Readers Respond

Digital retailing best practices

“After several months of research into retailing Web sites, it is clear that too many retailers are merely using their Web sites as somewhat elaborate digital business cards. Too few are using them to full advantage in providing visitors with product information and pricing or making it easy for visitors to buy—either online or via a trip to the store. And this holds true for many retailers in other fields, as well.

“And yet, there are others who are effectively communicating with site visitors, making sales and building relationships. Perhaps the worst ‘sin’ is the failure to update Web site information frequently, yet there are programs like Contribute, from Adobe, that are inexpensive and remarkably easy to use, as we explain in ‘Successful Web Retailing,’ which is a how-to handbook to improve Web sites and make sales.”—Bob Vereen (The writer is author of “Surviving…in spite of everything: A postwar history of the hardware industry.”)

The Pledge to America

“I would sign the pledge, although, frankly, as I read it, the thought kept creeping into my mind as to whether the Republicans still don’t get it. Failure to promise to eliminate earmarks is an example. True, while it’s a small part of government expenditures, it is symptomatic of politicians spending taxpayer money for mostly useless parochial interests of their constituents.

“The jobs bill is a joke. We are not going to buy equipment unless we need it. We are not going to hire people unless we need them, and we are borrowing no more than we need and have ample availability.

“We’ve got to get rid of these college professors and economists who are clueless about running a business and hope their replacements will not be constantly meddling in housing markets.”—Buddy Klumb, CEO, Klumb Lumber Co. Fairhope, Ala.

The pesticide police

Kari Warberg Block spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain state and federal approval to sell a natural rodent control product. She writes:

“Why do they pick on the smaller businesses? All three of our North Dakota congressional delegation have tried to help fight this issue; they only dig their feet in deeper.

“Three state EPAs have also started charging manufacturers a percentage of their sales to their respective states. One state charges us an additional 7% of all sales to retailers! (In addition to our state fees paid each year.) We will soon need to add this new tax onto our invoices for those unlucky retailers. I suspect it will only be a matter of time before other states follow suit when they see how profitable this new tax can be. Thank you so much for bringing this up!”—Kari Warberg Block, Founder and CEO, Earth-Kind Inc.

On the successful rescue of 33 miners in Chile

“After looking closely at the Phoenix capsule, I noticed the spring-loaded retractable rubber wheels to guide along the inside of the safety shaft. I think this was done not for safety but for [buffering] load noise of metal on metal for the poor miners’ last “Light At The End Of The Tunnel” consideration.—Doug Rutter, Endicott Lumber

“I don’t understand why there [were] no rescue shafts dug to begin with. Even if they partially dug them every so often, it would not take nearly as long to rescue them—same goes for the BP oil spill. If the relief well was dug at the same time the well was dug, even partially, it would have stopped so much oil from leaking. It’s time for more pre-acting, and less reacting to things.”—Rick Baker

Supply chain strength: The weakest link?

“The lack of accurate and dependable consumption information is the greatest cost and weakest link in the building products supply chain. If you think about it, the existence of inventory is the result of poor information! More sharing of reliable information from the end user back to the manufacturer is the key to driving down costs and improving service in all steps of the supply chain.”—Rod MacKenzie, Green Building Resources, Roswell, Ga.

“The best protection for retailers is to know your suppliers and know the product that you are purchasing from them. Chinese-sourced products have a pretty good track record, now, for there being a high potential for hazardous materials used—i.e. toxic drywall, lead-based paint, etc. Sellers need to ask their vendors where product is sourced from and be willing to not buy certain products or lines that are coming from questionable areas. Listen to your workers and customers and take note of any peculiarities (smell, color, texture or density) surrounding new products or changes in existing products. These might be the early warning signs of a product that will have a bad future.”—Patrick O’Neil, IT manager, Bellevue Builders Supply, Schenectady, N.Y.