• 36°

The magic of shopping online

By MIMI BECKER

Coffee with Mimi

The magic and usefulness of the Internet cannot be denied.  I never thought I would live to see the day when the phrase, “Google it” would be a regular part of my vocabulary, but I have and it is.  How old is …?;  Where is…?;  What does…cost?; When was…invented?;  Who is the ambassador to…?;  It is all right there at my fingertips, and I do not hesitate to access the information.

I have been known to purchase items from cyber sources.  We grind our own coffee beans, not because we are coffee snobs, but because I like the aroma of the fresh beans, and the sound of the grinder.  We order our beans from some place online,  and they are delivered right to our door.  The service is so speedy, I am barely concerned when our supply runs low; I have failed to note that state to my husband.

We have booked vacation rentals, plane tickets, hotel rooms and conference reservations all from the comfort of our living room and at the touch of a few buttons.  A fair amount of items for our daughter’s wedding were ordered from here and shipped to there. 

“Pre-shopping” online can be very efficient.  Prices for known items can be compared and supplies assured, thus saving time, gas and patience when actually shopping in person. 

Yet, I am hesitant to order an item from some far off source.  What if I didn’t like it or it didn’t work or fit or looked just plain awful?  Then the hassle of returning the item negates all the convenience and effortlessness of acquiring it.  Not so, in today’s world —  You, online of course, answer a few questions and your own printer pops out a convenient return label you can slap on the box and send it right back.

Still, the idea of making purchases online for items, which can vary widely, and are so dependent on personal taste is difficult to trust.

A friend was relaying an online shopping story to an assembled group of people like me, older women — who did not grow up in the cyber age.  The story began when she was with her granddaughter and a very large box of shoes was delivered to the home.  We all assumed the obvious.  The granddaughter, a computer savvy pre-teen, had exercised her skills with the parents’ credit card in hand, and a wide open shopping world at her fingertips.

Not so, the shopper was the mom and she had truly ordered a multitude of shoes in different styles and colors and sizes.  Who could possibly need all those shoes at one time?  Who could have a plan for all those colors and styles, unless a new wardrobe was soon to be delivered?

A shoe experience commenced, at the end of which one single pair was selected, the rest being returned to the original box, and shipped back with a label provided by the manufacturer.  There was never an intention of parking all those shoes in the closet, and the shoe company was complicit in the affair.  At their own expense,  with their full knowledge that a similar sequence of events was taking place all over the shoe shopping world.  The behavior was actually encouraged.  I was sure the address of the shopper would be forever locked out.  Not so.  The shoe company was completely willing to send out another box, and another whenever asked, so I am told.

There is no shopping task I dislike more than shoe shopping.  I have big feet.  I have had big feet since as long as I can remember, which means from the time when a person begins to care what is on their feet.  For regular size feet people, you can’t imagine what frustrations arise when shoe shopping becomes necessary.  Like when the dog has chewed the black dress flats, or the running shoes are causing pain just making a casual trip around the block. 

A day which begins with the sentence, “I need some new shoes” is sure to end sadly.  Most of the time I just give in if there is anything remotely like what I really want.  It’s best if I go alone.  My daughters sometimes encourage me by taking (dragging) me to one of those warehouse type places which advertise specials like “Buy one; get one at 50% off.”  This sounds like a good deal, though you are only saving 25% off each pair, assuming you can find two pair you like.

The shoes are arranged in long rows on racks according to ascending sizes.  By the time you march past all the normal people sizes, all the way to the back of the store, you will find the selection less than abundant.  Most of the inventory features four inch heels and is festooned with purple sequins.  It hardly seems worth it to sit down, and go through the motions of trying shoes on. 

The moral of the story is that shoe shopping should be undertaken before a shoe crisis.  What was the name of that online source with the big box and handy return label?