CeePrompt! Computer Connection 

Originally published Monday, July 13, 1998 

Sifting through Net sleaze

Viagra latest low in online shopping

I must admit I was taken aback to read that the Viagra high has reached new lows as an alleged online pharmacy is now selling Viagra to customers through the Internet without a prescription. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, customers can now order Viagra over the Net after completing a brief medical history and then paying a $50 "physician review fee" for first time orders.

Although the actual web address of Performance Drugs, Inc. wasn't printed in the article, it didn't require rocket science to find the online drug store. Sure enough, Viagra is for sale here at $10 a pill, as well as Propecia, Minoxidil and Stimula. Once again, traditional societal rules and regulations are being challenged in the brave new Internet world and it will be up to the regulators to duke it out with the Internet freedom fighters.

First selling sex, then giving birth online and now selling Viagra without a prescription. What next? Online marriage and one-click divorce? Call me square, but I prefer to spend my time and money in more mainstream e-commerce venues, and there are plenty of good places to trade on the Net.

Electronic commerce is growing exponentially and is clearly the hottest new area of economic development today. Last year, netizens spent $4.3 billion shopping online and this number is expected to soar to $54 billion by the year 2002, according to International Data Corp. Convenience, fair pricing, improved encryption technology and online security measures are luring increasing numbers of people to transact their business online.

My first online shopping excursion was to the bookstore www.amazon.com and I've never been disappointed since. Each time I visit the site to browse the stacks, I'm personally greeted with a list of updated recommendations, based on my previous purchases. If a website can feel friendly and cozy, this is it. It's also a great convenience for busy people who don't always have the luxury of shopping during regular business hours.

I've shopped for music CD's at Music Boulevard -- www.musicboulevard.com -- and Tower Records online -- www.towerrecords.com Both sites offer secure online ordering and the prices are comparable and often less than traditional music stores. Delivery options range from five days to overnight for a nominal fee. All orders are immediately confirmed by e-mail and include a Federal Express tracking number so that you can easily check on the progress of your order from the FedEx website -- www.fed ex.com

Of the two music sites, Music Boulevard is by far the more comprehensive of the two, especially when hunting for those hard-to-find titles. When searching for Claudio Baglioni, an Italian pop singer favorite of mine, Tower Records returned three CD titles, with no listing of contents, while Music Boulevard carried 19 CDs with a complete listing of all song titles for each CD.

If you're hungry for wonderful fish direct from the Pacific Northwest, Pike's Market offers next day delivery of fresh fish to anywhere in the United States. This site can be found at www.pikeplacefish.com

Not only is the fresh fish wonderful, but the website is lots of fun too.

It's not quite as entertaining as watching the fish throwers perform live at Pike's Market in Seattle, but the graphics and animations are well worth a visit to this website. The delivery prices are a bit steep, but if you're in the mood for the freshest fish, it's worth the splurge.

Knock on wood, I've never experienced a problem submitting credit card information over the Internet, and I've traded a fair amount online. I do make sure the web page is secure by double-clicking the little padlock in the left-hand corner of my Netscape browser window. Netscape then will provide a report on the encryption status of the current page so that you'll know if it's safe to transmit your credit information. While this is not a fail-safe method of insuring security, it's probably safer than handing your credit card over to a restaurant or retail clerk.

Clothing, food, wine, computers, cars, vacations, airline tickets, and just about every conceivable retail item is now for sale through the Internet. The prices are typically quite reasonable since the overhead costs are extremely low.

But beware, there's still plenty of snake oil salesmen and sleazy fly-by-nights out there as well. Let your good judgment and practical business sense guide you to the best bargains on the Net.

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.

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