Shop the Web -- by phone
A new Web portal lets you talk to e-tailers
February 4, 1999
by James A. Martin
(IDG) -- Are you still skittish about shopping on the Web? Then click over to Easysurf, which claims to be the first Web shopping portal that lets you give credit-card information over the phone to an online merchant via Internet telephony.
Launched Monday, Easysurf categorizes links to a variety of online merchants, including department stores, music retailers, and home electronics outlets. Using icons, the site also offers a quick glance at each site's services, so you can quickly determine which Web booksellers, for instance, offer online order tracking or ship only in the United States.
But the biggest draw of IDT's Easysurf is its use of the company's Net2Phone telephony software, which lets you place phone calls over the Net. Clicking any Click2Talk button on the Easysurf site connects the user to a particular e-tailer's sales or customer service representative, according to IDT. Once connected, you can get more information about a product, request a catalog, or -- if you're uncomfortable transmitting credit-card numbers electronically -- complete a sales transaction verbally.
To use the Click2Talk feature, your telephony-equipped PC must have a microphone and speakers, and you have to download and install the free Net2Phone utility.
If you don't have a PC with telephony, you've still got two options for making contact with an e-tailer from Easysurf. Select the Click2CallMe button, type your phone number, and within seconds you'll receive a phone call from an automated attendant (remember to disconnect from the Net first if you share a line for voice and data). After you push 1 on your telephone keypad to verify that you still want to connect to the e-tailer, your call goes through. Another option, Click2Mail, lets you e-mail the merchant.
In an informal test, the downloaded Net2Phone software wouldn't run on a 300MHz Pentium II PC due to a general protection fault. After we closed all applications, redownloaded the utility, and reinstalled it as the Net2Phone Web site's tech support page suggested, the problem persisted. As a result, PC World Online wasn't able to test Easysurf's Click2Talk feature successfully.
The Click2CallMe feature, however, worked immediately. Seconds after we transmitted a request for a call, the telephone rang.
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