Tangled in Web of E-commerce - Greg Gelpi

Web. Such an apt word to describe an invisible net that drags in unsuspecting victims.

Like a fly buzzing about that smacks into the sticky entrapments of the spider's web, I grew entangled in the World Wide Web.

And like a fly, I got swatted.

As my college poker friends can attest, I'm cheap; as my mom can verify, I'm stubborn; and I'll admit, I'm lazy.

Put all three traits together and you get the tale I'm about to tell. Hopefully, though, a lesson can be gleaned from my story.

Finally deciding to purchase a digital camera, I grabbed my wallet and my keys and plopped down on my couch.

With a few clicks and a little typing, the Web drew me deep into its lair, the spider waiting for its prey all the while.

Going once, going twice, sold. Auction after auction closed and opened. Bids layered upon bids. Eyes glazed over, fixated on the wonder that is E-bay, my laziness bound me tighter to the web.

But I couldn't resist, within cyber-seconds I slapped down my money, won the auction and waited. The auction that was so quick took so much longer to complete.

To get to the punch line, I received my winnings in the mail after the company held my money order seven to 10 days to make sure it cleared. That should have been my clue that something was amiss, yet I continued to wait until the package finally arrived.

Feverishly opening the box, I fumbled through the software, camera bag, card, battery, battery charger, lens cap and lens cap string. Scratching my head, something seemed missing. The package had everything, but the camera itself.

Global Phoenix Computers, the E-bay company I dealt with, had my money and I had virtually nothing.

The system is set up to favor the business. Consumers are unable to hold payment until the item arrives intact. Businesses, though, do hold the item until the payment is received and clears. In other words, the system assumes that businesses can be trusted, while the consumer cannot.

The well-worn crevices of my couch are a little less worn today.

My body is torn between the days of yesteryear, the days of the mom and pop stores, and the alleged convenience and ease of cyber-shopping of today.

When will I learn? Cutting corners to shave a few minutes and a few bucks will always come back to haunt me.

The money tucked into their pockets and countless others logging into buy cameras, the company tossed me aside and sought its next victim.

Had I spent a few bucks more and cruised on over to any one of a number of places within half an hour, including the mall, the camera would have been in my hands in a flash.

I could have been taking pictures, rather than taking legal action.

A month into what should have taken moments, a web of agencies and businesses, including the New York judicial system, still cling to me.

Traveling the information superhighway may provide high-speed connections between businesses and consumers, but potholes lay along the way.

With an empty box and a valuable lesson learned, I yank the phone cord from the wall, unplug my soul from the cyber world and head toward an old-fashioned brick and mortar business.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.