By Ron VandenBoom
To what extraordinary length would you go to promote your business?
To one Internet business, and to one community in Oregon, there seems to be no length that is too far to go.
Halfway Oregon is a small community of only 360 population that is primarily known for its snowmobiling, fishing, hunting, backpacking and quiet laid-back atmosphere. Only a few stores dot the landscape of this sleepy little village nestled in the Pine Valley. Most of them are related in some way to out-door recreation.
It would seem an unlikely place for Internet and community to merge, but as of Wednesday, Jan. 19, that's exactly what happened.
You see, Halfway, Oregon decided to change its name from Halfway to Half.com.
It would seem that a representative of the little community paid a visit to Halfway In Dec. 1999, and approached Mayor Dick Crow with the proposition. In exchange for Halfway's agreement they would receive 20 computers to the city's elementary school computer lab; a prize to be raffled at the County Fair; and funds to be used in civic improvement efforts.
Little did the community know after agreeing to the arrangement that they would be invaded by a hoard of news media giants like CNN, the Wall Street Journal, USA today, Good Morning America, and dozens more.
Not a bad start to a website that features, at the moment, very little in the way of product.
Half.com is however a unique concept that is bound to receive a boost from all of the publicity surrounding the launch of this interesting little site. The concept is simple everything you offer for sale is at least 50 percent off the regular retail price and anyone who has something they want to sell, and who is willing to sell it for 50 percent off, can sell it on Half.com.
For now the selection is a bit on the sparse side. Books, music, movies, and games, are currently the only things you can find for sale and most of these are older editions.
But don't let this discourage you. The site has only existed since Jan. 19, and I'm sure with the millions of dollars worth of free advertising the site has received from its ingenious kick-off campaign, it will only be a matter of time before thousands on thousands of items are offered for sale by small businesses, collectors, and individuals all over the country.
One nice feature is that while the customer that's you pays for their purchases with a credit card, the card is not charged until half.com is assured the item you ordered is actually shipped.
This is an obvious concern seeing as how the items you're buying are being purchased from small businesses and individuals just like yourself.
Nor is it a concern that some unknown, and unscrupulous individual will abscond with your credit card number. According to Half.com, no seller ever sees a credit card number.
This is not an auction site and purchases are made instantly in your shopping cart just the way they are at any other retail site.
My concerns are that I have yet to see a guarantee of any kind on your purchase. I'm not saying there isn't one, I'm just saying that I've yet to see it.
What happens when I buy a movie from Joe Blow in Illinois and when I get it, I find Joe's five-year-old has smeared jam inside the cassette. How do I get a refund? Can I get a refund?
It's obvious that a market for a site like this exists over the Internet, just as a market exists for garage sales, flee markets, and second-hand stores, but I think I would rather be a first-time seller at Half.com than a first-time buyer. At least for now.