Feature Article
Shopping Online for the first time

January 1, 1999
By Scott Lewis

I am a fan of the Internet. Mostly for its ability to bring gaming competition into my house, but I also love the ability to find information about almost anything, anytime. But I have never purchased anything on the Internet before. There is a first time for everything, so sit back and follow my experience shopping online.

What did I buy? Good question. I bought a movie on VHS as a Christmas present for my wife. I went online, because I couldn’t find a copy at any of the usual local stores I would buy movies from.

The movie in question is the Three Musketeers, the 1993 edition with Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen. My wife really liked it, and The Man In The Iron Mask. These two movies compliment each other very well. The hunt was on to buy both movies as a Christmas present.

I visited a number of online video sites. More than half of them were so difficult to use that I wouldn’t buy from them under any circumstance. But a few were very nice. The four I liked most were,, CDnow, and CD World.

Each made it easy enough to find my movie, but was the best. Their search was right at the top of the page, and each item returned by my query for Three Musketeers (there are quite a few) had a Buy or Info button by it. It was obvious which items were in stock at a quick glance. All the results had links to more information about the movie. The only thing missing was a picture of the box.

As an added benefit, had the lowest price. However, their ship rate of 4.95 for one movie seemed high, so I searched a bit longer. was next. They have the most information on a movie. They also do the best job of showing you other movies that might peak your interest. I liked that, but would not really find it helpful unless I was planning a large purchase. also has small reviews. This can be helpful, but not for my dedicated search. I already knew what I wanted. want $3.57 more for the movie, and charged $1 less for shipping.

CDnow did not have a listing for The Man In The Iron Mask, and had the same shipping charges as CD World had the second lowest price. But their shipping policy left me weary. They had the lowest shipping rate, but it was clearly label uninsured. Their cheapest insured rate was the same as Apparently I am going to have to pay 5 bucks to ship a movie.

After these 4 sites everything got mostly worse. Clearly a lot of sites have work to do. Each of the four sites here is worthy of your business. I went with for two reasons. 1) They had the cheapest price. 2) I liked the way they made it easy to know what items were in stock. If the price were the same it would be very hard to decide between and I will use these two sites most in the future. I may spread my business out between them just to see how their service rates. has its top 25 DVD movies for $14.99. That is an enticing offer. Mostly I found that between these two I would get a good deal, and enjoy the experience.

What about The Man In The Iron Mask. That was fun. I did not buy it online. It seems that when Mask was first release on video it was listed at around $100. I know this is crazy, but I think it is a way to force people to rent it, and get it on pay-per-view, before making it attractive to buy. Go figure. They did the same thing with Face/Off starring Travolta & Cage.

The cheapest price for it was $78.54 from However, I did see one site list it for $19.99 but it was not in stock. Only one site showed it as $19.99 list (they were offering is for $14.99) but said it would not be available until January 5, 1999. I assume that is when the retail price will be lowered. A little late for a Christmas present. I will wait until then, unfortunately.

Overall I was pleased with the experience. I had the item shipped to my house. Some places require that you ship to the billing address. This is great for security reasons, but can be a problem when ordering a surprise present for the person that gets to the mail first. will let you ship to another address, but states that it will delay the order while they verify it. I like that (again for security reasons), but decided to ship it to my house for speed. It was getting too close to Christmas for a backup plan.

All in all, the experience was great. When I visit I can logon and check the status of my order. I did this, and found it wonderful. They had my order listed with its ship date, and a link to UPS’ site with the appropriate package tracking number. I was able to follow the package as UPS delivered to my door.

My number one tip for buying online… Make sure you are on a secure server. A little padlock shows in the status bar of Internet Explorer when you are connected to a secure server. This is better than handing your credit card to a waiter, or giving it to a faceless mail order employee over the phone.

Shopping online is here, and I like it.