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IP: Why E-Commerce Still Doesn't "Work"
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Sun, 28 May 2000 16:54:00 -0400

From: "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap () eros-os org>
To: <dave () farber net>


I forwarded the earlier note to a friend, Mike Dash, who responded with 
the following encounter that *he* had with the e-commerce world. He has 
graciously agreed that it can be forwarded to IP if you wish.

Mike writes:

i recently tried to buy a car through imotors.com (used-car portal). it 
was, in a word, mind-bogglingly incompetent. there are companies that 
figure out how to use the web to make radical improvements to their 
business. and there are those that just slap a web front end onto an 
existing business model...

1) go to web site and fill in form describing desired car
2) receive imotors contract, which does not match desired car
3) phone imotors. "yes, we know it's not the same description but that's 
ok. just sign the contract so we can go search for the car. the 
description in the contract is not the one the buyers will use; they will 
have the actual description."
4) hmm. ok... can i have a copy of the buyer's description?
5) "that will be on another computer. but if you *really* want it, i could 
print it out and fax it to you."
6) receive fax of hand-written form telling buyers what car to look for.
7) receive calls about various candidate cars. they're not close enough to 
what I want, so I reject them and ask them to keep looking.
8) after a week, receive phone message: "we bought your car!"
9) phone to find out what car they bought. "we don't have that info here 
-- it's at our intake center. we should have the car's description here in 
a few days."
10) phone 4 times in one week and talk to 3 people. finally get someone 
who obtains a description of the car. it's not the one i want. actually, 
it's one of the ones that I specifically said i did *not* want.
11) they discontinue processing the car and say they'll look some more.
12) after another week, repeat steps 8 and 9 (really!) plus an abbreviated 
version of 10. finally, buy a car locally and tell imotors thanks just the 

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