Holiday Shopping 2000

Will online merchants face the same disasters they did last year? Will this be the year that allows online merchants to shine or receive another black eye? Last season merchants did not anticipate the difference between online sales and traditional brick-and-mortar sales. New and first time Internet shoppers were left with a bitter taste.

This year, companies need to fulfill orders they accept and make sure orders are delivered on schedule; consumers will need to shop early. Additionally, precautions should be taken to verify the company does have the merchandise in stock and can deliver on time. If you purchase an original German cuckoo clock, do not order it on two days before the holidays.

Even though the Internet is the easiest place to find hard-to-find items and an easy place to shop, online merchants must take precautions. If you are selling goods via the Internet, someone out there will may try to steal from you. Internet merchants are faced with 12 times more fraudulent activity than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Consumers should remember simple rules when shopping online.

Consumers should only purchase from secure sites. Make sure review the online merchants’ purchase and return policies. When entering credit information, make sure the site states information is encrypted as it transmitted. Do not be offended or upset with merchants who follow up your order to confirm that you made the order. Be extremely careful never to give any personal information. Legitimate companies will not ask you more than general information to confirm your order. If in doubt, call the company’s customer service number to find out if a standard practice exists before answering any questions. Remember that companies may do this for your protection.

Consumers and online merchants are hopeful for the 2000 holiday season. Never before has there been such an efficient way to shop. Simultaneously, never before has there been an easier way to shoplift. Thieves will not only disrupt the merchant’s ability to fulfill all the holiday orders, but also there will be many unsuspecting credit card holders that have credit information stolen. The majority of thieves have been stealing credit card numbers from the brick-and-mortar stores through skimming and applying for credit in someone else’s name.

Over a year ago, I started writing about fraud and other credit problems the online world was developing.It took some time before anyone starting listening or taking seriously the problems developing.Today, many newspapers and magazines are writing about online fraud and the problems associated with doing business via the Internet.

The Internet is like the old west. Expanding at a breakneck pace with few boundaries. I parallel the Internet and companies new to the online world to another piece of history — the California gold rush.During that time, people from all over the world rushed to find their fortunes. Now companies from all over the world are rushing to drive revenues, and only a select few find their fortunes. Then, like now, only a few will ever obtain the elusive dream. Few will strike it rich, and few will get out with fortunes intact.The dreams of each era are endless. History has shows the perils faced by early dreamers. Only recently, have the real stories of the dangers of the Internet begun to be told.

Just as the men and women of the old west were blinded by the color of gold, so are companies blinded by the new online markets.Companies are forging ahead and purchasing the latest equipment and hiring personnel at high costs.Like the gold miners of yesteryear, the commercial rush to get products on the Internet and begin selling product is blinding the parties to the dangers and costs involved.What happens when the company is open for business?Have they really thought it through?Fulfillment, customer service, returns, and battling the Internet shoplifter.

Many articles estimate e-commerce sales to be somewhere between $2.5 trillion and $5.2 trillion by 2004. Within the next three years, experts are predicting most companies conducting e-business will not survive. This is like someone telling you, “I have good news and bad news.” If you survive to 2004, you could be one of the few companies that become a success story. Success and money.Every company is hoping for success and money when they being selling goods or services over the Internet. The color of the golden sales is blinding and the ease of selling over the Internet has taken many businesses by surprise. However, the danger of failure is great. One article stated doing business over the Internet would require minimal human intervention. However, it did not take long before companies to discover the opposite was true. Companies needed more personnel for customer service, sales problems, handling packaging and the fulfillment and return of merchandise.

The Internet has created more jobs in traditional areas of law enforcement, office equipment sales, fulfillment companies, the list goes on and on. The Internet is like the Industrial Revolution — the start of a new way of life. The use of the Internet has made the world a smaller place. It has brought out the best people have to offer and helped millions obtain goods. Ten years ago, these goods would have been impossible to obtain. It has also brought out the worst in some. Thieves prey on the weak, the small, and the innocent.

Companies and governments are just beginning to fight back. New departments, organizations, and task forces develop daily to combat Internet thieves and scam artists. Many companies are seeking out information to assist in stopping thieves from stealing merchandise. Law enforcement agencies are becoming more involved and knowledgeable about Internet crimes. Since each computer used to surf the Internet leaves a traceable signature, law enforcement and companies are coming together to stop Internet predators. Just as the Internet has grown at tremendous speed, so is the new technology and knowledge needed to track parties using the Internet for illegal activities.

As in the first few years of the gold rush, people have become aware of the risks and the dangers of conducting business via the Internet. Companies and people are taking precautions when buying and selling over the Internet. The golden glitter has lost some of the shine, but the lure of the golden dream is still alive. The traditional process of assuring the sales of merchandise is safe will soon replace the days of rushing to increase sales via e-commerce. Until that day arrives, consumers must take precautions when placing Internet orders. E-commerce merchants need to exceed brick-and-mortar stores traditional ways of treating consumers. If both parties cooperate, the 2000 holiday season should be joyous and profitable.

Al Cameron