Going back to the old world of the telephone 

Lost in Cyberspace

With time for actually visiting a store almost nonexistent in my schedule, I took seriously the ads about the ease of e-commerce. What a great new world! This Christmas, getting ready was going to be simple. I merely had to tap into several of my favorite stores and run down my list. My first try was with a clothing store that not only offers wonderful leisure clothes, it offers them in extra-large sizes that several of my favorite friends need. After browsing the catalog that came in the mail, I went to the Web, ready to click and order. The store's site was very slow coming up, but I thought perhaps my computer was just being ornery. I clicked on the shirt I wanted and moved on to the next item which, I'm ashamed to say, was not a gift at all but a pair of pants for me. Slowly, slowly the screen moved from one item to another; and when I marked the pants, the little check mark did not seem to take, so I tried again and again and again. Each try took more than three minutes. At last, thinking that I must have finished, I moved to the checkout. Whoops. There was no shirt on the order list, while the same pair of pants was listed four times. In defeat, I called the 800 number in the catalog, and in about one minute had ordered what I wanted and found, indeed, that one of the items might be late coming. Telephone 1, cyberspace 0. But still, there must be something to all this e-shopping buzz. My second adventure was with Amazon.com. I searched for presents for friends and family and happily ordered with "one click," six wonderful books. How easy. But not so fast: I thought I had put my order in in time to read several of my choices (carefully in order not to tear the dust jackets) before Christmas. But then the wait began. No package of books. Finally, I went to Amazon's site again to check my order. No such thing. Not only did the site apparently have no record of my order, it didn't supply a telephone number I could find, only an e-mail address. A bit of advice: Don't try that e-mail route; I got a prompt response to my query, but it referred me back to the Web site I had just left. By a route too complicated to remember, I finally discovered an 800 number for Amazon, and the mystery was quickly solved by a human: It seems I had changed my e-mail address, which had somehow confused the "one-click" feature. My books reportedly are on the way. But all this took the better part of a morning and was solved only by a friendly voice on the phone. Score: Telephone 1, cyberspace 0.5, shopper -8. So for me it's back to the old world of the telephone, or maybe even the crowded parking lot and the line at the cashier's station. It looks as if the brave new world is going to be a while coming, and when it comes, perhaps I will have to be more sophisticate to enjoy it. By the way, the pants didn't

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