Saving + Shopping

On shopping online

Shopping online

The other day, I went out on a Saturday to run some errands. I needed to pick up a few things: A pair of basketball shoes for my daughter, a book I’m dying to read, some beauty supplies. After driving around to three different locations (a mall, an outdoor plaza, and a department store), I come home with nothing.

The shoe was there, but the size we needed wasn’t.

The book was there… but it had sold out in stores.

The shampoo was there, but the styling creme wasn’t in stock.

As I headed home, I wondered why I didn’t just save myself all that time and energy and order everything online.

The truth is, shopping online has become a habit for me now, and one that I’m a bit smug about— I often tell people that it saves me tons of time, which I can use to be with my kids, do work, and not exhaust myself on wild goose chases.

Secretly though, I do miss the old way of doing things.

I can’t remember the last time I went to any of my old haunts: Target, Bloomingdales, the Container Store, or even Costco (there’s an app for those bulk purchases too). I used to have a bond to all of those stores: Now, we’re estranged. Most have been replaced by the almighty Amazon, who lures me with their “we have absolutely everything” inventory, 2-day shipping, and 1-click ordering. Why on earth would I venture out into the world?

Well, because it’s fun. Or at least, it used to be.

Shopping before the Internet was exhilirating— I would stroll from store to store, enjoying the offerings, the styling, and the presentation in each. If I liked or needed something, I bought it. If not, I kept walking. I ran errands productively— things got done. Somehow, I feel I was happier with what I bought in those days. Now, the lure of what might be online (a different colorway? A better deal? Endless other choices?) often has me standing in the store scrolling through my phone before I make a purchase. If I do pull the trigger, I’m immediately flooded with doubts— could I have done better? 

Shopping online is to malls what Tinder is to dating: With an unlimited array of options available, how can you feel that the thing you have in your hand is truly purchase-worthy?

Although I’ve gotten pretty good at shopping online, sometimes I do want to touch and look at something before I purchase it. Not just zoomable pictures from multiple angles, but at the actual thing. Free shipping and returns usually take care of my objections, but I miss how it feels to leaf through books at the store, to see if that sweater feels too itchy, and to chat up the beauty supply shop girl about the benefits of leave-in conditioner. Now I do most of that research through online reviews from the comfort of my bed— I do save time, but I also miss out on human contact… it’s more productive, but lonelier.

Of course, my lack of patronage to these real-life stores is part of the problem: The less I shop at the mall, the less inventory they can afford to stock, so the likelihood of me finding what I need when I get there is reduced. I love the idea of shopping local, and there are stores near me that it’s my pleasure to shop in— they do one or two things really well, they always have what I need, and I love supporting them so my neighborhood continues to be vibrant. What I don’t love is running around and not finding what I need, being treated poorly by salespeople, or just finding a store disheveled— free time is so precious these days, so if I’m gonna shop at your store, you better deliver on product and experience.

The other day, I came home with nothing. Then after a few clicks, I had everything: The book, the cleats and the styling creme were on their way (along with some other stuff I didn’t need…. although buying things I don’t need is not unique to online shopping).

Sometimes I feel like my new online shopping habits are progress, but sometimes, I feel like something’s been lost.

8 comments on “On shopping online”

  1. Hi-I could not have agreed with you more about the ease of online shopping until a week ago. I live in a small rural town, so it was so wonderful to have anything I needed show up on my doorstep. But now, UPS and the USPS seem to have a new arrangement and UPS drops off all packages at the Post Office and a notice is left in my mailbox. I then have to drive to the PO to get my packages. UPS used to deliver to my home before noon but my mail doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. The PO closes at 4, so I don’t always get things on the day I wished. That Prime 2 day shipping can turn into 3 days or longer if it’s over a weekend. I’m thinking that it might be easier to go the old fashioned route and drive the half or hour it takes to get to civilization and get would I need in one trip. It was nice while it lasted!!

    1. Yes, I definitely can see how the joys of online shopping could be affected if you had to wait (and wait…) for your stuff. If what you need is down the street (I am finding more that it ISN’T, even in a big city— sometimes, not always) then it does make sense to go get it! Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  2. I do some online shopping…mostly when I’m looking for something specific that I can’t find locally, but as a person who works in a large bookstore and having seen the traffic drop off I can’t help but think about what the effect of this convenience is. Its pretty much a given that if there is one place you can buy everything, that eventually there will be only one place where you can get anything! While I’m not a fan of Walmart, people used to get upset at how their affect on small businesses wherever they built. I really believe that Amazon is doing the same thing, but in a much more subversive way because of its convenience. No one questions how much they are causing local business to NOT have the products they are looking for. Its hard to carry inventory that won’t sell because you can’t compete with the monster that Amazon has become.

    While I don’t usually make such a political-type statement, and while I used to be a buyer on Amazon during their starting years, I’ve mostly stopped buying from them. Someone who was a book vendor all those years back predicted that this would happen…he was correct. Amazon has grown and continues to slowly eat up any small business. Bezos is brilliant in his takeover of shopping. When he controls the market though, do the prices go up when you have nowhere else to shop?

    Just my 2 cents!

    P.S. I’ve always loved and continue to love your blog and your reviews!!

    1. Sigh. Toni, it’s so true, your comparison of Walmart and Amazon. They’re both monsters. And yeah, Amazon does have increasing control over the market, especially with books, which can be terrible for consumers. Your two cents are pretty spot on! (And thanks for the kind words about the blog! Happy you’re here!)

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more about the convenience of online shopping but also missing being in the store. I think shopping online is for items that we KNOW we need and love and going out in the world to shop is about discovering new and exciting things or for the experiences. I try to do the latter when I know I have time to spare and when I’m in a crunch the former.

    1. Agreed, Andrea. Sometimes there’s no time to browse and wander, but cutting it out entirely isn’t good for the soul. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *