July 25, 2020

I Am Pretty Well Hooked



I admit, I am hooked. It might be very difficult to break this habit. It is simply too easy, too convenient to ever give it up. When I try I am almost always disappointed. The good news: what I am hooked on is not illegal or dangerous to my health.

Online shopping has me hook, line, and sinker.

Of course, I could blame this behavior on our locked-down virus-avoiding lifestyle at the moment. Until now I have never used curbside pickup or delivery services for grocery and household products, and very rarely for meal delivery. After all, the whole point of eating out is to go out.

But, the virus situation has opened up a new world to me. The convenience, the increased safety of not mixing with others, and the ability to find (mostly) what I need (except for toilet paper and disinfectant wipes early on) has been a pleasant surprise. Not walking up and down the aisles means I can't make impulse purchases. I stick with what I need when placing an order online.

Of course, there is more to life than pantry items and paper towels. Thinking back to the good old days before lockdowns and social distancing, I figured it would take longer to accomplish so much online. Take clothes shopping, for example. I would like to see the actual color or fit of a new sweater or shirt. I feel better if I can try on a pair of shoes before buying. 

But, the physical stores never seem to have what I am looking for in my size, or color, or style. The display shelves looked like a tropical storm blew in the front doors tossing everything in a jumble. Clerks were on lunch break (regardless of the time of day) or didn't know because they worked in another department.

The place where large pants are supposed to be was just as likely to be where small or medium sizes end up. The shoes I want always are available in sizes smaller than my feet require.

Sometimes, I have been told by an employee that their particular company is putting most of its resources in developing and strengthening its online presence. That becomes obvious when a customer wanders the aisles. Of course, recently, that was a very smart decision. Retail outlets are living or dying based on their online presence. 

To complicate matters, Phoenix is caught in a weird shopping time warp: winter clothes start appearing in August. Summer weight shorts, shirts, or bathing suits are much harder to find by then. While some parts of the country are not that far from tugging on a sweatshirt, we have another two months of 100 degree days. Summer-appropriate clothing is still needed. My savior? Online stores, who manage to offer four seasons worth of clothing twelve months of the year. 

How about odorless paint thinner or particular paint colors for my hobby? Yes, I can buy what I need in various stores....if in stock. Too many times I have driven to a Michaels or someplace similar and found the paint thinner shelf bare or the color I need not available at that location. But, if I check online, another location does have what I need. They will pick it off the shelf and deliver my purchase to the trunk of my car in a few hours.

New blades for my electric shaver,  4 color Bic pens (I love these!), a new water filter for the refrigerator, specialized cables for various electronics? I could drive all over town to check on an item being in stock, but that is frustrating.

So, I use the power of the Internet to find what I need, in my size or color, made to fit my brand of whatever, and that odd cable needed to hook Betty's phone to an external hard drive. A new amplifier for my listening and dancing pleasure? It is available at Best Buy, but not for a week. Amazon wins that game with delivery in 24 hours.

I am quite aware of some of the issues with online shopping: the damage to the environment from all those trucks loaded with all those cardboard boxes, the poor working conditions inside the massive warehouses, and the low wages too many folks are cursed with. 

Of course, the brick and mortar stores have delivery trucks coming in from all across the country to deliver stuff probably made in other countries by workers who are lucky to make a dollar or two a day. Then there is the cost to heat and cool large retail spaces, light them up, and pave large parking lots. So, neither approach is damage-free. Plus, the instore workers have been risking their health for the past few months to keep those grocery shelves stocked.

I have taken advantage of Amazon's offer to group all my orders together and bring them on one day a week, instead of a package today, another in two days, and yet another on Sunday. That is a small step toward curtailing some of the waste. For a really small need, like repair parts for my sprinkler system, new furnace filters, a can of white paint, or something along those lines, I drive the ten minutes to a place I am sure will have what I need and is open. The Internet isn't best for everything.

But, if I am any indication of how many consumers act, I would not be investing in retail space right now. Shopping as a hobby turns some folks on; to me, shopping is a necessity, a chore, something to complete as quickly as possible. 

It is also an area of my life where my lack of a strong consumerism gene becomes obvious. I look to reduce what I own to just what I need. I don't buy something online because I am bored, or it looks flashy or inviting. I don't go crazy on Prime Day. I buy something because I need it for some reason. The last several months have strengthened that behavior. Shopping as a hobby or way to kill time might be another victim of the pandemic, at least for the foreseeable future.

