WordPress Payments Block — Promising, Yet No Thanks.

This summer WordPress.com announced a new feature that seemed promising. I tried it, but I don’t think it will work for me. Here’s why.

I use WordPress Personal, and have always had the option to upgrade to WordPress Premium in order to do sales. The problem is, all I want to sell are a few copies of an out of print book now and then. It wouldn’t be worth it for me to pay the upgrade just to do that, though if I decide I want to go Premium for its other features, then it might be worthwhile.

That’s why it seemed promising when WordPress launched the Payments Block for Personal plan users. Here was a way to accept payments on a limited scale without going Premium. The email I received and the help made is seem like you could use this to allow people to purchase goods as well as services. All I had to do was set up an account at Stripe to accept payments.

I looked into Stripe, and saw that they take a 2.3% cut per transaction. There is no fee associated with it other than the transaction fee. That’s good because I don’t anticipate having more than one transaction a month, probably many fewer than that. This is not a way to make money; it’s a way to send people books without losing money. I’m not planning to charge much more than the cost of postage and an envelope: just a couple bucks to make it worth my time going to the post office. I can live with a percentage per transaction, but I can’t justify an annual or monthly fee. So I set up the account, which was a little more involved than I wanted (they ask a lot of questions), but took maybe half an hour.

Back to WordPress to try out the Payment feature. I could add the Payment block to a page, but when I tired to connect to Stripe with the button on the block, nothing happened. Reading help again, I learned that I could set up payment through the Earn tab in my WordPress app (or the web interface). I also learned that WordPress will charge 8% of the transaction, something their email or help didn’t indicate. But okay, I could live with it and build it into my charge, so no problem.

Using Earn, though, things got worse. The Payment feature there won’t let me use it for goods, only for recurring payments. There were two options, neither of which looked like it would be right for what I want to do, and one other for selling goods that requires the upgrade to Premium. So I ditched Payments for now and am probably going to cancel my Stripe account unless I can find another use for it.

Instead, I’ve put on a Contact form on Landscapes & Architectures so people can email me if they want the book. It will automatically send to my email address with a subject like “Buy the Book,” and then I can send them my Paypal link. If I want to, I can add the Paypal link to the form to send them directly to where they can pay. Paypal will also notify me that a payment has been made. That seems to be the best solution to meet my current needs.

If I were doing a lot of sales, this system wouldn’t work, but to sell one book now and then, it should be enough to meet my needs.

If I were trying to set up a premium content area on my site or to charge people for a newsletter or other electronic content, then the Payments app might be just what I need. But for a few sales of physical content, i.e. books, it’s still not the right tool.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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