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Fred's Views


Canada, Not Ready for E-Commerce, Pity

When I bought my notebook about 15 months ago, I inquired about boosting the memory. It was going to cost me $275(Cdn) for 128 megabytes of RAM. I declined. I was already over budget.

I keep thinking about getting more RAM, not because I REALLY need it, most of the time my notebook works just fine, but because I think it will somewhat improve my computer's performance, and because I don't want to wait so long that the RAM is no longer available - as I did with an earlier computer. So, last Friday night I decided to investigate the current RAM situation.

My notebook is a nice little Toshiba Satellite. Besides the pencil eraser pointing stick that I don't think will ever become really comfortable, I've no real complaints. Sure, sometimes it doesn't boot up properly or shut down properly and occasionally it locks up - but what else can you expect from a computer running Windows. (Yes, even when the article has nothing to do with Microsoft I can find a way to mock the company we all love to hate.)

I start exploring the Internet. First of all, Toshiba's web site is nothing spectacular. If you look hard enough, you can find out what memory my computer is supposed to have. Toshiba doesn't sell accessories for their notebooks, nor do they have any links to companies that might. They do have a list of patches, but little indication of what they do or how necessary they are. (I haven't downloaded or attempted to install any.) All in all, a somewhat disappointing site for such a major manufacturer.

Next I try the company I bought the computer from. They carry just about everything, but no RAM for Notebooks. They don't even have "Kingston" (a memory manufacturer) listed when I do a search. Oh, well.

I try Future Shop, Staples and RetailCanada (or is it CanadaRetail?). No luck. I don't try CompuCentre because I know they don't take orders on the web (or at least they didn't the last time I checked.) I'll come back to Future Shop.

Next I try Yahoo.Ca and search for possible retailers. Eventually, I find a couple that may have the memory I want. One won't sell retail. The other doesn't have it in stock. The last one has about "85%" of Kingston's memory models, but not the one I want.

I try Kingston's home page. They don't ship outside the U.S.

I do discover that the memory I want costs about $133 Cdn or $75US. Less than half what it cost a year ago. Now I really want to get it!

Then I get a brain storm. I've always been looking for Kingston memory. Maybe someone else manufactures memory for Toshiba notebooks! Who else is there? I remember "Crucial". So, I try their web site.

Although it takes longer to find the right memory for my computer, they do have it. They do ship to Canada. It only costs $60US. After some stumbling around, I even confirm that they will ship it via FedEx overnight at no cost! I place my order. Success, at last.

After a few moments, my order is acknowledged. A few hours later an e-mail arrives confirming that my order has been accepted. Then, on Monday comes confirmation that my order is in FedEx's hands and on its way. (For more on the adventures of my computer memory package's historic journey via FedEx, read Tracking My Order)

The package arrives Wednesday morning. It took FedEx two "overnights", but that's still fast service. The memory arrives in great shape, the installation was straight forward, and everything seems to be working fine. I am quite pleased with my purchase and with the service I received. It's been a pleasant experience. But they are an American company.

Meanwhile, back in Canada, I was completely unable to find any company that met these three simple criteria:

I know that my local retailer (who is a franchisee of the company I bought the computer from) could get the memory for me. But they have to check the web site to see if its available and at what cost. I thought it would be easier to do it myself, especially late on Friday evening.

I suspect that Future Shop either has or could get the memory for me at one of their local stores. I love looking over the stock in a Future Shop store, but I hate dealing with their sales people. But what bothered me most was the message on their web site that their web store did not have (or list) all the items that a local store might have. If anything, I would expect the web site to list more than a local store. To list, in fact, every item that was available in any one of their stores anywhere in the country. That's the kind of power that the Internet makes possible. But Future Shop clearly isn't taking advantage of it.

While sites like Future Shop do have a fairly extensive listing of products, once you get into the more unusual products, such as RAM for a notebook, they fail miserably. Staples, too, has a very limited stock of items on their web site. These companies may have a web presence, but they are clearly not ready for real e-commerce.

And, at long last, that's my point. We do have a relatively few web sites here in Canada that are set up for e-commerce. In my experience, however, they are just scratching the surface of what is possible. None of them would rate a passing grade from me as yet.

And, oh yes, RetailCanada. They are perhaps the biggest computer e-commerce site in Canada (in terms of items listed as available). However, on Friday night, I couldn't connect to their site. I guess their web server was down. I've bought from them before, and will likely do so again. But they too failed me in my "time of need".

Copyright © 2001 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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