Oh, there is one area of "regular" life that I am anxious to resume: dining out. Having dinner delivered, at inflated prices, doesn't do it for me. To help support a local restaurant I have done so a few times in the last five months. But, the experience of leaving the house and joining others in a restaurant environment is one that Internet shopping cannot replace. And, after Covid-19 lockdown, I want to see other people enjoying themselves over a meal.

Same for baseball games. The season started yesterday...in empty stadiums with none of the excitement that comes from 40,000 people. I want to go back to Chase Field. That is something online will never replicate. Museums, live plays, even movies feel different in person. Streaming has kept me sane, but I want the physical experience at some point.

What about you? Am I a little unusual? Do you like to physically touch, see, smell, or otherwise physically interact with something before plunking down your credit card? 

Or, will you and I cross paths someday in that great, always open, always well-stocked, Internet store in the sky (or cloud)? 

26 comments:

  1. I do agree with you on most of this. I have had to return every piece of clothing I have ordered online. I hate that. Yes, somehow, clerks are always on lunch or from another department. More interaction and socialization would be nice. Touching things before i purchase is very important! "Touching" and "seeing" my purchase is probably what i miss most about shopping.

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    1. I can buy socks, underwear and white sneakers online. Otherwise, it has been a disaster. The colors, fit, and fabric are never the same as they appear on the web site. Luckily, I am a shorts or jeans and T-shirt dresser, so I am OK with few clothing purchases.

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  2. I've never enjoyed shopping, so I take advantage of Amazon Prime quite regularly and there a few clothing companies like L.L.Bean and Woman within for clothing and have done so for years. I've even bought furniture and rugs online, mostly at Wayfair and was super happy with what I got. I really don't like shopping for clothing online as much as buy other stuff o9nline because returns are a pain and usually not free like with Amazon and there are so many elements you can't predict---fit, quality, fabrics, color. Crubside has become a big thing here during the pandemic. You go online to a local store's website, place an order online or over the phone, then go pick it up without having to exchange money or go in the store. Not sure how that's going to work in the dead of winter, though.

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    1. Curbside works well for me when I order art supplies from Michaels. Places like Lowes or Home Depot are ones I must go inside, though. Finding the right piece to repair something requires a visual search!

      I use Amazon Prime constantly, not only for the delivery option, but the streaming video that comes with it.

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  3. I don't like to shop. I go only if I really must have something-like last summer when my 1 pair jeans fell apart. I bought 2 identical pair and I'm good for another year. Fortunately I have enough clothing to last at least another year and IF I lost weight, another 2 years after that--where's that laughing/crying emoji when ya need it?

    We have a Home Depot 2 miles away for home repair needs and hubster does that "shopping". Otherwise, it's a low-consumer lifestyle for us. We've gone 100% use it up/wear it out/do without!

    Like you, I miss dining out. Takeout? It's cold by the time we plate it and although we would love to support local small business, it's a bummer eating cold food. We did go to early dinner Thursday and went straight to the outdoor patio where we were alone. It was lovely!

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    1. THe place we order takeout most often is a sushi restaurant, so the food is not warm to begin with. The one time we did order delivery for a dinner that should have been hot, we had an Elle experience: lukewarm at best. We reheated it, but that wasn't really the point of paying extra.

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  4. My wife thinks I'm weird, but the only shopping I like to do is at the grocery store. I can do some of that online, but it's not the same. Come to think of it, though, one of these days I'm going to have to get another pair of pants.

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    1. For the past 5 months, who needs pants?

      I prefer grocery shopping at the store, too. Why? I am a sucker for some of the endcap displays that convince me I need chocolate covered crackers, a dozen cans of chicken noodle soup, or hard cider.

