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Sales Gripe from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Since Macintosh sales are increasing rapidly outside the U.S., and since over 50 percent of Apple’s business comes from outside the U.S., isn’t it time Macintosh companies thought of the people on the other side of the globe? It surprises me that more U.S.-based Macintosh companies don’t take a few extra, easy steps to make themselves more accessible to international customers.

Phone Numbers — It’s strange to us (in the rest of the world where books and magazines from the U.S. are sold) to see U.S. companies advertising 800 toll-free numbers in bold. Don’t they know that many, if not all, countries outside the North American continent cannot call these numbers? Even companies that do publish non-800 numbers can cause international readers some difficulty with those full page advertisements that always ask you to CALL FOR PRICES. Too often, the time zone difference requires truly interested international callers to wake up at 3 AM to make a call, an especially frustrating event when you are put on hold for ten minutes before someone talks to you. [Many international callers also may read and write English perfectly, but the combination of accents and a slight lag created by satellite links can make conversations difficult – that’s been my experience the few times I’ve spoken with friends from other countries. -Adam]

Fax Numbers — Many companies advertise their products and never include a fax number. Or, if they do bother to include a fax number, it’s only an 800 number, which non-U.S. customers cannot use. A fax number is a minute detail, but it’s extremely important to readers outside of the U.S, where easy access to the Internet, CompuServe, or America Online is not a given. Perhaps even more annoying are companies who publish a fax number and then switch their fax machines off at night.

Insert Cards — Too many magazines arrive from the U.S. with insert cards that say "offer good for USA and Canada only." Why are these cards included in our copies? The cards add weight (the North American companies pay for postage – sometimes for three or four cards inside an issue) and international readers get frustrated. To win more customers, why don’t companies make it "offer valid around the world" and have their international divisions follow up?

Solutions and Suggestions — I think for the benefit for international readers, companies should come out with a special logo or claim such as "We do international business" on their ads, products, services, and so on. The logo could be prominently displayed, helping folks outside the U.S. quickly identify international-friendly companies. U.S. advertisers don’t seem to realize that a copy of a magazine (such as Macworld or MacUser) may be read by say two or three persons in the U.S. but that same copy – should it arrive in the Far East, might be read by eight to ten persons. Computer magazines are typically sold at a high price outside the U.S., so an entire office is more likely to share one copy of the magazine. Similarly, if a company simply cannot do business outside of the U.S., they should say so clearly to avoid wasting everyone’s time.

Finally companies should put Internet, AppleLink, America Online, or CompuServe addresses in their ads. Not everyone can access an online service, but providing an electronic address gives international customers one more possible channel for asking about and ordering products. Promise a 24-hour response for email and watch sales enquiries grow!

[We try to provide this sort of information at the end of our articles, specifically for our international readers, but it’s not all that easy for us to find such contact information either, which accounts for some of the times that we only include an 800 number. Other times it’s simply an oversight. I’d like to add a plea to Chan’s – software companies should not only include complete contact information in their advertising, but also in their press releases and other official propaganda. To be honest, if I get a press release about an interesting product and all that’s listed is a non-800 telephone number, I’m unlikely to check into it further. If there’s an email address, the likelihood rises significantly. -Adam]

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