Selling in Silence

As a customer, I find the Internet to be a very noisy, claustrophobic and potentially threatening place.

Wherever I step, it’s as if I’m tripping a dozen mines that have been laid there by various marketers.

I’ll be served banner ads according to where I’ve been before. Pop-ups intrude on me. I’ll blink and find myself subscribed to something new simply because I never found the place to opt out.

Wherever I go I hear and feel the noise.

So here’s one of those half-asleep, half-awake dreams.

I’m in the bazaar in Istanbul. Walking down the arched corridors with small stores to my left and right. Wherever I turn, there’s someone there, holding out a carpet or a fistful of gold chains… Merchants rush out and touch me, tugging on my clothes.

“Buy here. Best deal.”

“My friend, my friend, come in for some tea.”

“This carpet belonged to my grandfather!”

I’m in a place that only dreams can create. I run out through a doorway and I’m suddenly in the open air, under a dark clear sky.

But by the starlight, I see people running toward me.

“Fresh goat’s milk!”

“My wife baked this bread. Touch it! It’s still warm!”

And the faster I run, the more they see me and find me.

The noise is unbearable. The clamor smothers me. Everyone wants to sell me something. And there’s nowhere I can hide. They always find me.

Then I hear one small voice.

“Psst! Come here, this way.”

His hands are empty. He has nothing to sell. I slip into the bushes and he leads me away.

“I’ll take you somewhere different,” he says. “Somewhere quiet. No noise. No selling. You can buy whatever you want. But there’s just one rule for buyers and sellers. The rule is silence.”

That’s the end of the dream.

But there’s a great idea there.

I’d love to find a place online where I could do all my shopping in silence.

Here’s what it might say on such a site or mall.

“Welcome to

“We can offer you everything from sporting goods to flowers, lobsters to books and CDs.

“But you’ll find this a very different online shopping experience.

“There are no ads or pop-ups.

“We’ll never send you newsletters or promotional emails,” you’re promised.

“We’ll never keep any of your personal data beyond the time period for which we actually need it.

“That is to say, if you give us the address to which you want an item delivered, we’ll delete that address from our database the moment the delivery is confirmed.

“Our purpose is to give you a silent, private experience. No noise. No intrusion.”

I think a lot of customers might find that attractive.

It might appeal to people to be able to buy online without all the cross-selling, up-selling and shouting of competing stores.

How would survive if it were silent? How could it market itself and retain its customers without email, TV and the Super Bowl?

The Internet is a network. The voices of grateful shoppers would travel fast. And people would come back again and again out of gratitude for the restraint of the merchant.

The silence would be appreciated and rewarded.

Related reading