The internet is getting old. So old that there are very few people who havenâ€™t heard of it, although there are still many whoâ€™ve never used it. You know itâ€™s getting old, not when young people talk about it, but when old people talk about it. My mother visited the other day and announced that sheâ€™d bought something from Amazon.com. Turns out she hadnâ€™t done any of the clicking, but it was her credit card at her instruction that had completed the purchase.
In this e-zine I want to review my transactions on the internet. When I say â€˜myâ€™ transactions, I mean mine and those of the people with whom I interact on a daily basis. I picked â€˜the usual suspectsâ€™ in our day to day world:
â€œ Shopping (groceries, airline tickets, books and bicycles),
â€œ Competition entries,
â€œ And to round it off a little bit of spam.
Iâ€™d love to hear your comments as well. If youâ€™d like to have your own say, once youâ€™re done reading, go to http://www.tomorrowtoday.biz/r4bp and sign up if you havenâ€™t (itâ€™s free), and find the forum dealing with this article and let us hear your own thoughts.
Iâ€™m one of those people who moan about their bank. High fees, red tape, long lines, badly trained staff, giving me a service I donâ€™t need and not giving me the service Iâ€™d like. Enough is enough I said, put your money where your mouth is I said, and I signed up with 20tweny. Yes the same people who were with Saambou when it went bang last year. They hibernated until Standard Chartered purchased them, injected some money and gave them a second chance at life.
So are they any different? Well a lot of â€˜yesâ€™ and a little â€˜noâ€™. â€˜Yesâ€™, theyâ€™re fresh, funky and even claim to be â€˜un-bankâ€™. It shows in their web site, their e-mail and in that automated, pre-recorded voice that answers the phone when you call them, telling you theyâ€™re sorry you have to be listening instead of talking. They have very few products but promise thereâ€™s a whole lot of good stuff in the pipeline. Time will tell. And they have real 24 hour, 7 day per week call center operations. Banking on my time, not theirs.
The â€˜noâ€™ has to do with the legal stuff they needed to collect from me, verifying I was who I claimed to be. It got a little tedious going backwards and forwards and for a while there I longed to be able to walk into somewhere, speak to a real human being and find out exactly what they wanted. Fortunately one of their Wired Warriors (bank people) saved me from myself and helped me work through the system via my phone.
I have hope for 20twenty. I have to. Thereâ€™s really no other bank in South Africa (or most of the world) trying this hard to give me what I want. Some nights I pray to that big banker in the sky and ask that she help those Wired Warriors do the kind of banking stuff that no other bank has ever done.
For more on 20twenty go on over to http://www.20twenty.com
Groceries – Iâ€™m not a big online shopper. Iâ€™ve done the odd book, a few airline tickets, a cinema ticket, one or two auctions and thatâ€™s about it. The other day a friend suggested I give Pick â€˜n Payâ€™s online shopping a go. Iâ€™d seen a lot of advertising for it online and so one weekend I signed up to check it out. I was warned that initially it was a fairly time consuming thing getting your shopping list organized, but once that was done, it was easy, convenient and best of all theyâ€™d deliver your parcels into your house at a time you chose, right onto the kitchen counter.
The warning was correct. It is a little time consuming setting it all up (although not as time consuming as actually driving to a Pick n Pay to do my monthly shop). This I must admit. But what impressed me, and apparently itâ€™s fairly new, was the fact that during the sign up process I was asked to enter up to 3 credit cards my wife or I had ever used in Pick â€˜n Pay. I did so and they asked for 92 hours in order to build me my shopping list. 92 hours is a long wait and certainly some of the energy escaped. I shut down for the next 5 days. When I logged back into my account I found 426 items that someone in my family had purchased from one of the Pick â€˜n Pays in the preceding 14 months. Wow! They had 14 months history on our credit cards. Amazing! I do remember being frightened at the prospect of â€˜big brotherâ€™ gathering information about me and my habits a couple of years back. Today however, I stand in awe. Wow again!
I still havenâ€™t completed a shopping experience, but all reports from my business partner, who has been using them for the past year, are that itâ€™s mind blowing when 2 people walk through your front door and put all your shopping onto your kitchen counter, and all youâ€™ve done is a couple of clicks. Iâ€™m looking forward to it. (see http://www.picknpay.co.za)
Airline Tickets â€? It feels like airline tickets are working hard to knock books from the top of the list of â€˜things most internet users have gone online to purchaseâ€™. Again a good marker is the fact that my mother has purchased an airline ticket online.
