This year, I’ve been trying to do most of my Christmas shopping online. The idea is that I can shop whenever, see lots of selection, compare prices, and not have to drag the kids around. Since I live in New York, there’s also a matter of physics. I don’t have a car, so I can’t park in a mall parking lot, load stuff in and drive home. I either have to carry the packages myself (which I did on one occasion, nearly toppling over Sam’s stroller in the process), or get them delivered, which is like ordering things online, only not as efficient.
I managed to succeed in completing my list (mostly). In theory, this online shopping should have saved me time. However, as I’m looking over what I’ve purchased, I’m not sure I came out as far ahead as I thought I would. Here’s why:
1. I used work time to shop. When I put on my coat and go to a store, I know I’m not working. But as I’m editing a column, it’s easy to pop over to Amazon and… next thing I know, I’ve lost a big chunk of a workday. Since I’m paying for babysitting during my work hours, this time doesn’t come cheap.
2. Abundant choice is excruciating. Often, you just want a nice present for a person. You don’t want to compare all products under the sun to find the absolute perfect thing (at least I don’t). In the past, I’ve sometimes just gone to Target and walked out with the smaller things I’m getting for everyone on my list. Online, I’ve been all over the place.
3. And then there are online screw-ups. I won’t name the particular retailer, as they did make amends and were very sweet about it. But I tried to order two of the same plant online for two people from a site that was offering 30% off on that particular day. I entered addresses and gift messages, only to have the system claim at check-out it had lost my information. So I went through and did it again. Same problem.
I called customer service, and a rep entered my addresses and gift messages, which was a bit excruciating to dictate over the phone. Unfortunately, as soon as she got them in, her computer had the same problem! So she had to put me on hold several times as she figured this out. Finally, she learned that we could go over to a sister site which had the same product to re-enter the information. But she couldn’t just cut and paste so I had to dictate everything again.
Then, as we were nearing the end, my phone (which I’d been on for 40 minutes by that time) died.
I wound up going to the sister site myself and putting the info in successfully, though their shipping charges were higher and they didn’t offer 30% off. The first retailer offered to give me a rebate for that. So I’m not out any money. I’m just out an hour of my life. That’s probably less time than it would have taken me to buy a present in a store and mail it at the post office, but we’re not talking an order of magnitude different.
What do other people think? Have you shopped online this year? Did it save you time or money?