CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, January 10, 00

E-tail's holiday ups and downs 

Before forging into whatever we are going to call this year, I'd be remiss if I didn't muse over the last few weeks of 1999. In particular, the Christmas e-tail season and the Y2K anti- climax are worthy of mention. This year I did better than half my Christmas shopping online through various e-commerce venues. Traditional retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy's, Abercrombie, The Gap and hundreds of others joined the dot-com frenzy in hopes of cashing in on the growing online shopping market. I experienced the most reliable service from veteran online vendors and a few newcomers as well. 

Assuming that Mattel was an established, reliable company, I attempted to place an order for out-of-state delivery with Mattel.com. The Web site persisted in returning error messages each time I tried to complete the order, so I gave up after several attempts. Lo and behold, two orders of "Sesame Street Create and Draw in Elmos World" were in actuality processed, shipped and billed to my credit card, unbeknownst to me.  When I was finally able to talk to a warm body during East Coast business hours, Mattel apologized profusely and admitted that their e-commerce site had only been functional for 24 hours before I placed my order. Lucky me. 

Amazon.com and eToys were the shining stars of my online shopping season. These veteran e-tailers delivered packages within two to four days without fail and were accessible 24 hours a day for any questions. I also had good online shopping experiences with Hickory Farms, CCS Mailorder and shop.SportsLine.com 

Y2K was anti-climactic for many, but it was a good lesson in preparedness. On a larger, more philosophical scale, it was inspiring to experience so many people around the globe rally around a common cause. I can't remember another single issue in recent history that has united so many people around a collective goal.  Y2K concerns transcended both social and political agendas and, with the exception of some religious zealots, everyone was focused on insuring a smooth transition to 2000. The Y2K bug was and still is a real problem that required pro-active, cooperative solutions.  Perhaps eradication efforts were overkill in some areas, but now we're more fine-tuned and face the next millennium with a greater awareness of potential technological pitfalls. 

Remember that New Year's Eve wasn't the only critical benchmark to test Y2K preparedness. Each calendar quarter rollover in 2000 will be critical as well as fiscal year-end June 30 for many companies. Oct. 1 will be the first time that computers handle eight characters in the date field, 10/01/2000, and the rollover to the real millennium, Jan. 1, 2001 will also test Y2K readiness.  Personally, I experienced no Y2K woes, though I thought I did when Quicken 2000 came to a screeching halt a few days before New Year's Eve. It turns out the Norton Anti-Virus definitions posted Dec. 21, that I diligently downloaded as part of my Y2K routine, wreaked havoc with Quicken. Norton posted a fix on Dec. 30, and all was well come New Year's Eve. If you're experiencing similar problems, perform a Live Update in Norton to correct the problem.  Now it's time to look forward to the parade of 2000 products -- Quickbooks 2000, Windows 2000, Office 2000, Works 2000 and many more. 

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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