|Web Shopping Goes International|
|International||As a global consumer, you can use your Web
browser to buy in many different countries, snapping up unique products at great
discounts. The orderings secure, the shipping takes a week or so, and you get the
fun of shopping in a foreign country without having to endure airplane food and local
The Internet is definitely a rich countrys marketplace, though. In the poorest countries, a few businesses put up sites, but these sites are really ads offering to manufacture clothes, toys, gimcracks for businesses in the First World. Even their wholesale businesses do not sell on the Internet; you have to call or write a letter to negotiate arrangements. For instance, in Costa Rica, the rain forest preserve sells furniture in lots of $1000, but your treasurer has to send a formal letter of credit by mail.
If web retailing were a race between countries, heres how we would snapshot the competition. The US and Australia are far out in the lead, with France making a very splashy third place, and Holland, Germany and Canada coming up close behind, with the U.K. hanging in there, and Japan stumbling into the race, late. Most other first world countries have not caught on; their retailers tend to offer brochures, and invite you to drop by or call.
Retailers in countries that do not yet participate in the consumer marketplace are facing big problems: lack of programming support, banks that refuse to handle online transactions (even in Sweden), and attachment to the old ways of doing things by phone, fax, and mail.
So youre reduced to shopping in countries that have central heating, indoor plumbing and sewers, half the population with personal computers, good electrical systems- and a Web-aware culture. France, for instance, gave away their Minitel to phone customers, who now feel comfortable ordering just about anything electronically. Germans feel at ease ordering by mail from catalogs. Aussies are so far away from the rest of the West that they have been heavy Internet users from the beginning; theyre hip and edgy, and have fun online. Canadians give the impression that they are going online not because they want to, but because they have to. Brits show a similar crankiness. The Dutch, having sold to foreigners for centuries, understand the idea of multiple languages and currency conversions. In Japan, where the phone company just about gives away the phone itself, the service costs a lot, so most people cannot afford to browse a deep and complicated site, or wait for a database to perform a complex search; without eager consumers, the stores lag behind the rest of the high-tech world. Oddly, the most interesting online stores in Japan deal in traditional crafts.
What to look for when you are shopping internationally on the Web:
Ask these questions of a store:
If you know a little of the host countrys language, try browsing the site that way, to soak up the ambience.
Never order by fax or email: your credit card info could be exposed to anyone passing the fax machine, or , through the miracle of email, distributed to a whole mailing list. If you must buy something from the store, use the telephone. That way, you know you are talking to a clerk at the store, directly, reducing the possibility of someone stealing your credit card info. To be safe, look for a secure server- when you go there, your address line should automatically begin with https, and you should see a lock or key in your status bar.
Some fun stores outside the U.S.
For clothing for men and women:
Household Items and Furniture
Cosmetics and scents
Toys and Children's items
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Copyright 1999 Jonathan and Lisa Price, The Communication Circle
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