The online shopping dilemma

On Tuesday this week there was an op-ed posted on The Verge that was making the argument that the author will never sign up for Amazon Prime. In fact the column was a bit of a scathing rejection of Amazon as a whole. Many of their arguments focused on how Amazon tends to kill local businesses, because they sell items at such low prices that no one else can compete. In particular the author decried the notion of “deals” which tend to just influence people to buy things that they don’t need, because they’re getting a good price. The entire article is worth a read.

The whole article got me thinking more about my own shopping habits, and what I like and don’t like to do when it comes to shopping. I’ve always been a bit of a window-shopper, and have spent many an afternoon browsing around malls, or the local Best Buy. I like looking at things, holding them, and contemplating if I wanted to make an investment in them.

Getting to physically touch things has a profound impact on our buying decisions. As a case in point, when I was shopping for my mirrorless camera I was deciding between the Olympus and the Sony. I ended up going with the Sony, and one of the major reasons was because of how it felt in my hands. That’s something that can’t be replicated in an online shopping experience. For that reason, I hope there will always be local places to buy things, and try them out, without the hassle of shipping and returning things that you don’t like.

Yet, online shopping has brought us tremendous convenience, especially for things that we can’t find locally, or things that we don’t want to buy locally. We often order our cat food from Amazon because I don’t want to always be running to the pet store for just one thing. I order it, a couple days later it shows up, and I forget about it. It’s a great way to deal with mundane purchases that don’t need to take up time and gas for a special trip to the store.

However, I still enjoy the trip to Target a few times a week. Sometimes we don’t even have a big list, but I simply like going there to get a few things I need. I can’t pin down exactly what it is that I like about making short trips, but it feels comfortable to me. It puts the entire online vs. local decision into a weird space for me. I love convenience, but I love the experience of a real place. I don’t know that the article I linked above will change my habits that much, but it will give me pause when I think about if I should order something online or visit a store.