Home alone with your PC in Greece

When 26-year-old Mitch Maddox walked out of his house in a small town in Texas at dawn on New Year’s Day, 2001, he noticed several changes in the neighborhood. Maddox had not looked out of his window for a whole year, which he spent in a virtual reality provided by his computer and telephone. The story made headlines at the time as the first long-term experiment in the possiblity of surviving solely by using the Internet’s services. Maddox had shopped for food and other products, communicated, been entertained and even fallen in love over the Web. Even in Greece it is possible to lock oneself up at home, going only as far as one’s computer terminal and telephone. One can shop at the supermarket, buy Christmas presents, read the newspaper, be entertained, carry out bank transactions, buy airline tickets, pay bills, buy electrical goods, concert tickets, order food, flowers, books, DVDs, CDs, furniture, art and even religious items. The attractiveness of e-commerce has drawn dozens of Greek firms in recent years, as is clear from a quick survey of Greek e-shops on any search engine. About 1,000 Greeks shop by e-mail from an AB Vassilopoulos supermarket every month. Leonidas Vrettakos, the chain’s commercial director, told Kathimerini that anyone can order goods for home delivery. «Those who shop by e-mail are not restricted to brand-name goods but can also buy fresh produce such as cheese and meat,» he said. These customers are usually those who know the store’s products very well. «Those who know our products or who know our staff very well are the ones who order this way. Of course, we prefer customers to come to the store and to see the meat they are buying,» he said. The service is a boon to those who cannot leave their homes, but the number of e-customers are growing, and not only at Vassilopoulos. Internet banking is also gaining ground. According to officials at the National Bank of Greece, the number of individuals or businesses carrying out transactions online is growing steadily: finding out their balance, transferring money from one account to another, paying VAT and electricity bills, making social security payments and credit card installments, and buying and selling shares. «People are showing they have confidence in bank transactions by the Internet, particularly people who hate waiting in queues to pay bills,» said an official. Film buffs no longer need to go to the local video outlet to rent a film. If they live in the northern suburbs, within the range of the Videopizza firm that opened in early September, they can order a film and pizza from the site, to be delivered to their door. Giorgos Adamantopoulos, one of the firm’s owners, told Kathimerini the firm will also pick up the film afterward.