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Cart Setup – Basic

New User and Basic FAQs

Website Layout Issues

How to Tag Your Pages For Americart

Using Order Manager as a back end for Americart

Q&A on the cart configuration form

Also see our FAQs for Advanced Cart Setup

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New User and Basic FAQs

Q1: How does Americart work?

A1: You have your website anywhere on the Internet containing your products. You add our html tags to your pages. When customers click "add to cart", the product information is tracked on our server. When they click "check out", the order is checked for correct field entry, and sent to you via email. You then process the order as if it were a conventional phone order.


Q2: How do I sign up?

A2: Visit the setup guide. Step one has a link to our account configuration form. When you have filled out this form, you've effectively signed up, and your account is created.


Q3: What do the orders I receive through Americart look like?

A3: They are nicely formatted, summarized and itemized. They are suitable for filing, and also make great invoices to include in the box you send your customer.


Q4: Why are some or all digits of the credit card number missing from the emailed order?

A4: They are stripped for security since email is non-secure. You retrieve those digits on the "LASTSIX" page at:


Q5: I have a merchant account and a credit card machine. Will I still use that to get paid for the orders I get through Americart?

A5: You may do that if you wish. By default, Americart sends the order information to you for processing the charges as you are accustomed.


Q6: Is there a limit to the number of items I can have for sale at my website, or any extra charge if I have a large product line?

A6: No. Since the cart server only sees items a shopper actually adds to the cart, the number of items you are selling is not relevant. This is a significant advantage over our competitors who charge extra if you grow your product line.


Q7: I had a customer call me who said they placed an order, but I have not received the email yet. What's wrong with your mail server?

A7: Nothing. We attempt to deliver orders as soon as they occur, but deliveries are sometimes deferred or rejected by your ISP's (Internet Service Provider) mail server. If they are simply deferred, we queue them for later attempts. If rejected, we cannot attempt automatic re-delivery. When this happens, we will make an effort to notify you, but your primary source of investigating these problems is the "LASTSIX" page: There you can view a listing of all your orders and have copies remailed to you. If they still do not arrive, you can be pretty sure there is a problem with your email address. This should be investigated with your ISP and resolved ASAP. It is imperative you have a functional email address at all times. In the interim, you may wish to Reconfigure your Americart account with a different email address and try again.


Q8: I really like the cart. Can I buy my own copy?

A8: No. We are set-up as a service, and that model works well for both us and our customers. They bypass all the hassles of tinkering with CGI, plus get all the benefits of "no effort" upgrade. Since our server is faster than virtually all our customer's servers, you receive better performance.


Q9: Am I charged a "per transaction" fee?

A9: No, not for Americart orders. Success costs nothing extra at Americart. You pay one low rate, and all Americart features are included. (Americart service does not include Credit card merchant accounts).


Q10: Do I have to register upfront, or contact anyone at Americart to start using the cart?

A10: No. You can configure a cart, add the html tags to your pages, and be up and running all without contacting anyone. This level of automation helps two ways; no waiting around for someone to "turn you on", and the self-serve method is so efficient that we can offer the Americart for a very small fee, which includes the cost of the "secure" server.


Q12: What is the "no risk" policy at Americart?

A12: We offer 14 days of "no risk" service. When you create your account, you will receive an invoice via email. You will then have fourteen days to evaluate Americart and remit payment or decline service. If you decide Americart isn't a good fit for you, simply cancel and pay nothing. No risk at all, except your time to try our system.


Q13: My second statement of account came due too soon. Why is that?

A13: We bill all trial accounts 14 days in arrears so clients receive the maximum time (a bit over a month) to decide if they wish to use our service before sending payment. When you become a paid subscriber, our system switches you to advance payment, as is common in subscriptions/utilities, etc. In effect, your bill appears to come too soon although no time is actually lost.

We realize that the system may seem a little confusing, but it was devised with your convenience in mind, to allow you time to make your decision.


