Sunday, May 14, 2000

Tri-County offers online amenities


Visitors can check e-mail, search Web

By Sara J. Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPRINGDALE — New Internet terminals at Tri-County Mall are turning a shopping trip into a journey through cyberspace.

        A 12-screen high-speed Internet kiosk near the mall's food court offers shoppers free access to e-mail, chat rooms, search engines and other online amenities.

[photo] VELI-MATTI POLKKI OF FINLAND USES INTERNET KIOSK AT TRI-COUNTY MALL.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        People can surf consumer sites for information about merchandise they are considering buying. They can participate in online auctions without having to rush home before bidding closes. They can check e-mail, or simply see what all the Internet fuss is about.

        “It's useful,” said Chris Hughes of Sharonville, who stopped by the mall to check on his Web site after his home computer monitor broke. “It must be very useful for people who don't have a computer or who have a computer but don't have Internet access.”

        Owned and run by cyberXpo.com Inc., a Plano, Texas, public access Internet service provider, the kiosk in Tri-County Mall is the first of its kind in the area, said Bob Young, cyberXpo's vice president of operations.

        CyberXpo has rented space at Tri-County since January, said Ivette Crichton, marketing director for Jones Lang LaSalle, the company that manages the mall. Since then, the terminals have become quite popular.

        Other area malls have contacted Tri-County to find out how the Internet terminals are doing, Ms. Crichton said. CyberXpo already has signed contracts with the company that manages East gate Mall, Mr. Young said. He added that discussions have been held with the company that manages Northgate Mall.

        “Number one, it's a form of entertainment,” Mr. Young said. “We're just trying to provide a unique user experience.”

        The kiosks also offer a way to get audiences for the companies that advertise with cyberXpo, and Mr. Young said he is exploring ways to personalize terminals to the shopping centers and communities they serve.

        So far, the only problem with the Tri-County terminals arose when parents complained that children could get access to adult sites, Ms. Crichton said. CyberXpo has since worked out a system to block pornography.

        On a recent afternoon, the terminals attracted a steady flow of users. Teens bowed their heads over chat rooms. A couple did research on a new type of operating system for their home computer. And Greg Potter, a Philadelphia resident visiting the area on business, stopped by to check his e-mail.

        “It's a neat idea,” he said of the mall Internet access. “It's nice to be able to be in contact and check things out. I haven't seen anything like this before.”

       



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