April 3, 2001, 12:00 AM

Fingerhut hopes to lure buyers with low-cost Internet access

Fingerhut is hoping to increase its online sales by making low-cost high-quality Internet access available to its customers.

Fingerhut is hoping to increase its online sales by making low-cost high-quality Internet access available to its customers. "The more people we can bring online, the better the chances that we can increase our sales," says Jim Falbo, manager of online financial services and business development. Fingerhut last week began offering customers Internet access through AT&T; WorldNet for $4.95 a month. For that amount, customers get 150 hours a month of access, six e-mail addresses, instant message capability, e-mail screens to eliminate spams and live customer support for the first 30 days. After the first 30 days, customers will receive online support. A recent study by comScore Networks shows that users who access the Internet through free ISPs spend 40% less than those who pay for their ISPs. But Falbo says Fingerhut does not believe that study applies to its service because although it is low cost, it is not free. "Customers have a commitment to paying for this service, so they’ll use it," he says. Customers’ home page will be an AT&T; page with a Fingerhut box. As they move around the web, a toolbar with direct access to the Fingerhut page will travel with them. Some observers question whether this strategy can work. "The response to this kind of offer is driven by personality type-these are people who don’t have much money and they want everything for free," says David Taylor, senior vice president of consultants Operon Partners. "They’re not going to pay for anything."

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