Q14: How long does it take to get a test page of my products working?

A14: If you have moderate html experience, you can read the step-by-step guide and fill out the cart configuration form in about forty minutes. Don't agonize too much over the configuration form since it is easy to change your settings. Have fun with it!


Q15: My web server does not allow cgi programs, can I still use Americart?

A15: Yes. All CGI is executed on our server. All you need are standard html pages.


Q16: I don't have any html experience, can I still add Americart products to my website?

A16: Sure! Just use our shopping cart code snippet generator. Simply fill in the pertinent details about your products, and our code generator will create Americart buttons and links that you can copy and paste directly onto your pages.


Q17: What if I get stuck trying to get things working?

A17: Don't get frustrated, get help! We offer a reasonable amount of free application assistance through email support. We want you to be successful. Email us at


Q18: If I want to copy your html files in the sample pages, how do I do that so that I can edit them later on my computer? And does that work for any site?

A18: With the page loaded in Netscape, pull down as... then pick a folder on your computer to save the file in. Edit resulting file with any text editor. Images will likely break since they are "relative" references. To save the images also, put mouse over picture, click and hold with right button, and select "save as", then put in same folder (directory) as the html you saved. Yes, it works for any page.


Q19: Is it possible to download the selected text or html code from your site rather than a whole page?

A19: You can cut and paste whatever you want. On a given page, if you want to save a paragraph or two, Just use your left mouse button (hold it down) to highlight the text you want, then hit <ctrl>c (hold down control...hit c). That will "copy" it. Then you can open up an Editor (Notepad?), and hit <ctrl>v to paste it into your edit window. (This is solely for use with Americart as a client of our services. All other use is strictly forbidden).
For saving examples, you can do a "view document source" or similar to see the actual codes, and you can copy/paste as above. Almost all applications support copy/paste.


Q20: I don't have my website yet. Can I get started without one?

A20: Yes. Just save a demo page to your local disk, and edit it to contain your specific information. To test it with Netscape, do a file, and select your html filename. You can do all your testing right on your own system. For the shopping cart to work, you must be connected on-line to your ISP.


Q21: I am going to change my website/domain name address soon. Is it possible to install your shopping cart and use it, then later change the website/domain name address (URL)? Or do I need a permanent URL?

A21: You do not need a permanent URL, or in fact, any URL at all for testing purposes. The tie that binds your pages to your cart account is the cart-id embedded in your pages.


Q22: Where do I download the graphic files that were mentioned on Step 3 of the Setup Guide?

A22: Visit the Theme Sampler page, then click on one of the graphics in the color scheme you like best. Go to the page containing them all. From that point, just do a RIGHT click, then "save image as..." to save to your local drive with your other gifs.
Keep in mind that you can always substitute your own graphics in place of any of ours for a fully custom look.

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Website Layout Issues

Q23: Will Americart handle my site that uses frames?

A23: Yes. Americart works very well with (or without) frames.
For instance, if you are in a small frame on your site where you have a "view cart" button, you can set the code to make the viewed cart display appear in the "large" frame.
Change this tag:
<form action= method=post>
<form target="your frame name here" action= method=post>


Q24: I use Microsoft Front Page to develop my site. Can Americart work with this?

A24: Yes. There is a separate section in the FAQ for this topic.


Q25: Can we have our logo on the shopping cart display?

A25: Yes. There are several layout and appearance options in the cart configuration form. Using these, you can achieve any look you want.


Q26: My site uses a search engine to search a database and return products for sale. Will Americart work with this?

A26: Americart is particularly suited to this application. Just modify the engine to return the cart tags in addition to the product information. Several of our clients are having great success with this.


Q27: I want to use a regular "text" submit button instead of a graphic for my "add to cart" function. Can I?

