This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. It is the holiday gift-giving season in the United
States. More and more people are using their computers and the
Internet to buy their holiday gifts. Today we tell how the computer
and the Internet are changing the way people buy products.
In nineteen-ninety-five, a small company began selling books
from its headquarters in the western city of Seattle, Washington.
It was an unusual company. It did not have a store you could
visit. The only way you could buy a book from the company was
to use a computer linked with the Internet.
The name of the company is Amazon-dot-com. It was one of the
first businesses to offer products for sale using the Internet.
The company made it easy to buy almost any book you wanted.
You used your computer to link with the company so you could
read about many different books. When you found the book you
wanted, you placed an order and typed the number of your credit
card to pay for it. A worker at the Amazon Company placed the
book in a box and usually mailed it to you the next day. It
was really very simple.
Buying products using a computer and the Internet seemed very
unusual in nineteen-ninety-five. At first, many people did not
think is was safe to type their credit card information on the
Internet. However, buying a book from Amazon.com was very easy.
For many people, buying a book from Amazon.com was their first
attempt at buying anything on the Internet.
Today, Amazon.com sells books to millions of people in more
than two-hundred-twenty countries. It is one of the most successful
companies linked to the Internet. And, Amazon no longer sells
just books. It sells toys, music, games, electronic equipment,
and even computers.
Because of Amazon.com¡¯s success, many other companies
began selling products with the aid of a computer linked to
the Internet. Some of the first were other book companies, like
Barnes and Noble. Today, thousands of large and small companies
offer their products on the Internet. Buyers use their computers
to order and pay for products. The company sends the products
to the buyers. A few companies offer many more things on their
Web sites than in their stores. For example, Barnes and Noble
offers more than one-million books, far more than in any one
Business experts say buying products using the Internet is
becoming increasingly popular. They say buying on the Internet
has increased as much as thirty-six percent over last year.
Experts say people spent almost ten-thousand-million dollars
buying products on the Internet during the first nine months
of this year.
Buyers are expected to spend almost fourteen-thousand-million
dollars more during the last three months of this year. This
large increase in buying is because of the holiday gift-giving
season. The holiday buying season in the United States usually
begins the day after Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November.
It continues until Christmas Day, December twenty-fifth.
Many stores in the United States depend on the holiday season
for as much as fifty percent of their yearly profits. A poor
holiday season for a store can cause serious financial problems.
Many businesses quickly learned they could increase their holiday
sales by offering their products on the Internet.
Buying products with the aid of a computer is a quickly expanding
sales idea. However, the idea of buying a product without ever
visiting the store is not new. Only the method of buying has
changed. This method of business has a very old name. It is
called ¡°mail order.¡±
In eighteen-eighty-six, a young man named Richard Sears bought
several watches. Mister Sears worked for the Minneapolis and
Saint Louis Railroad Company. He sold the watches to other railroad
workers. He soon hired a young watchmaker named Alvah Roebuck
to make more watches. The Sears and Roebuck Watch Company soon
settled in Chicago, Illinois.
Mister Sears and Mister Roebuck knew that the majority of Americans
lived on farms. They did not live close to stores where they
could buy the products they needed.
The Sears and Roebuck Watch Company soon began offering many
other products that could be bought from their Chicago store.
The Sears and Roebuck company could offer products for much
less money than local stores.
In eighteen-ninety-five, the Sears and Roebuck Company began
printing a book that listed the products the company sold. The
book had five-hundred-thirty-two pages.
This kind of book is called a catalog. The Sears and Roebuck
Catalog offered for sale almost every kind of equipment a farmer
might need. It also offered clothing and shoes for men, women
and children. It offered stoves, tables, chairs, glassware and
bicycles. People could buy firearms, rings, watches, toys and
many, many other products. The huge catalog had pictures of
the products and told how to order and pay for the products.
The Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalog was really the sales
computer of its day.
Perhaps the most unusual product ever sold by the Sears and
Roebuck Company was a house. From nineteen-oh-eight until nineteen-forty,
the Sears and Roebuck Company offered several different sized
houses that could be ordered through the catalog. Each house
arrived at the nearest railroad station. It came with everything
needed to build the house -- more than thirty-thousand parts.
This included wood, paint, nails electric wire, pipes for water
and a seventy-five page book. The book told how to build the
house. Sears, Roebuck and Company sold more than seventy-five-thousand
of these built-it-yourself homes.
Other companies also sold this kind of house. Perhaps the most
famous of these houses is the one in California where former
President Richard Nixon was born. That house is now part of
the President Richard Nixon Library at Yorba Linda, California.
The Sears company still prints several different catalogs.
People can read about a product in the catalog and buy it by
calling Sears on the telephone. They can also link with the
company on the Internet and buy the product. Shoppers can pay
extra money to have the product sent to their home, or they
can pick it up at one of the many Sears stores.
The story of the Sears Company is not different from many other
companies. Large companies like Sears and even very small companies
now use the Internet as a business tool.
Experts who study the business use of the Internet say people
buy more items for their home than any other product. This includes
tables, chairs, lights, paintings, and rugs. The experts say
the Internet sales of these things have increased one-hundred-forty-six
percent over last year.
People ordered sixty-six percent more clothing than last year,
thirty-one percent more books and twenty-five percent more electronic
A huge winter storm affected much of the Eastern United States
at the beginning of this month. One business report said the
storm might have caused even more people to buy holiday gifts
using their computers. The report said it was easier for people
to buy products from their nice warm homes than to travel to
a store in the middle of a snow or ice storm.
In nineteen-ninety-five when Amazon.com began selling books,
few items were for sale on the Internet. That has changed greatly.
Now you can buy almost anything you want. There are even companies
that help private individuals sell items on the Internet. Recently
a man in Santa Rosa, California, offered a Russian-built jet
fighter warplane for sale.
The plane had once belonged to the Air Force of Poland. The
man said he wanted at least twenty-five-thousand dollars for
the aircraft. But he said the plane needed to be repaired before
it could fly. And he said it no longer had its machine guns!
This Special English program was written and produced by Paul
Thompson. This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com