Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ho and Hum of Online Shopping

The holidays are almost over and I pretty much survived Christmas shopping - the worst part of the endless, obligatory traditions.

I finished my Christmas shopping by early December thanks to online shopping. I did have to pick up a few stocking stuffers at a local store - but if there was a website that sold candies, trinkets, and lip-balm at reasonable prices I'd use it gleefully - such is my hatred for shopping.

I particularly hate shopping at malls and big-box stores any time of the years, but especially during the holiday season. In addition to my hatred of physical shopping, we don't have a car and we live in a city with an inadequate public transit system. And, like most people nowadays, I have very little free time. So getting the time and to the location of physical shopping is a real challenge. Even if I can get there, one has to deal with the hordes of hell at the stores.

Such is my hatred for physical shopping - made a horrendous hell at this time of year - that the protracted pain of Christmas shopping can just completely kill me. So I love online shopping as it has saved me endless grief and given me a semblance of a life during the onslaught of required holiday preparations and traditions. I have done the bulk of my Christmas shopping online for the past 15 years.

Well, I should have had not online shopping let me down this year.

We have bought almost every type of thing online: computers, books, toys, clothes, collectibles, shoes, groceries, electronics, postcards, etc.

We got some good stuff this year via online shopping. I got a great price on a Canon Selphie photo printer for my daughter at a price cheaper than any store had it. Our only computer died on Cyber Monday, I could not go physical shopping as, but we got a great deal online (if a computer has to die Cyber Monday is the best day to do it, but just a bit too convenient).

We got a book not available in physical stores (I know as the bookstore's website has a handy feature to see their physical store's inventory).

We have had a few problems with online shopping. Shoes that weren't really the size they said they were (that's why you always have to try shoes on first).  Shirts that looked great online but were a bizarre colour or odd cut. The laptop I recently got had great online reviews, particularly for its keyboard - but it turns out the keyboard isn't anywhere near as good as it was hyped.

I was going to buy clothes as gifts online, but I learned from my mistakes. Unless the price is so good that one can afford to get something shipped that is potentially unwearable or can be returned at a nearby physical store, then it isn't worth getting.  The return process for items is just too painful and usually too expensive for that to be an option.

Then there are stores that charge just way too much for shipping.  I wanted to get my mother some stuff from Crabtree and Evelyn, but their shipping cost was too expensive. Online stores have such a lower overhead that they can easily afford to offer reasonable or cheap shipping. But at least, I was able to browse their products online and figure out what I wanted so that when I went to the store I was in and out in a flash (I still don't think websites get the credit for motivating in-store shoppers that they deserve.)

The worst this year was trying to find a gift for people that have everything on my student budget. So I saw some cookies on a national retailer's website that seemed unique and cool for $15.

When I got the cookies they were the tiniest pack of cookies I had ever seen. I'm talking the same weight as a chocolate bar.  It was so small that the package was almost the same size as the photo on the website - seriously I held it up to it and it was within millimetres!

It is so expensive that per gram these cookies are about the price of gold, or crack, or elephant "processed" coffee.

Okay, I have to assume some responsibility for not specifically checking the weight of the cookies and figuring out how truly infinitesimal the product is. But then, this store is not known for selling gourmet items and I think they have some responsibility to offer products for sale that are consistent with the overall market in terms of size and to fairly present their products. It didn't help that the size described on the website and the product didn't match either - being off by 25%.

So I was convinced that online shopping had let me down. But then I remember that another great thing about the Internet is how easy it is to complain via email! So I drafted off a complaint about both the inaccurate product description and overall misleading size.

Within a day, I heard back from a customer service agent who apologized, rebated me $10, and escalated the problem of inaccurate product description to her managers.  This awesome response restored my faith, enlarged my Grinch heart, and convinced me to continue my shopping online ways!

Happy holidays!