A27: Yes, it can be done. There are some page caching issues to avoid the second time the shopper clicks a text form submit button. Avoid that by adding javascript which generates a random value to trick the shopper browser into always sending the page to cartserver.
So, instead of the usual graphical submit tag:
<input type=image name=add src="addtocart.gif">
<SCRIPT language="javascript">
var n = Math.random() + "";
document.write('<input type=hidden name=n value=' + n + '>');
<input type=submit value="Add to Cart">


Q28: I'd like to use a plain text link or a simple graphic link as an "add to cart" button. Can I?

    <SCRIPT language="javascript"> document.write('<a href="^ 123^prod+desc^5.11^1&add.x='+Math.random()+'">add</a>'); </SCRIPT> <NOSCRIPT><a href="^ 123^prod+desc^5.11^1">add</a></NOSCRIPT>

A28: Yes. Simple text links can be used to add a product that has no options to the shopping cart.
Note 1: We use the random function to avoid browser cache issues. It still takes up the same layout space; just a simple "add" link which can even be part of a sentence.
Note 2: Use the + char for spaces. If you use any of the special part number tags like =SF=, you must replace the = with %3D. So =SF= would be %3DSF%3D


Q29: I want to have my "view cart" and "checkout now" functions built-in to an image map or as simple text links. Is this possible?

A29: Yes. We support both of those functions via image map, graphical button, or simple text link. Set up your image map in the usual way, and have the particular section link as follows:
For View:
<area shape=rect coords="541,4,589,58"
For Checkout:
<area shape=rect coords="540,58,606,123"
For simple text links:
<a href="">
<a href="">
Be sure to put in your own cart-id and coordinates(image map).

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How to Tag Your Pages For Americart

Q30: How do I tag an item for use by Americart?

A30: There are a lot of variants, but the basic method uses a very simple form submitted to our server:
<form action= method=post>
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^pn-1^description^5.00^1">
<input type=image name=add src="anything.gif" border=0>
Line 1) Opens the form and points it to Americart.
Line 2) The "item" variable contains the info about the product.
Line 3) The graphic used as the submit button.
Line 4) Close the form.


Q31: What is that up-arrow character that is inside the "item" variable?

A31: That is the ^ character, and we use it to separate different fields combined into a single variable. "item" contains 10 separate fields, the first five of which are mandatory:
cart-id ^ part number ^ description ^ cost ^ quantity
This method avoids having five separate "hidden" variables to convey the same information, saving time and space.


Q32: How can I allow different sizes of a given item?

A32: Examples are in the demo pages, but here is a sample of html code you'd put inside the form tags:
<select name=op1>
This method is very basic. Whichever option they select is appended to the product description in the cart display and the order form you receive. You could also form an option like this: <option value="SM">Small frisbee</option>
That is a way to abbreviate what is shown in the cart display while still offering the shopper a lot more information to make their choice.


Q33: All options variables are named op1, op2, etc. Why is that?

A33: That is true for regular single item method tags. The cart ignores all variables it does not recognize. Currently, it looks at: "item", and "op1", "op2",..."op43", "op44"


Q34: Some options in the demo pages are mentioned inside the "item" variable and some are not. Why?

A34: Options can be one of two classes, simple, or special.
Simple options are those not affecting price, quantity, or shipping fee. Just place them inside the <form> </form> tags, and Americart will append their data to the product description in the cart display. Size, color, those sorts of things.

Special options are those which effect the price or quantity of an item. To use them properly, you must have the option name listed in the appropriate field of the "item" variable so Americart will know what to do with the data sent. Regardless of simple or special, they are still named op1-44. See below and in the demo pages to see how to get op vars to modify item prices and quantities.


Q35: How do I use a special option to allow customers to put more than one of a certain item into their cart at a time?

A35: Let's say someone wanted 100 feet of rope. Putting 1 foot in and increasing quantity 99 times would be ridiculous, and so we offer the following:
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^pn-1^rope^5.00^op2">
<input type=text name=op2 size=3 value="1">
Notice that in the quantity field of the "item" variable, instead of the usual 1, we put op2. That tells the cart to substitute the value of option op2 into that field. If the customer puts 100 into the op2 text box, he gets 100 feet of rope instead of one!