However like online merchants in other industries I canâ€™t say that your experience is going to be fairly uniform. It continually amazes me why some airlines have got it really together and why others look like they discovered the internet last week and are building their sites using one of those â€˜How to build a web site to sell airline tickets on the Internet for Dummiesâ€™.
The new â€˜cheapâ€™ carrierâ€™s web sites are easy to use, quick and you get the best price available from anyone. Not so for the bigger carriers. I can still get far cheaper prices from my travel agent than I do online with the bigger â€˜olderâ€™ carriers. My limited understanding has me believing that is all has to do with options. The new â€˜price friendly, letâ€™s help you make friends by squashing as many of you as we can into one plane and then force you to listen to weak scripted humourâ€™ carriers donâ€™t do options. There are no classes, there are no upgrades, thereâ€™s no shoulder massaging, or place mats and silver cutlery. So whether you go through the travel agent or online it costs the same.
My research concludes that the carriers that offer options donâ€™t have internet systems that can deal with all the options, so when you shop online, you get offered a full fare in the class youâ€™re flying. Travel agents understand the rules and options and so can navigate through them and find you what youâ€™re looking for.
My travel agent just went online (e-mail really) and I far prefer working through her than navigating all the different web sites on offer. My airline ticket journey has taken me from working directly with travel agents to using the internet almost exclusively back to working with the agents via e-mail. (there are a couple of sites to visit http://www.kulula.com and http://www.flysaa.com and http://www.ba.co.za and http://www.flightcentre.co.za)
Books – Now hereâ€™s an interesting one. â€˜Why we buyâ€™. Itâ€™s the title of a book. A client of mine heard me talking about it the other day and wanted it. Wanting to impress I phoned a national book supplier that had recently opened a store in the Liberty Mall in Pietermaritzburg. This was the closest store to my client ‘ s office.
â€šSureâ€›, they said on the phone. â€šWe donâ€™t have it in stock, but Iâ€™ll order it and it will be here in about 14 daysâ€›. 14 days to come 1900km. Someone must be walking it up I thought. â€šOKâ€›, I said. Ten minutes later I get a call from the book people. â€šSorry, but our Cape Town agent doesnâ€™t have it on their books, I canâ€™t get it, sorry I couldnâ€™t helpâ€›, they said.
That irritated me, so I logged onto Amazon.com on my GPRS enabled cell phone and there it was. â€˜Why we buyâ€™. $10 and if I lived in the USA I could have it the next day. So I ordered it and itâ€™s being delivered to my client ‘ s office. Right into his office, and he isnâ€™t moving a muscle to get it.
Hereâ€™s the confusing part. Why can a book store based in the USA, found on the internet supply a book that my local national book store canâ€™t? And why, when my local book store canâ€™t find it through their usual sources, donâ€™t they go to Amazon.com and order it and then add a mark up and sell it to me? I didnâ€™t ask for a price. I didnâ€™t have a price. I wouldâ€™ve paid almost anything. I was trying to impress a client.
I must also say that thereâ€™s one other online book store worth considering before you go to Amazon.com, and thatâ€™s Kalahari.net. Not only have they on one occasion had something that Amazom.com didnâ€™t have, but theyâ€™re often cheaper if you live in South Africa, because they have a base here. (seehttp://www.amazon.com andhttp://www.kalahari.net)
Bikes â€? Iâ€™m not sure about where you live, but in my area I see new bike shops going up almost as quickly as new product lines at traffic intersections on my way to work. I was chatting with a friend living in the UK last week and he talked of how easy and painless his experience was buying a bike for himself. He ended up buying the bike from a shop in Scotland, and he was living in London. 3 days after his final click, a knock on the door and one bicycle ready for riding.
So I got online and looked for South African equivalents. Can you believe it, I can buy a bike from anywhere in the world for less than I can in South Africa. Not because South Africa is expensive, but because after 2 hours of searching the net (and Iâ€™m no slouch) I couldnâ€™t find anyone locally to sell me a bike. Why not? There were South African shops online selling parts and gear, but nobody selling a full bike? (I donâ€™t have link for this Iâ€™m afraid)
Online dating. Have you tried it yet? I say â€˜yetâ€™, because if youâ€™re single, then youâ€™re bound to give it a go fairly soon. Not everyoneâ€™s doing it yet (thereâ€™s that word again), but there are a surprisingly large number of people that I know who have given it a whirl quite seriously.
