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An owner’s perspective: Is the Internet all it’s cracked up to be?

Jeff Dunn
Wednesday, Jul 10, 2013

It may be an understatement to say the Internet has had a tremendous impact on the way our lives operate. We surf the web for news and information, Facebook with friends and family, Twitter and so much more.

But we also shop on the web – a lot. And brick and mortar businesses have felt the impact. Many have suffered as a result.

It’s not just big business that has felt the pinch. Small local businesses have struggled as large portions of business disappeared into the Internet with buyers seeking cheaper prices. The National Retail Federation has projected that sales online will grow to $250 billion next year, about 8 percent overall retail sales and about $100 billion more than three years ago.

Everyone has had to adjust their businesses, which is no small or easy task. That requires an investment with an uncertain payoff. Our business – Express Signs-N-More – made the adjustment to be competitive. A lot of business for hats, pens, business cards and other products with company logos went to the web. We added the online ability to design and order those products as well as banners.

In doing so, we are basically competing with similar businesses around the globe.

There is, however, a caveat to buying from a far away place on the Internet – you get what you pay for and you may end up spending more in time and money in the end.

The Internet works for books and music and other products in which designing it yourself isn’t part of the purchase. But the risk comes when designing yourself. It’s not that you don’t know the colors you want or how it should be designed. Your order looks ok the computer screen and you feel confident that your banner or T-shirt comes back as it looks on the screen.

But when it comes to you, the red looks pink or the blue isn’t has bold as you wanted. That has to do with software on your computer speaking to the software on the Internet site.

So you call the customer service number on the Internet site operated somewhere in Iowa, and you are trying to explain the problem with the order. You return the order with hope that the problems are corrected, but no, the colors are still off when you get it back, prompting another call to customer service. You get a different person and you have to recount the problem. Perhaps you get transferred to a technical person.

By the end, you realize you’ve spent many more hours for the convenience of the Internet than if you had walked into a brick and mortar business, sat down with a designer and gotten it correct the first time.

Of course, it costs more to do that. But time is money.

Additionally, it keeps business local even if you are using the website of a local business. Chances are you will know the person on the other end of the line when you call customer service.

So when you’re looking to order online consider looking local first and perhaps thinking about stopping into the business and speaking with someone in person. That would save you time and money in the long run. But the owner and staff would like to see you as well.

Jeff Dunn is the owner of Express Signs-N-More in Cookeville. He can be reached at (931) 520-4007 or

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