Q36: One of my options affects the price of the item. How do I tag that?

A36: List the option affecting price in the cost field of the item variable:
  <input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^xyz^item desc^op1^1">
This tells the cart to look in op1 to find the price:
<select name=op1>
  <option value="Large - $4.00">Large</option>
  <option value="Medium - $3.00">Medium</option>
  <option value="Small - $1.50">Small</option>
Notice the "space dash space" in the various op1 value fields? That must be there to separate the description from the cost.


Q37: I want to offer more than one option affecting price. Can I do that?

A37: Yes. List options affecting price in the cost field of the item variable:
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^xyz^item desc^op2op3^1">
OR (if you want to set a "base price" of $5.27)
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^xyz^item desc^5.27op2op3^1">
The cart then looks in op2, and op3 for price related information. Each of those options can also contain descriptive text, but may be price only.
<input type=checkbox name=op2 value="giftwrap - $2.00"> Check for giftwrap
<!--add a couple bucks for giftwrap-->
<select name=op3>
  <option value="Large - $4.00">Large</option>
  <option value="Medium - $3.00">Medium</option>
  <option value="Small - $1.50">Small</option>


Q38: I'm selling yards of carpet, not each of carpet. How do I change my unit of measure?

A38: We offer both a default unit of measure and a line item unit of measure "override" for that "oddball" product. In the cart configuration form, select what you want your normal unit of measure to be. Most choose "ea.". If you need something different for a certain item, you must encode it into the item variable:
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1358^xyz^item desc^5.00^1^^^yds.">
Note that unit of measure is the eighth field of "item". Even though you did not use field 6 and 7 in the above example you must still maintain the field separators to avoid throwing off the count.


Q39: One of my options lowers the cost. How do I code that?

A39: Just put in a negative value for the cost:
<input type=checkbox name=op2 value="no giftwrap - $-2.00">


Q40: I need to allow personalization of an item, and I have three lines of text which can be added. How can that be coded for readability in the cart?

A40: Yes. Separate the text boxes with hidden labels.
<input type=hidden name=op1 value="<br>Line 1:">
<input type=text name=op2>
<input type=hidden name=op3 value="<br>Line 2:">
<input type=text name=op4>
<input type=hidden name=op5 value="<br>Line 3:">
<input type=text name=op6>
Cart display description would be:
Line 1: 1st box text
Line 2: 2nd box text
Line 3: 3rd box text
If number two was left out by customer:
Line 1: 1st box text
Line 2:
Line 3: 3rd box text
It works because the cart counts up when processing op variables, so op1 as "<br>Line 1:" would go in, then it would be followed by the value of op2, which contains the data for line 1.
Here is a complete example. We also add a color choice:
Buy our Address Labels!
<form action= method=post>
<input type=hidden name=item value="a-1234^pn^Address Labels^9.99^1">
<input type=hidden name=nodash value=" ">
<input type=hidden name=op1 value="<br>Line 1:">

Line 1: <input type=text name=op2>
<input type=hidden name=op3 value="<br>Line 2:">
Line 2: <input type=text name=op4>
<input type=hidden name=op5 value="<br>Line 3:">
Line 3:<input type=text name=op6>
Choose color:<select name=op7>
<option value="<br>Color: Gold">Gold
<option value="<br>Color: Silver">Silver
<input type=image name=add src="anything.gif">

Note 1: Including <br> in a variable value sent to the cart is a special case. It will cause the cart display to drop the description down to the next line for readability, and in the emailed order will map back out to a carriage return.

Note 2: The hidden "nodash" variable being set to a space will cause the cart to NOT use the default dash character as the separator between op values appended to the description field. Since we are using <br>, having dashes also would not look good.


