Sometimes Shopping Online Isn't Worth The Inconvenience Or Hassle
Published 6/24/08 (Modified 3/8/11)
These days, you can buy pretty much everything under the sun online. All it takes is some fancy keyboard typing and mouse clicking, and you can Google your way to an ideal product that offers both perfect features and perfect pricing. Theoretically if you wanted to, you could put yourself under house arrest, never venture out of your house again, and still live a relatively comfortable and convenient life by surviving on supplies and groceries ordered through the Internet. All you would need is a trusty computer or laptop, equipped with a reasonably fast high speed internet connection, and you would be good to go. With the emergence of online bargain shopping, consumers no longer have to pay the higher retail mark up prices due to overhead costs found at brick and mortar stores. Consumers are now free to go with online merchants who are passing along their own cost savings to online customers due to not having to pay extra expenses associated with maintaining physical retail locations. On the whole, prices found online for the exact same product otherwise available in a regular real life retail store are almost always lower. Frequently, the cost savings can be tremendous - as much as 10-25% savings simply by ordering the desired product online rather than purchasing it at a corresponding retail store location.
Unfortunately, there is one significant and readily present downside to shopping for products online - the inevitable wait time and frustrating inconvenience of having to wait around for days and weeks for the delivery to be made. Depending on the shipping option chosen and the actual distance separating the online merchant and customer, the wait time can be anywhere from as quick as 3 days to as long as 3 weeks for more expensive back ordered merchandise like custom built computers. Of course, one could always speed up the delivery process to overnight delivery status, except the much higher price of expedited delivery would just pretty much negate the intended cost benefit savings of online shopping to begin with. With gas prices overpriced and soaring as they are, future shipment and delivery prices are anticipated to see increases in the coming years.
Despite the Discounts and Savings Associated With Online Shopping, Forced Delayed Gratification Is A Pain In The Butt Cheeks
I'm currently a huge and almost obsessive online shopper, particularly with popular online auction sites like eBay (I like to call myself, an eBay Powerbuyer). My goal and objective since the advent of the Internet has always been to maximize my money by taking advantage of all online bargains and arbitrage cost saving opportunities whenever possible. Over the years I've turned to my tried and true eBay bargain hunting approach for such things like heavily discounted subway debit cards, expensive laptop electronics, and bulk pet food. By combining inherent online price discounts with cash back shopping sites and free promotional coupons found online, I've generated significant cost savings for myself over the years. Recently I've even tried to see if I could garner some extra tiny savings by utilizing online grocery delivery programs like Stop & Shop and Giant Food's Pea Pod service and Safeway's supermarket delivery service, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm going overboard with the whole online bargain hunting obsession.
While I've managed to save quite a bit of money for a long time due to my online shopping practices, I've had to learn and force myself to hold back my instant gratification urges. For example, when I suddenly needed to buy a GPS device immediately for my car, my frugal mentality dictated that I head to eBay and Google Products to perform a few hours of thorough price comparison shopping. Eventually I settled on using eBay to maximize my purchase price savings. However, the whole buying experience took up to 2 and a half weeks to secure my product online and to finally receive it in the mail. Not only did the auction bidding process take nearly a week of several failed bid attempts before I finally won my bid, but it also took more than a week for the item to get delivered and shipped to my address. While sometimes the compulsory delayed gratification is helpful because it prevents me from hastily snapping up newly released and grossly overpriced electronic gadgets during their maiden introductions, the mandatory wait time from delivery to receipt can be a major pain and inconvenience, especially when you need to use the desired product sooner than later. Now I'm starting to wonder if the online cost and supposed time savings are worth the great inconvenience and terrible hassle of having to wait so long. Instead of being able to see the physical object and walk out with something in my hand, shopping online offers me only a confirmation email and a claims ticket for something I won't receive for weeks.
While Online Shopping Sites Will Always Offer The Best Prices, Sometimes You're Better Off Paying A Little Extra At Brick And Mortar Retail Stores
While I used to think that shopping online was a time saver in that the buyer did not need to waste time getting dressed, hopping into their gas guzzling car and driving the miles needed to get to the local mall or retail store, I'm starting to realize that for certain smaller ticket items, or things more urgently needed, the time savings of shopping online is sometimes only illusory. While websites offer many more options for consumers, sometimes the graphic intensive sites offer way too many confusing choices. While browsing speed is no longer an issue due to faster broadband Internet download speeds, trying to navigate some of these product and feature heavy websites from only the four corners of the computer monitor screen can be a burden. Oftentimes it's just easier and more simplistic to drive to the store, walk around the shopping aisles to inspect your choices with your physical naked eyes, or ask a live customer service person for help, than to buy online.
While shopping online is great because you don't have to pay sales tax most of the time (this former benefit might be disappearing soon in the future) and prices are generally lower, I think there may be times when the ability to walk out with what you want immediately is worth the extra cost. I realized I was starting to take the whole online shopping deal a little too far when I found myself willing to wait one and a half weeks for a $12 handheld Sony FM radio that I found online, instead of buying it from a live Best Buy location for $15 - for a mere total cost savings of $3. All in all, I think buying very expensive electronic products online makes a lot of sense, but for smaller, cheaper day to day items, buying online just isn't worth the hassle or inconvenience anymore.