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Wholesaler has
high hopes for

By Doug Carder

Web site pays off within months; a world of opportunities awaits.

NEW YORK - Don't tell David Taubenfeld he cannot do business via the Internet.

The partner in family-owned BT Produce Co. Inc. not only conducts business on the Internet, his company is profiting from it.

"A guy in Chile contacted me through our Web site and said he had some loquats to sell. We ended up taking 400 boxes," he said. "Nobody else on the market had them, and we ended making a couple of dollars a box. That paid for the site right there."

Taubenfeld has conducted several e-commerce transactions in the past few months that he said probably paid for the site - - 30 times over.

"When I first proposed the Web site, people laughed," he recalled. "They told me nobody will ever make money off the Internet."

Nobody is laughing any more.

BT Produce receives e-mails from all over the world - usually three or four a day - looking to buy or sell produce.

Taubenfeld scrolled through the list of e-mail on the company's Web site and messages from China, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Chile, Sri Lanka, Brazil and several U.S. states rolled across his terminal screen.

Taubenfeld said the Internet also comes in handy for brushing up on international export requirements.

"We had a chance to buy some Asian pears from (a grower in) China. We looked up the USDA's Web site and found that that one province was allowed to ship to the U.S., so we ended up doing business with them," he said.

Headings on BT Produce's Web site include About Us, Produce Lists, Let's Do Business, In the News and Related Sites.

To make the Web site accessible, Taubenfeld has connected the site to as many search engines and produce terms as possible. So any time a browser used a key-word search related to pratically any produce item or term, BT Produce's site would be among the successful matches for the search. Business during the last few months has gradually built from there.

Taubenfeld said he has tried to make BT Produce's Web site user friendly, much like company representatives do when they greet customers on the terminal market and take time to show them around the product displays each morning.

"Every customer counts, from the one who buys a box to the one who buys a truckload," he said. "The key is to buildlong-term relationships. If a customer has a problem, you fix it."

Taubenfeld has taken the same approach to building international customer relationships online.

"We received and e-mail from a guy who was looking to unload (several) pallers of white peaches. He needed help, and we took them off his hands," Taubenfeld said. "He was very happy, and we still make a couple of thousand dollars in profit."

Those successful business transactions keep customers coming back, he said

"Competition is very strong, and every customer counts," Taubenfeld said. "We don't lose customers; we won't allow it."


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