HTMLGOODIES EXPRESS (tm)
December 13, 1999 -- Newsletter #58

By Joe Burns

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HTMLGOODIES EXPRESS (tm)
December 13, 1999 -- Newsletter #58
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Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Two newsletters from now will be the final Goodies To Go! of 1999. Y2K looms large and I intend to write my predictions regarding what I think will happen.

To put it together I want to hear from you! Write to me at jburns@htmlgoodies.com and tell me IN NO MORE THAN TWO SENTENCES what you think will happen on or after January 1st, 2000. If you think many things will happen pick your top concern. I will incorporate the most interesting in the last newsletter of the year.

Did you hear

Nike.com is now allowing you to personalize your own sneaker. Yepper. You choose the color, the patterns, and even substitute your name for Michaels Jordans. There are, of course, some filters to eliminate all the four letter words youd like stitched on your heel.

Y2K just isnt that scary anymore. Apparently new polls show that the average consumer is not going to withdraw large sums from their bank accounts nor will they dig big holes in the backyard to fill with supplies. One piece I wrote thanks the media for allowing the Y2K scare to peak too early in the year. I guess were all just tired of being scared.

Police in London have taken to the Web. After a June 18 riot in the British capital, police posted the faces of 83 people involved. So far, 20 have been identified and many of those apprehended.

You mean no one wanted a copy of her Bad Girls script? Drew Barrymores mother, Jaid, held a ten-day auction that started last November 15th in an effort to sell some of Drews stuff. There was some interest, but none of the bids met the minimums. In effect, nothing was sold. In case youre wondering, Drews baby clothes started at $495. The cowboy hat she wore in E.T. started at just under $46k, and the Bad Girls movie script needed to draw $2k. Drew has declined comment.

OK! I have found the perfect Christmas gift for the computer fan in your life. Go on the Web and Search for the MouseRug. I just flat out told my wife I want two (one for home one for work) this year. I hardly ever request gifts, but this one I did.

Now onto todays topic

I used to be a little cautious, but now Im just flat-out goofy for buying things over the Web. I have to. I can only find my favorite coffee over the Web (Jacobs Night and Day). I buy books, gifts, and just about anything to avoid making unnecessary trips to the mall.

Although Ive never actually won the bidding, I have put in bids for merchandise on eBay and Amazon. My wife is actually quite happy Ive never won. It seems the dumber the thing the more I want to bid on it.

How about you? Do you shop on line? If sohave you ever had a problem? If sodid they fix it?

I actually have had a problem. I bought two CDs from a company that shall remain nameless. Somehow the order was entered twice. I received two boxes, both containing the same CDs. It was probably my doing, but that doesnt matter to a consumer. I wanted this fixed and the charge taken off of my card.

One email later it was all taken care of. A return label was sent to me, I used it, and a credit was added to my account. A happy consumer equals a return customer.

Although I am not a businessperson by any stretch of the imagination, I have always heard that a very strong bond is formed between a company and a consumer when the company fixes a problem quickly, correctly, and with no hassle. I have read that a relationship with a consumer whose problem was quickly remedied is even stronger than the relationship where there have been no problems.

So what?

Well, the so what is (are) the results from the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) eighth annual survey of consumers.

The NACAA polled 50 city, county, and state agencies 1998 complain records. The big winners, or big losers as the case may be, were the auto sales and repair industries. Home improvement companies also scored pretty high on the not- happy scale.

The interesting thing I took from the survey was that complaints regarding Internet commerce were up almost 40 percent. Here were the big concerns in order of listing in the survey:

Internet Service Providers: Billing and refund disputes.

Online Commerce: Merchandise didnt work, or was broken.

Online Commerce: Didnt get what was ordered.

Online Commerce: What was ordered wasnt available or misleading claims.

Internet Auctions: Received nothing after sending money.

Internet Auctions: Received something different than what they bid on.

I cant really relate to any of these because Ive never run into them. But if you have, I can only imagine how upsetting it might be. The purchasing of an item online is simple. A few days later it shows up at your door and all is well, unless theres a problem.

I went on line with my sister-in-law last night in order to buy a University of Alabama sweatshirt. It was her first online purchase so I stood behind her while she stumbled through the process. We found four places that would sell one to us. Each guaranteed credit card privacy. Each guaranteed our order would arrive quickly.

But nowhere did it say what we should do if we didnt like the sweatshirt when it showed up on our doorstep. I know it didnt because every step of the way, my sister-in- law asked,what if I hate it?

I looked. Even after we made the purchase I didnt find it. I assumed it might be on the receipt. Nope. If it was on these sites, they sure didnt make it very easy to find. Yes, there was an email address but it certainly didnt say to write if there is a problem.

Thats bad. As some of you might know, my wife will soon go into business for herself on the Web (start date in summer). While talking about the business, we decided that we would put up an obvious link that explains how people will be able to send back merchandise if they are not happy. They do it at the local K-Mart, why not on line?

A quick look at a few other sales-oriented sites found that many sites offered email addresses in case there was a problem. In my one case of online concern, I used the email address and all was taken care of, but what if theres a problem with the Alabama sweatshirt? I guess I could go back to the site and find an email address, but I dont think thats enough.

If you run an online business, know that consumer complaints are part of the deal. Rather than make the consumer search for a way to get satisfaction, offer it gladly. Spell it out. Tell them exactly what to do. When a consumer claims theres a problem, remember the old adage that the consumer is always right. Fix it. Fix it quickly. Fix it correctly.

The couple of bucks you spend making that one consumer happy may very well result in a hundred bucks in future business because that consumer now sees you as a reputable person who really does want things done right.

Oh, sure. Its easy to sit here drinking coffee and preaching from my HTML Goodies pulpit, but soon my wife will be online herself. Well get a first hand look at what its like from the business side of the equation. Itll be hard, I know, but hopefully well remember that we were once consumers ourselves and we once had a problem, and it was taken care of.

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Thats that. Fifty-eight Newsletters and still going strong. Thanks for reading. Knowing someone is reading this makes it well worth the writing.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Ever heard of Honcho-dori? That was the name of the main street in the port city of Yokohama when Japan was opened to the West in 1853. Sailors were told to stay on that main road because venturing off of it could be dangerous. So stay on the road and everything would be Honcho-dory, or as it came to be known, Hunky Dory.

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