An automated system assists a user in locating and purchasing goods or services sold by a plurality of vendors. The system includes a programmed computer which is linked to a database. The database contains information about a large number of different products and/or services, arranged in various categories. For each product or service, the database contains information on price, vendor, specifications and/or availability. In operating the system, the user first indicates the general type of product or service desired. The system responds by displaying a template giving specifications for the type of product or service selected. The user then fills in one or more blank spaces in the template, to tell the system the minimum desired specifications for the product or service. The computer then searches the database to retrieve all products or services, within the product or service category selected, having the specifications required by the user. The system display such products or services to the user, who can request more detailed information about a particular product or service, or information on vendors and prices. The user can then select one or more items for immediate purchase, and the system automatically transmits the order to the appropriate vendor.