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A former Boo.com employee describes some of the challenges they faced
May 23, 2000 9:16 PM   Subscribe

A former Boo.com employee describes some of the challenges they faced. Multiple currencies, multiple languages, on-the-fly tax calculation, integration with multiple fullfillment partners, no development plan, and ignorance of technology issues on the front end. Blech.
posted by Calebos (10 comments total)

 
Some of the things they seemed to have had problems with (multiple currencies, taxation, integration with multiple fulfillment partners) seem to be things that people running a business tend to run into.

I've heard numerous disparaging comments about the state of business education at the university level and above in Europe, I didn't realize how true they were.
posted by Mick at 10:47 PM on May 23, 2000


I wanted to write this off as the whining of someone who didn't get it but the closing paragraphs make it clear that this person learned the fairly hard lesson: planning and thinking about problems is half the battle.

So instead I will simply (once again) point people to The Good Book.
posted by faisal at 12:24 AM on May 24, 2000


When it comes to selling things, we're still basing our decisions and practices on the classical definition of a "market": the forum and the town square. It'll be interesting to see how businesses think a way forward.

It's interesting to see how a collective operation like FTD.com works: globalised order processing, localised fulfilment. Of course, flowers are a very different commodity to designer gear, but FTD deals with problems of language, currency and taxation in a way that Boo never managed to handle.
posted by holgate at 4:19 AM on May 24, 2000


I wish there was a net link to it, but on May 23 Marketplace Morning Report on public radio, there was a commentary broadcast on the boo.com situation. In it, a significant part of blame was put on the European VCs and investors who apparently (according to the commentary) did not stay on top of the operational decisions of a young, inexperienced management team. The broadcast mentioned excessive salaries, hotel breakfasts, and first class flying, and suggested that US VCs would not have let such cash-burning actions to take place for long.
posted by fpatrick at 5:56 AM on May 24, 2000


FTD, of course, had years of experience taking orders over the phone -- I don't think you can compare them directly with online retailers.

I think the European problem can be exaggerated. Europe has thousands of hard-nosed, world-class businesses. But as far as the internet is concerned, they're actually a couple of years behind the US in terms of everything from consumer acceptance to having stables of seasoned internet professionals and venture capitalists who've been through the wringer before.
posted by dhartung at 6:53 AM on May 24, 2000


It's still boils down to the fact that no one became accustomed to using their web site. It was overly complex, depite its prettiness and great graphic design, and many customers had numerous problems getting the site to work successfully in their browsers. Like many others, I visited once and never returned due to the over-use of and lack of understanding around the front-end technology. You'd think that they would have been looking at their returning customer rate, which had to have bene pitifully low, and asking themselves what they were doing wrong. It was clear to many, yet not so obvious to the Boo.com management itself.
posted by camworld at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2000


I don't think the European problem is exaggerated Dan, we are *at least* 2 years behind in Britain, much of it due to the fact that Joe Public pays a thousand pounds for a PC and local calls are not free.
The cost of entry is far greater than the US and the running costs mount up very quickly (which is why I do 99% of my surfing from work). The culture is different, you constantly clock-watch when online, slow sites do not get British traffic, we can't afford it.
Consequently businesses here concentrate on the delivery side (the networks) since that is where the demand and the revenue are.
What this seems to boil down to is that US businesses have the customer base, therefore a company like boo can start in the US, become succesful and *then* expand overseas (Amazon is an obvious example) with some working capital.
As has been said many times before though, the UI was appalling and completely lacking in bandwidth consideration.
posted by Markb at 9:41 AM on May 24, 2000


Doesn't FTD basically farm orders out to an associated network of independant florists? Kind of like the original Amazon plan of letting the existing distribution network take care of order fulfillment?
posted by snarkout at 10:18 AM on May 24, 2000


Ireland is at least three maybe more.

I work at www.goldenpages.ie

Yes, it's an utter mess, and they won't listen to me telling them it's a mess and needs to redesign now.
The thing doesn't even function in Netscape, and because I only started there 4 weeks ago and no one technical is there besides me I can't tell what is what.
posted by tomcosgrave at 2:09 PM on May 24, 2000


Actually, it's not whining on my part (I'm the author of this article and have had quite some experience in the net space). I just put the article together because people kept sending me email asking me for my opinion. I put the think together on Thursday night (last week) in a couple of hours and DARE hope that it will serve as a lesson to other people. Yes, Boo had some problems but my focus with the article was more along the lines of "what are we learning from this disaster." I could say a lot about how poor I thought the marketing was or how bad I thought the UI was or things like that but why would I bother. Everyone else already knows that. What I wanted to get at was the fact that there were some issues that arose at Boo that did not arise anywhere else yet (show me another company doing business in as many languages and countries from a single back-end right now and I'll be happy to eat my words.) Ultimately, whether it was a failure or not, Boo did some pretty revolutionary stuff....

TNL
posted by TNLNYC at 2:51 PM on May 24, 2000


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