What are they on about?

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
David Newnham finds the net won't take his money.

Excuse me if I seem a little tetchy, but I've been up half the night shopping. Shopping on the internet. Know what I mean?

Of course you do. Every newspaper and magazine is full of the joys of e-commerce. No more walking the high street or talking to clueless Saturday staff, they say. Just log on and shop, day or night. It's easy.

Really? I once tried to rent a cottage on the internet. But when the owners sent me the details, the file was in a format so obscure that nothing and nobody could open it. That year I stayed home.

Then there was the time I tried to pay a bill online and discovered that, in order to view my account, it was necessary to download some additional software from a site which no longer existed. In the end I paid by post.

Did all this make me a Luddite? Hardly. A Luddite would have spent last night trashing a textile mill. I, on the other hand, wasted three hours trying to buy a scanner. I should have known better.

Each time I tried to visit my chosen suppliers, their half-built home page froze on the scren. Forced each time to restart my computer, I tried using a different browser (if you don't know what a browser is, don't even think about shopping online).

Bingo! I was now able to spend a happy hour choosing a scanner. But don't believe all those gushing articles. There's more to making an online purchase than clicking on a picture of a shopping trolley. A lot more.

As a "new user", I was required to "register" - something my local greengrocer has never asked me to do. What did this mean? Alas, I shall never know, since the "Register here" button was dodo-like in its deadness.

After another hour, I stumbled on the reason. Whereas the first browser - the one that didn't work - had been bang up to date, this one was three years old, and already useless. I could download a newer version there and then if I wished. But I know better than to install software after midnight.

So there I was - with pound;100 to spend and nobody willing or able to take my money.

Tonight, I'm going to bed with a book. Unless, of course, you can point me to one of those new-fangled textile mills.


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