Online or in store?
Look, I know this is a First World Problem, but I’m tired of being constantly being exhorted to buy anything and everything online. My reasons for this are many and varied. Firstly, the power of algorithms means that even if I do a single search online to investigate, say, current ranges of picnic bags, then for the next few times that I even approach the computer/phone/tablet I will be bombarded with promotional images of bags of all shapes and sizes, coloured and neutral, striped, spotted or squared.
However, if I stroll down a High Street and pop into a couple of shops in the search for a summer dress – currently on my radar but for some reason it’s proving infernally difficult to find one that I like – then once I walk out, I have left no trace of my activity. Actually I’ve probably been recorded on the in-store CCTV, but I assume that will be erased in the next fortnight.
Algorithms aside, to me there is a clear dividing line between what I am prepared to buy online and what I won’t: theatre tickets, flights, hotels, hair products, bits of electronic kit are all permissible, but clothes? Shoes? I am full of admiration for those people whose ability to visualise is so clearly more developed than mine. I can browse with the best of them, but I have no idea what something will look like on me until I’ve put it on. And as for shoes, you try being somewhere between a 39 and a 40. Whatever happened to half sizes?
‘No problem’, I hear you say. ‘The whole point of buying clothes online is that you expect to return far more than you will keep.’ In which case, the time saved by click-through shopping has to be set against that taken up by returning the unwanted goods. And woe betide you if you have inadvertently thrown away some of the original packaging.
And on the question of time spent on the entire process, this is another issue that troubles me. I have not been able to find any definitive studies demonstrating which out of online or in store shopping is the most time-effective occupation, but I do know that if I set off to the shops, once I’ve got to the last one in the particular patch where I’ve chosen to hunt, then it is job done. This does not necessarily mean that I’ve actually bought anything, and I’m probably fed up and hot and bothered. But it does have a beginning and an end. Unlike the online variety, which in theory could go on for ever.
Nowadays even the major charities have online shops. Now for me, and even more so for my co-dame Verity, the whole point in buying from charity shops is the thrill of coming across an item of clothing tucked in the middle of the hanging rail, which is so well concealed that only through concentrated effort and persistence will it be discovered. Combine this with the exciting discovery that it JUST FITS PERFECTLY and my cup runneth over.
So I fear I will continue to watch from the sidelines the delivery vans careering round corners packed with boxes full of clothes, shoes and bags all ordered online. I’m clearly stuck in a time warp where I trudge from shop to shop, trying to remain hopeful that what I have in my mind’s eye (or spotted on that interestingly dressed woman on the Tube) is waiting for me just across the road, in that shop over there. Best foot forward.