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FRAMINGHAM (03/13/2000) - According to a survey by The Boston Consulting Group, 28 percent of all attempts to complete online purchases last year were unsuccessful for reasons ranging from technical failures to botched deliveries.

Of some 12,000 consumers who were polled, four out of every five reported having had this experience at least once.

That gurgling sound you hear is the Golden Goose gasping for breath.

Let's be charitable and presume the survey methodology somehow produced results that are much scarier than reality. Those betting their jobs on e-commerce almost have to suppose such is the case, because no sector of the economy - with the possible exception of the airline industry - could survive for any length of time with a failure rate approaching three out of 10.

One out of 10 would be deadly if not soon corrected. Most consumers are willing to cut online merchants some slack, but that honeymoon period won't last for very long.

And what happens to Internet companies that treat their customers this shabbily? According to the survey, 28 percent of customers who experienced online shopping failures simply stopped shopping online . . . a reasonable reaction. Another 23 percent merely kissed the offending site goodbye. And, just for good measure, a particularly aggrieved 6 percent also swore off patronizing the bungling merchant's brick-and-mortar outlet.

There were no reports of physical retribution or arson, thankfully.

Of course, there are a few people for whom these poll numbers will produce nothing but smiles: They would be the providers of customer relationship management software and fulfillment services.

Cuban comes across as quite the - what's a polite word for blowhard - in this story by telling the interviewer he has no use for telephone conversations or even face-to-face meetings. But here's a truly telling tidbit: The man claims that he sends up to 1,000 e-mails per day.

Let's presume an average of 30 seconds per e-mail. That's far too low, but give him every doubt. He'd have to bang out e-mail nonstop for more than eight hours straight to hit that grand. No lunch. No idle surfing. Not even a bathroom break.

And people laughed at Wilt Chamberlain when he claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.

Figleaves.com and Underneath.com are two of the unmentionables merchants worth mentioning. They sell both men's and women's skivvies. Figleaves will ship your favorite briefs or boxers to you on a Book-of-the-Month-Club-like subscription basis and is also bucking conventional e-commerce wisdom by opening physical stores. Look for the first in Manhattan.

"Our online store opened its doors for business in December 1999," notes Figleaves' cheeky Web site, "just in time to ensure that you have clean underwear for the new millennium."

They're pitching to women, all right.

Complaints about sexist generalizations should be sent to Buzz@nww.com . . . as should all Internet news tips and gossip.

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