It’s official. I am not an online shopper.
I have given the whole ‘online’ shopping experience the best kick at the can and am now resigned that it’s not for me. It’s suitable for some tangibles like books and cleaners, but anything outside of staples it’s a giant crapshoot.
Before ordering an elegant romper on Etsy, I conferred with my daughter, who is savvy with this process. She showed me how to check references and search reviews to confirm whether the seller is legit, but she also warned me that there is a fair-sized margin where you could deal with someone shady, so buyer beware. This is critical when shopping outside of the big brand stores. I took a chance and ordered the romper prepared to be elated. What arrived wasn’t remotely close. The fabric was like nothing I had ever seen—a material mimicking parchment paper with a texture resembling the skin on the batwing of a centenarian.
It was 20 sizes too small, its success lying in maximizing a camel toe like no other garment on the market. It screamed fire hazard, like the days of clothing from Honest Ed’s where garments actually had a stamp in the bottom left corner of a shirt or pyjama top reading ‘flammable.’ Trying to correct this purchase was impossible. I spent more time speaking with customer service than I spent organizing my wedding. I had to accept that I was duped, and with no likelihood of a refund, it was time to kiss my money goodbye. That’s tough anytime, never mind during a pandemic.
Even though we’re still in a pandemic, we’re not all supposed to be Frida Kahlo or Truman Capote, who famously spent a lot of time working from bed. We’re still employed and need to wear something outside of pyjamas. This is where the concept of online shopping is seductive. There is no parking, waiting, line-ups, and you can even be in underwear as you scroll through screen upon screen of dreamy fashion, naively believing that is what you’ll receive. Assuming, at that moment, the life of Jane Jetson. Commanding orders through some replicator device and receiving precisely what she desired in her modern world. Except in the real world, that outcome is nada, at least for me.
At our age, forgetting why we walk into a room is normal. That same truth shadows my purchases. Once I press enter, I’ve pretty much forgotten what I bought. When the doorbell rings and the package arrives, it feels a bit like a gift. But I am fooled that that lapse in memory is bringing me the goods I wanted. You’re guaranteed a surprise, and it doesn’t mean it’s good. My experience routinely fell in the margin of WTF?! Not remotely close to what I ordered.
What you can overlook in the process are the hidden details. Specifying size is one. The floor runner that’s supposed to cover your long hallway now serves as a bookmark for your paperback. You can include a note with directions for your purchase only to discover that it’s been placed right on top of the box, so the person you don’t want to see it gets to read it first—nothing like mom opening her mother’s day gift that is supposed to be a surprise. I read about a woman who ordered a little blond girl as a cake topper. It got auto-corrected, so a little blind girl with a cane showed up instead. Fancy branded knapsacks that arrived in toddler size aren’t cute on a 6′ 7″ guy weighing in at 300 pounds. Then there are 30″ jeans that are ordered, but 42″ ones that arrive. Sexy crocheted halter tops featured in a stunning image come too small for your pet hamster to wear, never mind covering your left boob. Hardly capable of covering any area beyond one nipple. I read about a guy who ordered a tv stand for his new television and received one in doll size. Kitchen tools are not exempt from the madness. Some tools like ladles designed for an industrial kitchen, where thousands are fed daily, sized similar to a medium-sized pot arrives, others so small even Barbie would object. I’ve experienced and heard the most objections around boots, coats and overall clothing that wasn’t remotely close to how it was featured.
Want some crystals to bring good energy during this time? How about painted rocks instead? Men’s tank tops coming in the size of a dress ideal for clubbing and pillowcases, which are supposed to be exciting shapes for children, are instead an image of the form printed onto a regular pillowcase. I don’t understand how these screwups can happen, let alone how the jackass goods are manufactured to satisfy this distorted mandate: beautiful knitted or crocheted blankets arriving as strings of yarn. Stuffed animals shipped void of stuffing, others that fit in the palm of your hand or some you need a garage to house because of their ridiculous size.
eBay has a reputation of messed up stuff, from expensive sneakers arriving with two of the same feet or casual sporty shoes showing up as slippers. A three-foot pool being exactly that. Enough room for three tiny baby feet.
The self-governing of these sites is pitiful, and why, amongst other reasons, I’ve given up on them. It’s not even a 50/50 chance that you’ll get what you ordered. It’s barely 1/99 you’ll get something remotely close to what you desired. How these unregulated shopping platforms are permitted to continue blows my mind. The more severe issue that Amazon is famous for is the returns. There are none. They end up in landfills or are resold as second-hand goods. As I consciously work daily to lessen my carbon footprint, this is like bringing a commercial jetliner into my carbon equation. The packaging, even for small staples, is ridiculous. During COVID, our kids were receiving packages daily, but theirs came in envelopes. I ordered some ink for my printer, and it came in a box big enough to pack hockey gear for a small team. I was beyond stunned. The excessive packaging is like flipping the bird to Mother Earth, and I won’t do that. There’s no reason a flat box that is only a few inches long and wide, and half an inch deep requires a package that can house a snowmobile.
Small businesses got hammered during the pandemic, and unrightfully so. I’ve always supported them because I know that their vitality spills into that of the surrounding community. They are an integral part of a neighbourhood’s tapestry and collectively are the engine for the Province. I’ll happily go to a store, use my senses to see and touch something. Larger stores and small businesses offer that. I don’t want to pay to have something delivered that isn’t even close to what I ordered and then be burdened with the process of returning it if it’s even possible. When it comes to clothing, shoes, eyewear, even linens, I’m old school and want to try things on. My feet need to be comfortable, so I’m not buying shoes online. As it is, I need to try on a variety before I know what fits and what doesn’t.
I spoke to a lovely lady at our local supermarket whose job is to select groceries for those that prefer online grocery shopping. I asked her if she was selective when choosing produce, and she explained that you can specify the level of ripeness you prefer. I shared with her that I witnessed some loading apples and oranges past their ripeness date. Instead of reaching a bit further, they went for the lower hanging fruit in the bin where they didn’t reach at all. No thanks. I’ll pick my own bananas and everything else and get versed in what is new in the food section. It would be blasphemy for a foodie not to pick their own peppers, tomatoes or apples. I admire those that can do this; I’m just not one of them, and that’s okay. I shop often and love supporting my corner produce store for when I run out.
I understand the importance of an online presence, especially for small businesses but have only experienced difficulties with other more extensive and clandestine platforms. Small Businesses stand behind what they do, and I continue to prefer to frequent their stores. I can always repeat the purchase online, but I typically don’t. I like bricks and mortar, speaking to the staff and getting further acquainted with their updated inventory because you don’t know what you don’t know. Thank God for small businesses and the gutsy entrepreneurs who have the hutzpah to work through this challenging time. Supporting them is easy. The pandemic has illustrated that their importance is far more exponential than what we recognized them to be.
I’ll happily pass on the online stores on the larger platforms, which can’t begin to be what these small businesses authentically are.