Take my friend. Divorced 3 years ago and all over the place (heâ€™d have killed me for writing this, hence no name) trying to find someone to date. Weâ€™d met a fair number of potential candidates over the last 18 months or so. Then one day I was browsing the web and followed a link off of Microsoftâ€™s local MSN site (http://www.msn.co.za). I was looking around and noticed that there were a large number of people in the female category, in his age range, living in his city. I phoned him up and suggested he sign up. His response, â€šIâ€™m a little embarrassed to tell you, but Iâ€™ve signed up already.â€› â€šAndâ€Œ?â€› I asked. â€šWell, Iâ€™ve been mailed by women all over the world, but there are 2 in Durban that Iâ€™m having coffee with next week.â€› Wow!
To make a long but exciting story short, heâ€™s been dating someone for a while now. Met her online. I call her iBabe. Wow! Sure there are still people out there who think online dating is for weirdos and desperates who canâ€™t meet someone in real life. I say â€šbbbffftthhhppppâ€› to you. I know a few people now whoâ€™ve met real, interesting and very nice people online, and theyâ€™re far from weird or desperate. (see http://match.msn.co.za)
ONLINE COMPETITION ENTRIES
Iâ€™m talking sports here, although the gaming gambling thing is big on the web. This is certainly a real success story when it comes to using the internet to make things more effective and efficient. Take the Argus Cycle Tour as just one example. Itâ€™s the world biggest timed cycle race and 35000 people entered the 2004 race in just 3 days. Wow!
You can update your details, nominate emergency contact people and check your results and standings after the race. You can stay up to date with the next events and search for them by province, type of race, and month.
Iâ€™m not much of a runner, but my research indicates that theyâ€™re having similarly excellent results. (see http://www.cycletour.co.za for one example)
One may associate Spam more with e-mail than the internet, but in reality e-mail as with the world wide web is part of the internet and Spam is making the sort of impact in our lives that deserves a mention. I donâ€™t know about you, but I get enough offers for sex toys, stimulants, cheap mortgages, investments opportunities in Nigeria, and cheap access to pharmacies to feel severely harassed. Unfortunately there isnâ€™t much I can do about it. There are companies all over the world desperately trying to find ways to minimize it, but nobody has really come close to solving this problem.
One of the main drivers is you and me. I saw some stats the other day that suggested that 7.5% of Americans have purchased something from an unsolicited e-mail. Thatâ€™s a big return when you consider that these Spa m mers are sending out millions of invitations to purchase by the hour. So please, if youâ€™re one of the people who make up the 7.5% stat, for goodness sake stop buying stuff, and please donâ€™t invest in any â€˜amazingâ€™ deal originating in Nigeria (or anywhere else for that matter) .
At TomorrowToday.biz we regularly have our domain hijacked by Spa m mers who use our e-mail addresses to send out their offers. Itâ€™s not just us theyâ€™re hijacking; they could easily be doing it to you as well. Or the president of the UN, or Father Christmas, or whomever they want.
My own tool for dealing with spam is not letting it enter my inbox. I use a programme called Pop Peeper (http://www.poppeeper.com). Itâ€™s a free programme that once youâ€™ve set it up, allows you to view the headers on your mail server, and then delete what you donâ€™t want based on who itâ€™s from and the subject of the mail. Believe me itâ€™s saved hours of sifting through the garbage that comes in, and only takes me 30 extra seconds to check my mail.
The year is 2004 . The Internet as we know it is nearly a teenager (it just turned 11) and thereâ€™s lots I like about it and only a couple of things Iâ€™m hoping will improve. I canâ€™t picture my life without it, and would never dream of going back to before it. I like the fact that my options are opening up every day. I like the excitement of new business opportunities and models. I like the speed at which it allows me to operate. I like the idea that in theory it allows some propeller head to start something up and topple the big guys. I like being able to build my own website (check us out athttp://www.tomorrowtoday.biz, or my family page at http://www.bramley.co.za) I like the concept of hackers who keep government and big business honest. (the modern day Robin Hood) Most of all I like the connectivity it offers. I like the choice of being able to connect to millions of different people in parts of the world Iâ€™ve never been or didnâ€™t even know existed.
Long live the internet. Long live. Wow!