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is there anything i can help you with?
online shopping is worth staying home for...
by jeffrey d. walker
10.13.00
pop culture

I have to tell you guys… I love this eBay thing.

Actually, I love shopping online in general. In the past year, I’ve rented cars, reserved hotel rooms, bought plane tickets and concert tickets, ordered flowers and gifts of wine and cheese, applied for a school loan, acquired a poster for my wall, haggled for both compact disks and books, and purchased twelve episodes of the original “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” cartoon series to share with my 3-year-old nephew. (I firmly believe that no child should be deprived of such enjoyment coupled with excellent morals, especially those neatly summed up in a song played in the junkyard.)

"This is Bill Cosby comin’ at ya with music and fun, and if you’re not careful, you might learn something before we’re done. Hey Hey Hey!"

There’s plenty more I’ve bought, and even more I intend to buy. My latest purchase: a card with which I can bid on groceries at the store. I can also negotiate the price of a vehicle, a loan to buy the vehicle, the insurance on the vehicle, and EVEN dicker for the cost of a gallon of gas to fuel said vehicle!

If I were to decide that my Juris Doctorate in Law isn’t enough to get me by, there are several universities offering MBAs that I could earn in their entirety from my desk at home.

I love this country.

And, typically, every deal I get online is cheaper than I could get at the store. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I recently bought a book to research law firms I'd love to work for. Said book would have cost me $39.95 at any of the bookstores in town. Plus tax. Plus the cost of gas to drive to the store, plus minutes and hours out of my day to drive to the store to get the book.

All of this time likely could have been spent doing something much more productive. Like writing next month’s intrepid article… [Editor's Note: Hells yeah!]

And in reality-based stores, there's always a chance the store you choose won't have the book. Maybe they don't stock it, or they've run out. This forces you to drive elsewhere. Or, if you're stuck, order the book from the store and wait for it to come in ... requiring a second drive out to the store to pick it up. In that time, I could have written two articles, plus done an Internet search for the Shannon Elizabeth fan club website.

Instead, online, I got the book shipped to my door in four days flat for just under $32, saving more than seven dollars. Seven dollars may not mean a lot to you, but it can make all the difference to a poor student. Plus, if you can save just a few dollars on each purchase, it can really add up. I may even be able to retire by age 89, depending on how much they keep raising the minimum age for social security.

Plus, comparison-shopping is a breeze. You can pull up the same item you want on site after site, and simply pick the cheapest. This is infinitely easier than trying to remember what you saw at the last store. “How much was that Stereo at Sears? And was it a 3 CD changer, or a 5? Does that one have more watts? Do I know you?”

So why shop any other way? Well, here's the answer: it depends.

Some people have a very strong anti-e-buying bias. There are all these horror stories about “credit card theft” online. Of course, someone can do the same damage when you forget to tear your receipt off at some “pay at the pump” gas stations. Credit card number theft is far from new. It was here before the Internet, and isn’t leaving soon.

Why else? Well, no matter what type of “online modeling” any online store has to offer, I have to try on my pants before I purchase them. Some pants just don’t hang off my posterior right. And if I wait until they arrive at my house, I just can’t check it out. I haven’t yet installed one of those dressing-room three-panel mirrors designed to let you see yourself from all angles. Until I get one, or until the invention of an accurate and functional cyberposterior, pants must be bought in person.

Of course, there are sentimental reasons to shop at the store. You may miss the people approaching you asking, “Is there anything I can help you find?” You may revel in the thrill of “trolling the parking lot” for just the right spot. You may revel in the hunting down of your vehicle in the parking lot, an infinite vista of black Honda Civics, upon exiting the mall. Perhaps you enjoy the old lady at the grocery store who takes up a little too much room in the pasta aisle, impeding your progress to the Zataran’s Dirty Rice display.

Move, old lady! Move!

O.K., perhaps shopping online isn’t for everyone. But if there is anything to prevent me from being That Guy at the mall, then I'm all for it. You know the guy: he’s holding three shopping bags and a purse outside the women's dressing room at “Express”, peering through the door, praying that the woman he loves enough to hold her feminine belongings will please, please, please come back out soon. But he has to be careful how hard he watches for her through the door, lest he appear to be a pervert trying to get a “quick peek” at the ladies in the changing room. If I can do anything to keep from being that guy, it must be a good thing.

Even if I end up in jeans that don’t frame my posterior correctly.




ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER

A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker

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COMMENTS

rick collins
10.14.00 @ 2:31p

(Of course, there are sentimental reasons to shop at the store. You may miss the people approaching you asking, “Is there anything I can help you find?”)-Jeff said it.

I've heard of this happening to people, really. But it has never, ever, ever happened to me.

The only thing an employee of ANY store has ever said to me is, "I'm with security. Please follow me."

You must be famous or something.


michelle von euw
10.15.00 @ 8:28p

Jeff, the reason that you saved $7 on that book is because the online site you bought it from is probably losing about $1 million a day, which is gonna start mattering real soon. And this may be the double chromosome speaking, but I love stores, especially book stores. Spending my lunch hour browsing Wordsworth is my idea of heaven. Sure, I used the online megastores, but I've since re-discovered the pleasures of instant gratification: having that book or CD now, as opposed to 5-7 days.

roger striffler
10.15.00 @ 11:00p

I love to shop on-line for some things, and I especially love it for doing comparisons and research, and finding the lowest price. That said, I have to admit sometimes there is just nothing like instant gratification. I'll buy 8 CD's on-line that I've been meaning to get, but then I'll hear one new song on the radio, decide I need to hear the rest of the album NOW, and I'm off to the local record store. I realize I'm paying more, but it's a premium that I'm willing to pay to have it now.

jeffrey walker
10.16.00 @ 7:08p

Instant gratification does come up. But if I can save several bucks, I can wait. Let the company be foolish enough to lose money!

in fact, you can't BELIEVE how much I saved in groceries prior to priceline discontinuing the bidding on groceries thing.

In all reality, that first trip back to the grocery store sans priceline was quite the let-down.


roger striffler
10.17.00 @ 11:43a

It's really cool to save the cash, I'll give you that. It kinda sounds like the grocery thing takes a little planning - not my strong suit. One of the other benefits to "real" shopping is the browsing and finding things I didn't know I needed. Not real cost effeective, but fun!

c j
10.22.00 @ 9:25a

I must admit that it's hard to go back B.I. (before Internet). My husband is addicted to Travelocity and Priceline whenever we have a trip coming up. And I've found that there's no place like home when I want to check out competitor prices before making a purchase. Perhaps it's the latent couch potato finally coming to the forefront. Where else can you order plane tickets, get the release date of the new Barenaked Ladies CD, investigate the political agendas of the Presidential candidates, apply for a job, and run a background check on that creepy bagboy at the supermarket? All of this before the stores open AND without having to take off your fuzzy bunny slippers?

joe procopio
10.23.00 @ 12:10p

For the stupidest shopping experience on the web, go to haggle zone. Good Lord, this is irritating.



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