Dorothy Rosby
contributing columnist
I type in my name, address, credit card number, discount code, my mother’s maiden name, my first pet’s name, the name of my best friend in fourth grade, the model of my first car and the nickname of my second grade teacher’s oldest child and…ta-dah!
The online form locks up. I close out, go back in and do the whole thing once more and…it locks up again.
I have two choices: I can give up, or I can call the business in whatever faraway place it is, wait on hold while a recording says over and over, “Thank you for your patience,” and I scream, “What patience,” until I’m finally able to talk to a real person who may or may not want to talk to me.
This is a true story—mostly—and it illustrates one of the reasons I’d rather shop locally then let my fingers do the walking with online shopping. Here are a few more.
1) When you shop locally, knowledgeable store associates can not only help you choose the right product for your needs can tell you how the darned thing works. I assume you already know how to use dog treats and dishtowels, but you might need some coaching on a laptop or a chainsaw. A little advice could mean the difference between many years of using the product happily or tossing it at the wall when you can’t get it to work the way you think it should which, by the way, could void your warranty.
And don’t you love how clothing store employees come to your dressing room door to offer you another size when you’ve been a bit too optimistic? And how they reassure you when you’re standing in front of a three-way mirror eyeing yourself critically in a stylish cocktail dress—and knee socks.
Oh sure, when you’re posed in front of your bedroom mirror checking out an outfit you purchased online, your children might wander in and offer an opinion. “Nice. What’s for dinner?” But that’s not the same.
2) It’s good to try before you buy, except for groceries. Don’t do that. Honestly some of us don’t even know what size we wear. Most women I know have a range of sizes in their closets and not just because they’ve been a range of sizes. We all know sizing varies based on the cost of the clothing—maybe the more money we have, the more delusional we become.
But even if sizing were consistent, women’s figures are not. Two women wearing the same dress in the same size won’t fill it out the same. And neither of them will fill it out the way the model on the tag does.
3) Before you buy something locally, you can smell it, touch it and shake it, though if you shake it too hard, you may have to buy it even if you don’t like the way it smells.
When you order online there’s no guarantee that what you see on the screen is what you’ll get in the mail. Do an internet search of online shopping scams and you can see a stylish jumpsuit that looked more like pink surgical scrubs when the buyer received it, a bridesmaid dress that bore a striking resemblance to a night gown I once owned and an attractive three-piece bedding set that was only one pillowcase when it arrived—and not an attractive one.
4) All of the above means you’re less likely to have to return your purchase. And returning products is the worst part of shopping, mainly because nothing ever fits back in the box you bought it in. It’s as though new purchases expand when they’re exposed to oxygen.
Some companies offer free shipping. Big deal. If they made returns easier, they’d really have something to brag about. And by “easier” I mean they’d send a friendly representative to your house to package the item, take it to the post office and stand in line to mail it for you. Maybe they’d even pick up a roll of stamps for you while they’re there.
5) When you shop locally, you can shop with friends and make it a social occasion. Sitting on the couch with a group of pals all pointing at their iPhones isn’t an occasion; it’s just another day.
6) You can hide purchases when you buy them locally. If you buy something you don’t want your husband to know about, maybe something for his birthday—or something for your birthday—you can keep it in the car until he’s not home. If you buy it online, you have to make sure you’re home the day it arrives and you have to have a good story ready for when he says, “Was that UPS at the door?”
7) Shopping locally burns more calories than sitting at your computer with a bowl of maple nut. Not only are you racking up a lot of steps on the old Fitbit walking from store to store, you’re hauling your purchases like a pack horse. You’ll probably come out ahead even if you stop for a donut and a Frappuccino while you’re out.
8) Shopping locally is good for the community. When my son was young, I spent many hours watching Little League baseball games and I never once saw the name Amazon, Wayfair or Overstock.com emblazoned on the back of a uniform. Doing business with the good people who are regularly hit up for all manner of donations and sponsorships seems like the least we can do.
Having said all of that, I will admit there are times when shopping online is the way to go. Maybe the product you need isn’t available locally, or maybe you’re quarantined or under house arrest. Maybe you’re embarrassed to be seen buying a particular product, like head lice shampoo or a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Or maybe you’re not the type to worry about internet security, and you’re a whiz at filling out online forms—in which case I could really use some help.