October 10, 1999
Dirty Little Secret: The Internet Sucks. My partner in crime Helen wanted to replace a little black dress she accidentally shrunk. Nothing special, a rayon, knee-length, short-sleeved jumper dress. Such a basic staple of a woman's wardrobe that it's become a cliche.
So she went to the web. And what happened?
Nothing. And she's extremely web savvy... this is no AOL newbie. Here's what the final score was:
The Gap: No luck. No black dresses.
Banana Republic: No luck. Their site isn't even live yet. Amazing, considering that they have begun extensively promoting the site in their retail stores. Just a one-page placeholder with the standard "Fill in your email and we'll let you know when we're live" crap.
Tweeds: No luck. Another placeholder site.
Macy's: Their horrendous search engine finally yielded a few black dresses (5 or 6) but not the right one. Am I too cynical if I suspect that Macy's sells more than 6 different black dresses?
Coldwater Creek: Tolerable. Their site wasn't awful, but no luck with the right dress.
Calvin Klein: Their site isn't up yet, and it's been registered for two years. The other retailers who carry their products online only sell underwear. And is there someone who really cares what name is on the waistband of their underwear?
Donna Karan: No site. Just a placeholder. Are you guys awake over there? One big, fat link to a customer service email address that I'm convinced would yield no response if I clicked on it.
Bluefly: Okay, finally a strong web brand. Relatively useful searching functions. They might have gotten the sale if they had the right dress, but again, no luck.
BonTon: More suckiness, one of the other breed of useless sites, instead of a placeholder, they have information for stockholders and investors in the company. No matter what their mission statement says, the fact that many companies' web sites are purely for investor relations indicates what their true priorities are. And it ain't us consumers.
Jones New York: Another shareholder site. Tip to investors: if the company you own stock in isn't even willing to sell to interested customers on the web, you might want to divest. Helen followed their link to Todd Oldham's site, which wasn't horrible in design (actually, she liked the Flash interface) except that it wasn't useful for actually buying.
Pleasant to look at, though, if that counts for anything. We ended up buying it at retail at J. Crew, even though their website didn't list the correct dress either.