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  5. It took Ken a while to get the hang of Amazon but he is now addicted. He used to do at least 8 trips a month to Home Depot, now he can get just about EVERY home improvement item shipped right to the house. He has a certain type and brand of tee shirt he likes and orders them in a few colors for summer. Figured out his fave jeans and sizing and that too arrives on the doorstep. He even has some favorite salty pretzels he cannot get locally and is excited when they arrive! I’ve been an amazon girl for a while,especially for art supplies , but I do love to do my clothing shipping at Turnstyle, a local consignment store that carries quality brands like Chicos and some boutique brands I love.. now, however, I have enough clothes to last me to the next pandemic!! Especially since we are not traveling,cruising,going out to dinner or theater. Boo hoo. I miss all those experiences so very much. I just read that the Botanical Garden opens at 6 AM now.. I think you need to call for a reservation so they can monitor numbers, but am considering that for a “real life” outing,soon. When it gets cooler ,maybe the Boyce Thompson Arboretum too. I LOVE grocery shopping and have missed it so I have ventured out to Trader Joe ONLY (NO large buildings or stores for me!) at senior hour,every two weeks.That’s been a real uplift to my spirit and I buy myself some fresh flowers each time. I no longer linger in the aisles looking for new products to try,though, it’s in and out quickly. But instacart has been a godsend during the months I absolutely would not go out anywhere. I think you are correct that these new habits will change the way people shop and go about life.. WHen we can go back to restaurants,I have become very fussy about where my dollars will go. I like how much money we are saving. I think we will splurge much less often at a better quality place, like maybe House of Tricks every few months vs. the less thrilling experiences we used to have, more frequently.I don’t think I will ever take “going out to lunch” for granted again— but we are so used to cooking almost all our meals now, I think I will dine out much less in the future. I see all this really affecting commercial real estate. There will be so many changes in our society,going forward when we CAN get out of the house!!!

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    1. House of Tricks in Tempe? What a beautiful outside dining experience. We haven't been there for several years.

      I think one direction we will take at some point is to restrict our dining out to local restaurants and bars..no chain places though I love IHOP for breakfast. The smaller establishments have had a terrible time. I'd rather my money went to keep them afloat.

      Before we moved to Chandler I remember coming to Gilbert from Scottsdale to visit our daughter's family and being amazed at all the empty strip malls and storefronts because of the aftermath of the 2008 recession. If I were a betting man, that is probably what the next several years will look like.

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    2. Yes, House of Tricks has always been our “special occasion” restaurant. I love their patio, their outdoor wine bar, and yes, they are locally owned.I’m with you on that one..we must support our communities when we can.Unfortunately, many of the downtown Gilbert restaurants are not to my taste and are VERY expensive for what i think is average food. But we have our other favorites. Yes, the corner a mile from me to the East was in the midst of a large commercial project .. I don’t see companies lining up to rent office space or open new restaurants any time soon. I wish they would replant it with the sorghum they ripped up and bring back the burrowing owls they relocated!!

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  6. I was doing this long before the pandemic except for food. When it's all over I'll still be using clicklist and delivery. But I never though of shopping as social. I order my clothes from 3 stores. I know my sizes in those stores and can locally return if needed. There is really nothing you cannot get. We got the new motherboard for the oven part of our range. I do try and expand outward to other stores including Walmart. I figure my Amazon guy probably delivers packages to fifty homes in the same amount of mileage as if i were driving to the store. I really wish there was a way to tip this guy like I di the instacart or restaurant folks. I do continue to spend locally for small independent shops. My yard store, independent book store, a mall bakery and five or six others have all had delivery or pickup and i make an effort to shop through them.

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    1. I agree with tipping Amazon drivers. That would be a nice option; in our climate they deserve it. Same for the UPS guy who servicers our neighborhood seemingly every day.

      Independent book store..YES! I hope our local book heaven, Changing Hands in Tempe makes it.

      Shopping is a necessary chore, but nothing I can't easily put off until tomorrow, then the next day.

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  7. Perhaps online shopping can be expanded. Would it be possible to order new neighbors? I might like to replace the one that I informed it was not polite to miss picking up after their dog. I definitely would replace the man in the store that volunteered we were about to have another civil war and then told me how he prevented the commies from killing me because he served in Korea. I would like to pick the replacement for my neighbors that just moved away. They were one of the too few people in our area that support a turnover in the White House. The guy whose garage sounds like a constant sawmill would be a possibility. So would the family that leaves their small dog out for hours while it constantly barks.
    Before I finish my list and place my order perhaps I should first check with my neighbors and make sure I am not on their order list. Never mind.

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    1. Funny, Fred...a nice piece of whimsy amidst all the problems we are having.

      Thanks for the smile.

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  8. I have learned to love all types of on line shopping....especially for clothes. Found on line stores that are true to size and hardly any returns and excellent quality. I’ve had amazon prime about a year and it is so worth eliminating all the driving to different stores to find things! I do like to grocery shop in person for some reason. In my local area there are more and more shopping areas that have not closed up and no large anchor store type places within 1.5 hours from me. I think I will now be an on line shopper!

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    1. Once established, it is a hard habit to break. The convenience and prices are enticements to continue, even after things open up.

