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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tall Orders from North of the Border

In a few months, speakers will be invited to Search Engine Strategies Toronto 2005. And the process of understanding why "Canadians don't buy" will begin again.

Here's why. We cannot "buy."

I live a ten-minute drive from one of your finer malls, called Sherway Gardens. Anything you might want is there. So why go online? But you know, if I could, I would. I enjoy shopping online. It saves time.

Even though the Sporting Life in the mall carries everything from Nike tube socks to Prada dog collars... I would shop online, if I could.

Even though I was able to converse with a salesman at the Sony Store to determine just which camera is for me... I might have shopped online for a similar product, if it made any sense.

Even though this mall has wonderful couches, plant life, people-watching opportunities, ample parking, 26 shoe stores, places where you can buy grapefruit hand soap, and a Guess! Store directly below the Famous Wok and Jimmy the Greek... I would shop online, if I could.

Yesterday, Gateway CDI informed me that my recent order from the Google Store ($54 total) would come to $206 if I wanted it shipped to Vancouver, BC. Culprits: Customs duty, $32. "Service charge": $25. Shipping (I'm pretty sure this includes more customs duty): $93.

Sure, there are some things you can buy online here. Amazon.ca carries about half the books, and about half the merchandise, that you can get on Amazon.com. Not bad. Not good, either, if they don't have what you want. They don't have the apparel or food that you can now search for on Amazon.com. Let's hope they roll it out soon.

But the problem is, online is for when you want to go and get anything, I mean anything, on a whim. Like that Guess henley or hoodie that came up when I happened to type henley and hoodie into Amazon.com, just to see what Amazon's store looks like these days. Cool lion logo on the henley: I want it now! Nah, on second thought... they won't give it to me.

If you're outside the US, I defy you to buy, say, this designer hoodie online without incurring monstrous shipping, customs, and other assorted charges. Your pampered teen will be so disappointed.

For better or for worse, I live in a city so large it has nowhere to put its garbage, and John Kerry's making political mileage out of pledging to stop us from shipping it to Michigan (I don't blame him). But I'm still stuck driving to the mall. Baskin-Robbins and Famous Wok are the clear winners here.

As for that Google beach towel, maybe next year. Summer's over anyway.

SES Toronto 2005 isn't until May, but it isn't too early for the e-commerce experts at the shopping engines (etc.) to begin pondering this simple problem. People can't buy stuff if nobody will ship it to them. And if customs duty bumps the price up another 30%. What is needed is more distribution from this side of the border, as Amazon.ca is doing. More of that! More of that!

Now I'll step off that crate of grapefruit hand soap.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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