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Group Buying Online... Mercata

Boot Camp feature for Wednesday, August 11, 1999

The power of group buying on the Internet. I'm Fred Fishkin with Bootcamp, a report on computers and technology. A web site called Mercata would be just another net shopping site, if it weren't for a new twist...

"The notion is that as more and more people join together, they, in essence, get volume discounts from the manufacturers for themselves and Mercata acts as the intermediary."

Tom Van Horn, who heads the web site created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Unfortunately, the group buying principle doesn't apply to everything sold on the site. It is limited to what Mercata calls Power Buys. You enter your order and then watch the price drop as more people purchase the same item. How much can you save?

"Well, it depends upon the product and depends on list prices and street prices, but we've seen savings in excess of fifty and sixty percent on some products already. And that's when we have a relatively small but rapidly growing customer base."

Mercata, spelled, m-e-r-c-a-t-a, does take requests. You can ask for particular brands or items and if there is group interest, it could wind up as a Power Buy...

"For example, we added large screen TVs to the site about two weeks ago because we'd had an enormous amount of demand for those kinds of products.

The categories range from consumer eletronics, to household and fitness items and a brand new baby zone.