Caught in the Crossfire

By Deborah Gage Print this article Print

Web-based holiday sales uncover more bugs than hum. What went wrong when customers went online to buy?

Caught in the Crossfire

Then, Golub tried to cash in his gift certificate at a local Sam Goody store that was still open. But even that decision required several phone calls to Best Buy corporate, to explain that SamGoody.com didn't have the merchandise he wanted and that nothing else in the store's physical or online inventory appealed to him, before Best Buy relented. Finally, a regional manager took pity on him and ordered a Sam Goody store manager to hand over the money.

A Best Buy spokeswoman says the company strives to provide all customers with a pleasant shopping experience. Yet, nearly eight years after Netscape made Web browsing available to the public, conducting e-commerce can still be complex.

But customers adapt. For instance, many online shoppers have lowered their expectations, says Ken Cassar, an analyst at Jupiter Research. People order earlier, instead of clicking through on Dec. 23 in hopes of delivery by Christmas. "Consumers have become accustomed to the limitations of the channel," he says. "In 1999, people had it in their minds that the online channel could deliver an immediacy catalogs couldn't. But they expected too much."

Additional reporting by Edward Cone

This article was originally published on 2003-02-10
Senior Writer
Based in Silicon Valley, Debbie was a founding member of Ziff Davis Media's Sm@rt Partner, where she developed investigative projects and wrote a column on start-ups. She has covered the high-tech industry since 1994 and has also worked for Minnesota Public Radio, covering state politics. She has written freelance op-ed pieces on public education for the San Jose Mercury News, and has also won several national awards for her work co-producing a documentary. She has a B.A. from Minnesota State University.

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