The Web and Efficiency
Most people really don't save time working on the Web, they just use it more efficiently and conveniently. Think of the Internet as a giant VCR. Instead of being able to watch TV shows when you want, the Web lets you do research, look at products, get advice, ask questions and set up appointments when you have the time. Online, normal business hours are 24/7. And the information, store, product or service you want comes to you at the pace you set. "By the time I get home from work, everything is closed. So if I didn't go online, I'd only have weekends," says Amy Vischio-Tebeau, a homeowner who used the Web to remodel her kitchen and a bathroom. She found her kitchen designer online; previewing websites allowed her to get an idea of designers' work before she contacted them. Her designer used a digital camera, design software and e-mail, in addition to face-to-face meetings, to speed up the design process. In addition, Vischio-Tebeau used the Web to preview products, and she kept an electronic file of her product preferences to show the designer and contractor what she liked. Even though she purchased many of the products online, she saw most of them in person before buying. With the discounts she found online, she was able to buy top-of-the line products that otherwise would have been too expensive for her. "But you really have to give yourself lots of time if you want to save money," says Vischio-Tebeau, "and you need to leave time so that you can correct a mistake." She speaks from experience. The stain on her kitchen cabinets didn't match the sample she approved, so the cabinets had to be redone. And her kitchen sink did not fit into the cabinet she purchased for it. But, she says, both mistakes could have happened just as easily if she hadn't used the Web. Even though the sink wasn't returnable, the e-tailer took it back because she had bought so much on the site. But it did charge her a restocking fee, which her designer absorbed. While most of your initial time at a Website will be devoted to evaluating its information, if you're going to actually use any services or have to give out much personal information, you should scrutinize the site itself too. Remember, you wouldn't hire a contractor without checking references, so don't let your guard down online either, especially because many of the traditional cues and boundaries between objective information and advertising or infomercials are harder to spot online. Luckily, learning more about a Website is as simple as reading its "About Us," privacy policy and, especially, the "Join Us" sections. The latter will give you clues about whom the site is seeking to attract as partners, clients and investors and how it does that.
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