Q41: I want to use the quote (") symbol in my description, but it messes up the item variable. Is there a workaround?

A41: Use &quot; instead.


Q42: Can I create a single pull down that will effect more than one product variable?

A42: Instead of having the <select> pull down be an "op" variable modifying the hidden "item" variable, use the item variable itself as the select. That way you can change all fields at once, even making a single pull down to allow an entire list of totally different products to be chosen for adding to the cart. The code would be like this:
<form action= method=post>
<select name=item>
<option selected value="a-1234^pn1^1st item descrip^9.99^1^^^^5.2">
the first item</option>
<option value="a-1234^pn2^2nd item descrip^19.99^1^^^^8.2">
the second item</option>
<input type=image name=add src="anything.gif">


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Using Order Manager as a back end for Americart

This FAQ chapter covers automated solutions for being more efficient in dealing with order data and order fulfillment issues.

Back Office

Q41: We're starting to get a lot of orders, which is great, but we are having troubles keeping up with the processing end of things AFTER the sale is made. Can you help?

A41: There is a very nice, comprehensive third party solution which supports Americart. It will make receipts, packing slips, mailing labels, you name it. Read all about it at the Stone Edge Technologies, Inc. OrderManager overview page. It will pay for itself quickly if you have much volume, and has a 30 day money back guarantee.

Testimonial from an Americart client:

We just can not say enough about Order Manager. The virtual credit card terminal has cut our processing time by 75% and freed up a phone line that was constantly busy with credit card processing. And that is just the beginning. The Purchase Order and Inventory portion of OM has helped us trim our warehouse stock and increased our cash flow. We now know where everything is and how much is on the way. The invoicing is so finely tuned that we now take for granted a task that used to drive us mad. We are truly excited about 2003 and the power we have because of OM. The continuous updates and enhancements to the program are incredible. You guys are always ready to make adjustments and create new things to make our business easier and more efficient. I could go on and on about OM but one thing is certain: there is no way we could have grown this much, this fast, without Order Manager.

Thanks now and in the future,

Angela's Florist & Christmas Shoppe
We get a lot of feedback like this on Order Manager, which is why it has earned a spot of its own in our FAQ.


Q42: I've got OrderManager, is there anything special I need to do at Americart?

A42: Order Manager depends on having the Americart CSV data fields in certain places. we've got it all figured out though, so all you need to do is to write to us and let us know you want to be switched to being "OrderManager compatible". We'll take care of the rest!


Q43: How long does it take to get an Americart account setup for Order Manager?

A43: If you are using only the standard system checkout forms available in the cart configuration, we can get you switched to Order Manager compliant checkout forms the same day usually. If you are using custom checkout forms already, things can be more complicated, since the special things about your custom forms will have to be migrated into the Order Manager compliant checkout forms.

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Q&A on the cart configuration form

Note: The configuration form is self documenting, but there are some things that need mentioning, so here they are.

Q44: Where is the Americart Configuration from located?


Then click the Edit Cart Settings from the left navigation bar.  

Q45: The email you send to the customer after they have ordered is ok, but I want to send them more information regarding delivery, URLs, and other information. Can I set this up in the configuration form?

A45: That's possible, but not in the cart configuration form. You'll need to upload your confirmation message to the server using the Custom Acknowledgement upload form:
You basically just make up the email you want to send to customers after they order, and we send it out.
If you are using "detailed shopper order acknowledgement", then the custom acknowledgement becomes the top part of the detailed ack, with the order details being the bottom.


Q46: I need to send orders to multiple addresses besides just the orders address and the admin address. Can I?

A46: Yes. In the box for your orders address, you can add multiple addresses. Use a comma and then a space to separate the addresses. Be sure to place a test order to verify delivery, as you should after all such configuration changes.
Note that you can do the same thing in the "admin" email address box to keep shoppers from seeing the alternate address(es).

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