My Issues with Volusion’s Import Feature

After spending a few days fiddling with Volusion’s cumbersome interface, I took Skip’s advice and exported the “products” csv file into Microsoft Excel on my Mac. Mass editing 700+ products with a dozen of fields for each product using Excel is way faster than Volusion’s cluttered interface.

I wanted to be sure that once I edited the products, I could upload the csv back to Volusion’s server properly (with special charaters, return characters, double quotes and other unknowns, I just had to be sure). So I started testing with just one product (having deleted all the other products in the spreadsheet). But I kept on getting the same error (the kind of error message that doesn’t explain anything):

An error has occurred.
Please try your request again, or contact customer service for
assistance. Thank you.
Advanced Error Details:

Microsoft VBScript runtime error ‘800a0005’

Invalid procedure call or argument: ‘Left’

_v_3_1/admin/incfiles/db_import.asp, line 1515

Volusion's meaningless error message

I kept trying by editing the csv file with variations of changes in the fields. But it kept on failing! So I emailed the Volusion tech support (they do have a very responsive email support team!). After three emails of standard answers (try this; try that; go watch the import/export tutorial… etc.) with absolutely no trouble-shooting questions (browser type, version, Excel version, how was the file saved, operating system type… etc), I decided they were not gong to be much help since all they were doing was spoon feeding me scripts from a “support manual” they must have internally.

I started to look for answers. It turns out that Volusion does have a not-so-obvious fact about csv files — Macs not welcomed. Here’s the fine print from their manual:

2) [The CSV] File must be generated on a PC, Macintosh is not supported. The reason is that Macintosh uses a different set of characters for line breaks than a PC.

OUCH! (And notice the bad grammar… run-on sentence.)

It turns out the Mac uses a different return character that their script doesn’t recognize. They should put that fine print up front at the actual import/export pages. Or maybe their tech support should have known to ask what OS I was using! Argh!

But no worries, Microsoft Excel for the Mac has a “save as” feature that allows the user to save csv files for Windows (hence creating the right return characters). Why can’t Volusion include this information on their site rather than saying “Macs not welcome. Period.”? That shows their tech support team is either ignorant or just plain lazy to find the right solutions for clients (or both).

Saving CSV files on Mac for Windows

Once that’s done, everything works pretty flawlessly.

From this, I think Volusion has a few more things they need to improve upon:

  • This kind of OS-specific failure is pretty obvious. A warning should be posted for Mac users on the import/export pages.
  • Tech supports should be more proactive in asking questions to pinpoint problems rather than to assume what the client must be using. If the first tech support had asked me what OS I was using, even if he was just a manual-reading robot, he’d have given me the answer in that first reply.
  • They need to provide more meaningful feedbacks on error messages. Many systems do. Why can’t they?
  • Make their online manuals more useful. It’s been less than useful a lot of times when I tried to find something.
  • Don’t be lazy. Find solutions for your clients, even if they are just Mac users.

UPDATE 12/20/2007: After a friendly email exchange with Volusion’s marketing specialist, Michelle Greer, it appears that Volusion has updated their documentation to include the fix I’ve provided here. All in all, I believe Volusion has been very proactive in listening to customer feedbacks and resolving their shortcomings in the years I’ve used them. Kudos to the Volusion team.