The Fun and Ease of Online Shopping vs. The Brick and Mortar Option

 


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When my sister and discussed our shopping plans this year we found to our surprise that our attitudes were much different. She was the hip New Yorker, living in a trendy section of Brooklyn and commuting in to her publishing job in Manhattan. I’m a down home Midwestern type of girl who prefers to drive everywhere and I love my suburb. We were chatting together on my mother’s couch after we had stuffed ourselves with cake from our parent’s anniversary party, and when we got onto the topic of shopping (my favorite pastime), my sister gave me quite a shock. While I was dreading the upcoming birthdays and Christmas, but my sister had a very positive outlook. She was looking forward to the experience, and I was flabbergasted.

As it turned out, she was a devote of shopping online, and so she was looking forward to surfing around, researching options and deals, and getting all her shopping done early. I argued with her, saying that the personalization of actually finding a gift by oneself in person was something that couldn’t be duplicated by a machine. Also, many of the really great items I would like to get were not the kind of items that were technologically oriented, and what little vendors would have their stores online?

The debate got pretty heated, and soon we decided to bet on it. We bet each other a new iPod player (pretty technologically oriented there, but I figured that I could sort it out once I won) that the other person would have much better shopping runs if each of us used the other’s techniques. I was positive that if she could discover how nice it was to go into the brick and mortar shops, she’d forget all about online shopping – and I definitely knew that I would like shopping online. Since we were basically buying gifts for the same people, we’d have a fair contest. We’d be fair in our evaluations, as well, and insist on telling each other how we’d done. Each of us would rate the shopping system on ease, quality, price, and getting gifts that was appropriate and appreciated by the recipients. Here’s our results:

For our brother’s present, I hopped onto the internet and typed in bird watching into the search engine. After searching through a couple options, to my surprise I quickly found a birding book that was specific to our state, plus a CD of bird calls. The site not only offered free shipping, but would wrap the package and mail it to the my brother. “Well”, I thought. “That was easy – but I knew books and CDs were easy to get via the internet. How about something tough?”

I thought I’d cheat a little bit by trying to find something that could only be bought locally. That failure would take my sister’s idea out the utility of online shopping and blow it completely out of the water. For this specialized task I picked one of my favorite foods – the organic, wild blueberry pancake syrup sold in our local farmer’s market. While it’s always a pain to wake up early on Saturday mornings to drive all the way down to the market, it’s worth it to get this locally-made, yet exotic product. Unfortunately for me, it was easy to find. I entered the phrase Blueberry Syrup into Froogle and it was the first product sold there. I had no idea they sold this stuff on the internet! The new franchising and marketing opportunities have enabled the local growers to market and ship their product all over the states.

One last shot – I’d look for something for my sister, to get something so personal and unique that you’d definitely have to go there to get it. It was an item that we had seen on a friend’s wall, and for years now my sister had wanted one of her own. As it turns out, Thai elephant painting (the elephants grab paintbrushes with their trunks and then paint a canvas) is now online, and yes, they will take custom orders. I hadn’t really been willing to fly to Thailand to get a painting, anyway, but I certainly hadn’t thought that would have been online.

I called up my sister in defeat. After two hours online, I had bought all my major presents. Sis answered her cell phone and said that she was still stuck in rush-hour traffic on the way to the store.

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