Payment methods in online shops III – When gremlins strike

by Volker Schwarz, 26.10.09

Despite interactive wizards in the merchant back office, many errors can still happen when setting up the payment process in your shop. The third part of our series "Payment systems in online shops" shows you how you can prevent these, what to do when you are stuck and how to get faster answers for support requests.


The devil is in the details: A good portion of the ePages support requests are the result of typos when entering the payment user data in the merchant back office. Even if it seems self-evident, here are four tips that in our experience can solve up to 70 percent of all arising problems:

  1. Make sure you enter the registration data for your payment provider correctly and completely in the merchant back office. The data is sometimes longer than the visible output field on the side of the payment provider. In this case, be sure that you have really transferred the full data with all parameters.
  2. Pay attention to the correct use of upper and lower case.
  3. Be sure that you have not mixed up "username" and "password" login fields.
  4. Look again at the payment provider in your dealer account and make sure the payment process that you have selected in your shop is also actually enabled

If you have entered all the data of your payment supplier correctly, it’s time to test the payment. Almost all payment suppliers offer a "sandbox" test mode for this. The "sandbox" allows you to process testtransactions without consequences. So…


Let’s go to the sandbox!

You can find the function for activating the test mode in the "Settings" tab of the selected payment type. Even here, there can be errors waiting along the path to enabling your selected payment method. They arise through different approaches the providers use for handling the test mode.

The optional test: Most payment providers offer an optional test. That means that a test transaction can be performed with the merchant data. But this is not a requirement for the final enabling of the account.

The obligatory test: Several providers such as HSBC have a sandbox requirement. The merchant has to have successfully used the test mode one time in order for a payment account to be enabled. The help texts in your ePages shop will provide you with information about the respective procedure of the individual payment provider.

PayPal, the special case: With PayPal, the test works differently. Although the payment service provider from eBay does offer a sandbox, a test account must be created for this. If you have a merchant account at PayPal, this will not work in the test mode. You can apply for a PayPal sandbox account here:

Once you have performed a test purchase, it’s time for a live test.


The live test

A requirement of a live test is that your ePages online shop is "open".


To do this, click in the "Settings" menu and select "General settings". You can find the "Status" submenu item under the "Status" tab. You can go live with your shop here. But take note! The moment you go live, the shop can be reached by everyone.

To prevent unwanted orders from happening, we recommend when setting up your shop for the first time that you initially create the payment system and then test the payment function with a single, inexpensive test product and only then entering in the actual products.

But what can you do when the shop is already running and you want to expand or replace your payments? In this case, withhold the new payment method from your customers until you have tested it yourself. To do this, proceed as follows:


Select the "Customer groups" item in the customers menu. Now create a new customer group in the menu that appears. Name it "Test customer", for example.

Now switch to the storefront and register as a new customer in your shop. After the registration process, switch to the back office again.

You can assign this to different groups in the "Customers" menu. Click on the newly created customer entry and then on the "Customer account" submenu on the "General" tab. Assign the newly created customer to the "Test customer" customer group.


After you have created a new test customer, ensure that the new payment method is also only available to this one. Click on the "Shipping and payment" item in the "Settings" menu. Then switch to the "Payment methods" tab. Select the newly created payment method by clicking on this.

Under the "Customer groups" tab, you can set which payment methods are available to which customers. Select "Test customer" and save the setting.

Now the road is clear for a test purchase with the new payment type. Switch this to "visible" in the payment methods menu and start your purchase. The new payment method is only shown in the shopping basket to the newly created test customer.

After you have made a successful live purchase, you can lift the payment method restriction and offer it to all customers. In certain circumstances, you may still have to create information texts for this new payment type under the "General" payment method.

A small tip for the live purchase

It makes sense to use an inexpensive test product for just a few Euro in order to save costs with the payment billing. If you do not have an inexpensive product in the shop, you should create one. Important: Do not assign any category to the test product so that regular customers do not accidentally find this.

You yourself can call up the product at any time from the back office and thus use it for the test purchase. Be sure that you create the product with at least the product amount "1" and that you switch it to "visible" before the test. Only then can you place it in your shopping basket in the store front.


Handling errors

Sometimes everything doesn’t always work right during the first start-up. In this case, it’s time to take advantage of support. To help get the right solution quickly, it’s important for you to gather as much information as possible. In addition to the selected payment, this also includes most importantly the following:

  1. The exact error message: Make note of the error message. Copy it into a text document using copy & paste. The trained support personnel are often able to immediately determine where exactly the error is using the information in the error message.
  2. Date and time of the transaction which led to the error message: If support cannot determine where the error is using the error message information, they will have to look in the log file to see exactly what went wrong with the transaction. The precise date and time information will help them with the search.


If you want to contact the ePages support when you have difficulties with the payment, this is facilitated much more quickly if you contact support via e-mail and by telephone. The reason for this is simple: Since your support person often needs to work together with the corresponding payment provider, the error can usually not be solved directly during a telephone call. In this case, your ePages support person is reliant on the exact documentation of the error which you can best supply via e-mail.

Also important for support questions: Identifying the right contact person. If you can clearly see that the error message was issued by the payment provider then their support is the best contact for you. If the message comes from the shop software, then you should contact ePages support.

Here’s one more tip for keeping your support times short

After you have sent ePages support an e-mail, place an additional support request with the payment provider about the topic. Even if you can’t be helped directly there, you will trigger a support incident under your name. If ePages support needs to contact the payment provider to solve the problem, the incident will already be stored with your name and allow the ePages support person to call it up. This reduces the time it takes to find a solution to your problem.

In the closing section of our "Payment systems in online shops" we show you four examples in detail for integrating the most varied payment providers into your shop. You can find the article here.

About the author

studied German, History and Politics at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. From 2004 to 2009 he worked as a freelancer for several marketing and communications companies in Hamburg, including e-commerce companies. Between August 2009 and December 2011, he worked as an online editor at ePages .

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  1. 19.11.2009

    All very well, but when you upgrade your package it is disappointing to find that no upgrades are available to you. And support will not tell you how to activate your upgrades. And there is no phone to ring. They will give you links to spurious other FAQs, endlessly, not matter how you phrase the question. No real person appears to respond….

    • 20.11.2009

      Hi Jane,

      have you tried to reach the 1-2-3.reg support telephone line? Here are the contact informations from their website:

      Write to us: 123-reg Webfusion Ltd 5 Roundwood Avenue Stockley Park Uxbridge UB11 1FF
      Telephone us on 0871 230 9525. We’re here 9am – 7pm Monday to Friday. Calls cost 10p per minute from a BT landline. We sometimes get busy at peak times.

      Best wishes

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