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by Bud Buck, 12/10/99

DC: This is DCR, news meant for amusement. The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and market watchers report that online shopping is up, up, up! It seems that every new business has .com at the end of it's name, and it's easy to see why. The Internet shopping site needs no bricks or mortar ... no physical locale, no employees, even. Until it comes time to fill the order. Bud Buck paid a visit to one of a growing number of places where Internet orders are filled.

(sfx: cavernous, busy place)

Bud: (echo) I'm standing at the center of a beehive.

(sfx: forklift zooms by)

It is here, in this huge warehouse that the orders are filled for the world's most popular Internet shopping site, With me is the founder of the site and the highly regarded .com whiz kid, Henry Barker. What a place you've got here.

Henry: Yes, we had to build it.

Bud: HAD to?

Henry: No question. The Internet has changed everything. On the 'net, customer service rules. We are only as good as the last order we processed. So we had to get control of the warehouse and everything that happens up to the moment the box is shipped.

(sfx: forklift zooms by)

Bud: Other companies used to do this for you?

Henry: Yes. We thought we were saving money and being smart. But our customers made no distinction between and the company that filled the order, which happened to be called "BlunderThugs Fulfillment," but it's now out of business.

Bud: So now your company, "," makes more money.

Henry: (laughs) Well, no. The company has never made money. But our long term plan is that we will start making money some day. I'd like that to be one of our products. I hope I live to see it.

(sfx: forklift zooms by)

Bud: You'd better stand over here, then.
That forklift seemed to be in a hurry.

Henry: Yes, that's by design. It's all about timing. Speed. We have to be quick. Because it's the Internet. The 'net has changed everything. A lot of these older companies are run by older people who don't realize how fast things are moving. But we do. It's a whole new world. New rules. New expectations.

Bud: How fast are you?

Henry: We've clocked it and from the moment an order comes in to the time it's on a truck pulling out of the warehouse is about 5 hours MAX. We'd like to get that down, if we can.

Bud: What techniques do you think you'll use?

Henry: This warehouse is one of them. Everything is here. We're here. It's all together. But we're planning to build satellite warehouses in different areas of the country, all equipped like this ... ready to fill orders.

Bud: Sounds expensive.

Henry: Yes, but that's the Internet. The Internet has changed everything.

Bud: So I hear.

Henry: In the old way of thinking you would spend money on a company and look for a return. But the rules are different now.
We're building a new economy.

Bud: People still invest in your company, just like the old days.

Henry: And they say goodbye to their money. Don't expect to see it coming back any time soon. It's gone off to build the future. I've already spent it.

Bud: What's the next step? After the satellite warehouses?

Henry: We want to get quicker and quicker. So the satellite warehouses will have satellite warehouses even closer to the customer. A delivery that takes days now may take hours in the future. Speed is the word.

Bud: And this is ...

Henry: All because of the Internet.

(sfx: forklift zooms by)

See? We're ahead of the pack. It's a brave new world.

Bud: And as you look in your crystal ball far into the future ... what does do fifty years hence?

Henry: Speed. Again, just getting that order and satisfying it as quickly as possible. At Internet speed. I hope that someday our system of warehouses will be so complete, there'll be one in every town.

Bud: Every town?

Henry: (rhapsodically) And THEN actually walk in to the warehouse and you can LOOK at the merchandise just like you do on the web, but instead you can pick it up. Hold it in your hand! Turn it over ... And then with the help of a LIVE, HUMAN assistant I call an "E-Guide," you can log on IN THE WAREHOUSE and place your order ... and get this ... the "E-Guide" has special training and can walk back into a storeroom and get the merchandise and you can walk out with it in a bag!

Bud: Why that sounds like ...

Henry: Instant fulfillment. Immediate gratification!

Bud: But it's the same as ...

Henry: Internet speed! The rules have changed and will keep changing. In the future, if you want it, it will be in your town and you can have it right away! Amazing!

Bud: What will you call this innovation?

Henry: I was thinking of calling it ... a Immediate Tangible Electronic Marketplace, or ITEM for short.

Bud: Why don't you just call it a "department store?"

Henry: Hmmmm. A ... "department store?"

Bud: And that E-Guide ... I would just call that a "clerk."

Henry: Hmmmm. I'll think that over. I'm going to catch this next forklift back to my office ... I've got hundreds of e-mails to answer.

(sfx: forklift zooms by)

(fading off fast) Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyye!

Bud: Henry Barker, Internet visionary. Boy genius and millionare (on paper) founder of Will his vision materialize ... his dream come true? And will it happen before existing department stores become obsolete, or after? Time will tell. This is Bud Buck.

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