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  9. I have used Amazon Prime for years and as many others, have used it for more things since the Pandemic. I need to try shoes on and went to about 3 places in the Asheville area that said they carry Tennis Shoes. They really didn't or had a poor selection. I almost resorted to on-line retailers- Tennis Express and The Tennis Warehouse, but went to Charlotte to visit relatives and found a great pair of shoes at a small local tennis shop. I kind of wanted to try on-line but still not comfortable with shoes and some clothing. Also, I have done the grocery delivery service; I like going to the grocery store and it's been pretty safe. Thanks for the good subject!

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    1. Correction- I haven't done the grocery...

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    2. Clothing remains a no-go online for me after bad experiences with shorts, jeans, and a shirt. Until retailers open back up, I live with what I own. In a fashion emergency (!), I will buy a shirt or shorts at Walmart. I know the quality is suspect, but it serves its short term purpose.

      I have used grocery delivery, but much prefer in person for that. Since Walmart is pretty aggressive about masks, I feel quite safe.

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  10. Things have definitely changed on the shopping front here! I used to enjoy seeing the latest season entries at several clothing stores, but now I find myself wearing the same things on repeat and wondering where or when I'll get to wear some of my favorite things again. I have ordered a couple things on sale, since I pretty much know my sizes, but I find the shipping process is slow, the return process was forever before the local branch store opened back up, and honestly, I just don't feel like I need anything.

    I do still like to grocery shop in person. There is something about choosing my own produce and walking the store that I still prefer. And since we just moved, we've been regulars at Home Depot and Menard's (Midwest version of Lowes or Home Depot). But once we are settled and set up, I can't imagine we'll need those trips as much.

    I have to agree that Amazon Prime is a solid part of our lives now. I've had too many wandering trips around town looking for something specific to support local businesses, then returned home frustrated to order it online anyway. I think Bezos has all of us hooked for the foreseeable future.

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    1. Amazon has cemented itself into our daily lives like few other companies have. I am hard pressed to see an scenario where someone else can seriously challenge what they have built.

      I am with you on grocery shopping. I have watched the people who go up and down the aisles picking up food for online orders. They select something based on speed, not necessarily the best-looking fruit or soup can without a dent. Even in an era where we are so disconnected from our food sources, grocery shopping in person still seems important to me.

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  11. Rumoured in UK press today that our Chancellor is considering an extra tax on online shopping to encourage us to get back to and save the High Street, whilst raising funds to fill depleted Treasury coffers!

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    1. Well, that is a goofy decision. Sounds like something Mr. Trump would come up with.

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  12. Grocery shopping has never been a chore for me, and I would be reluctant to order online for delivery or pickup because I'm incredibly picky. I'm that person who digs to the back of the shelf to find the freshest goods with the "best by" date the furthest in the future. Yup, really picky. Since I know that no grocery store staff member would do that, and since I don't want anyone else picking out our meat or fresh fruit, it's off to the grocery store I go. I really don't mind, but these days I go early, shortly after the store opens, and get in and out as fast as I can.

    I'm a big fan of online shopping for household goods, entertainment items, travel accessories, some RV/auto supplies and shoes. Shoes only because Alan and I both wear a specific low hiking shoe for everyday activities, and I can easily order replacements in the correct size and preferred color.

    Clothes shopping is the WORST. Neither one of us is a fashion fiend, and we both live in jeans or shorts and t-shirts. It's gotten to the point where I can easily re-order our favorite jeans, Alan's favorite t-shirts and my preferred sleeveless t's online when ours are wearing out. Underwear and socks are quickly restocked during a Wal-Mart grocery run. Shopping for anything else (like shorts) is a despised chore done reluctantly and in a store.

    Although I will admit to having a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart, I have appreciated the store to no end during the pandemic. In our area, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have the widest aisles and the greatest variety of goods. It's much easier to maintain social distancing at Wal-Mart than at any of our other three grocery stores, plus I can pickup motor oil, a coffeemaker or the aforementioned underwear during that one stop.

    In thinking about our situation, I'd have to say that the pandemic hasn't really impacted our way of shopping, with the exception of limiting the number and time of grocery runs. That being said, I can see how online ordering and delivery or pickup would be a lifesaver, both literally and figuratively, for many.

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    1. I am fully in your camp(ground). Walmart gets correctly criticized for some of its labor practices, but it has been a lifesaver during the pandemic. Having virtually everything under one roof and allowing it to remain open is good for everyone's health. Instead of wandering from store to store, shoppers are within flour walls. With most wearing masks and hand sanitizers readily available, the spread of the virus is better contained.

      My yearly clothing budget is small...just enough for replacements of essentials and an occasional new sweater or sweatshirt for cooler weather. Clothes shopping is a chore for me, even when everyone is healthy.

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