delay in getting this resolved. We recently announced a new addition to the APS staff, a Director of Product Development, to focus full-time on web applications. He has 30 years of experience in the field, working with several eCommerce companies and various platforms.

A piece of news that I reported last week, though it is an early indicator, our ten-day sales window in December on HipStamp was $35,000, which was more than we did in the prior three weeks on the old StampStore platform. We have increased worldwide sales, ironically getting items shipped to South Korea faster than within the continental U.S. One of our expectations was to develop relationships with buyers on the HipStamp platform that were not familiar with the APS and promote membership, so we are building a prospecting database of active stamp buyers.

Folks, I am happy to engage, but I will try and direct you to the quickest way to get answers and give our staff a chance to serve our membership. They don't peruse the forums frequently, but are always helpful if you give them a chance.

Scott
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Posted 01/10/2023   1:16 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ZebraMan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you Scott. Congratulations on your record-breaking week of sales in December. I hope that this trend continues. When the site initially launched, I saw that there were indeed "over 250,000" items listed, and today there are only 244,260 items listed. That is a lot of orders to fulfill in a short amount of time.

Also congratulations on hitting a milestone today of 1000 feedback points.

This morning I searched for my Seller ID and found only half of the results that I expected. For a second I got excited that half of my listings sold already. Alas what happened is that apparently the listings are in the process of getting updated -- the APS Seller ID is removed from some item titles, and replaced with useful information about the lot, like "Mint NH" vs "Unused", and sometimes "multiple" or "cover" or other identifying/searchable features. It is not complete, but it is progress in the right direction, thank you.

I liked the idea of being able to search for a Seller ID in the title, but it made the item titles very messy and adding the characteristics like NH vs Unused is much more important. Hopefully Hip will support an Advanced Search feature someday to allow searching within descriptions for the SellerID and other important details that aren't in the title.

Also, thank you for clarifying that the 2% markup in prices on HipStamp versus the old StampStore is because of the Insurance and Handling (these fees were previously added on to the final bill as separate line items along with the shipping cost, but Hip can't or doesn't do that, so those fees need to be embedded into the base price of the item). I thought the 2% was part of the member discount or maybe Hip commission, so thank you for straightening that out, it was not clear to me originally.

As for the photos, the quality never bothered me. Sure I would love to see the back side of items, with good quality oblique lighting, but I understand how much extra handling that would take by your staff (and potential damage to the stamps) by the way how some people properly and securely attach their stamp mounts to the sales pages. Increasing the DPI of the front scan would be nice though. If an entire set is bundled together in one pile and not spread out, that is on the seller. I don't want the APS to spend time to spread them out and make them pretty. When I just want to fill pages in my world collection with inexpensive sets, I trust that the seller has included the complete set and the stamps are in reasonably good condition. If the seller didn't do a good job in the layout, I will pass. As a seller, the only way I know how to display large sets properly is to put the items on Vario stock pages, but that adds another $1 to $1.50 to my cost of listing (plus extra weight for postage) so it's not worth it for a $3.00 set. If anyone has any better suggestions, please let me know.

I will contact APS staff directly if I have any further questions.
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Posted 01/10/2023   2:05 pm  Show Profile Check johnsim03's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add johnsim03 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
As a seller, the only way I know how to display large sets properly is to put the items on Vario stock pages, but that adds another $1 to $1.50 to my cost of listing (plus extra weight for postage) so it's not worth it for a $3.00 set. If anyone has any better suggestions, please let me know.


Try just using the stock page for scanning/imaging, then shipping the set in a glassine or Heco 102 card. Cost is less than 10 cents...

John
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Edited by johnsim03 - 01/10/2023 2:06 pm
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Posted 01/10/2023   3:06 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ZebraMan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Try just using the stock page for scanning/imaging, then shipping the set in a glassine or Heco 102 card. Cost is less than 10 cents...


Sure, if I were posting the listings directly on HipStamp myself, that is what I would do. But I use the APS Stamp Store service (the subject of this thread), I send the items to the APS and they scan them, post them to HipStamp, and they handle all the shipping and PayPal payments etc. so that I don't have to.

The APS scans and ships the items exactly how I send them, either on 102 cards or glassines or on Vario pages. The APS does not handle the stamps, they scan the items as received in whatever method the seller has mounted them. Glassines would not scan well, even though that would be fine for shipping.

I encourage the APS to consider a different process in the future, (carefully) taking stamps and sets out of glassines to scan them front and back, but I'm not sure it is worth the additional time and cost for the effort.

[edited - wording]
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Edited by ZebraMan - 01/10/2023 3:44 pm
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Posted 01/10/2023   3:12 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Forgive me for saying this but the APS Stamp Store seems to be more trouble than it's worth, maybe the word is obsolete. In an era when internet platforms are flush with sellers of all levels and types it seems clunky and a more than a bit cumbersome to send your materials to the APS so that they can perform the labor of straightening things out and listing them on Hipstamp. Why not do it directly if you are a seller? That way the APS does not have to handle the transactions for 250,000 items and you get to control everything about how your items are presented and sold. I must be missing some advantages?
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Posted 01/10/2023   3:53 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add ZebraMan to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The APS StampStore service is a great service. For me, I work full time, and during some weeks I can't dedicate an hour a day that may be needed to fulfill orders, answer questions, go to the post office, etc.

Plus, just the effort to scan and crop the images, type up the descriptions, etc, I am very happy to pay the APS commissions for them to do all this labor for me.

All I have to do is handwrite the descriptions and prices, in my spare time, and a few times a year send them a big stack of items, and they do the rest. It is so very convenient.

When I retire maybe I will take on the full end-to-end service myself to have more control over it. Or maybe not.
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