My Turn

A Tale of Two Vendors

The Straightest Line Between an Online Vendor and a Customer's Cash

Kiernan at Kenmare Digital Arts

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

This is the tale of two vendors in the age of Early Internet Commerce.

There once was a computer user who, having discovered an email forum for similarly-enabled computer users, posed the following question to the forum: Where could he find a vendor who would supply expansion memory for his newly-upgraded machine. Upon receiving advice from the kindly forum subscribers, our computer user proceeded to the first of two recommended websites.

Upon locating the appropriate memory on the first-visited website, our computer enthusiast proceeded to enact an online purchase. Much to his surprise, the user action that should have completed the transaction process returned an .asp error. Not to be dissuaded from parting with his cash for such a reasonably priced item, the user called the toll-free number listed on the vendor's home page.

A reasonably confident-sounding assistant answered the call and, hearing of our user's problem, recommended that the user would need to upgrade from MS IE 5.0 to MS IE 5.5 in order for the desired purchase actions to be processed, and that no orders could be placed by voice as they did not allow it. (It was at this point that a mild suspicion arose in the mind of our user - you see, our user had some knowledge of programming and Web design, both of which had provided him in the past and continue to provide him with gainful employment). However, as the conversation progressed, the helpful assistant pointed out (where the Web page did not) that visitors to the site must first set up an account and then begin the purchasing process.

Well and good, thought the user. Alas, his second attempt resulted in the same failure as the first. On this occasion, however, the user perused the error message. It appeared to be a database error regarding the lack of a record returned by the scripting code from shiprate.asp. He called the vendor a second time.

This time, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the user related his observations regarding the error message. Upon hearing this, the assistant enquired, "Where are you calling from?"

"Ireland," was the reply.

"We don't ship outside the US," responded the assistant.

"Well why do you have a popup list of every country in the world on one of the order pages?", the user asked.

"That's a mistake. It shouldn't be there. They need to correct that."

At this point, the conversation came to a rapid conclusion for obvious reasons; the user could not give his money to the vendor. Not to be outdone, the user took consolation in the knowledge that there was a second possibility.

He proceeded to navigate to the second site, where he discovered a well-designed site with secure online purchase capability. Although the cost of the items was somewhat higher and shipping costs expensive, the user considered it still a fair price, and a transaction was completed in a matter of minutes.

Moral of the story: Logical, efficient, and functional Web design is the quickest road to Internet riches.

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