The joys of online shopping

19 08 2011

Coin bearing the image of King Cnut (Canute) from the British Museum

There is nothing quite like getting that little slip in the mailbox. There is a parcel waiting for you at the post office. Please collect.

Another little present, another little surprise.

I am particularly partial to the second hand book section at Amazon. All manner of out of print obscurities await me, often for only a few dollars plus postage. And by the time they turn up, it is a surprise all over again. This was an invaluable resources for a recent biography I was researching.

Then there is ebay. The thrill of the hunt, the last few seconds as the auction closes (refresh, refresh, refresh) and you scoop or get scooped in last minute bidding action. A quick Paypal transaction or a bank transfer, and hey presto, another little surprise is winging its way to your door.

The son of a friend found a website in America where he could design his own soccer boots, putting colours and logos together. He was terribly disappointed when he discovered they wouldn’t post to Australia. The prices for these made to order boots were similar to the mass produced boots available in stores here.

Following a recent trip overseas which included a number of museums and art galleries, I discovered that most of these boutiques are online. Those little items that I loved but didn’t buy – are still available to me and will be carefully wrapped and posted, wihtout the hassle of excess baggage.

So yes, the post office staff do know me by name. But I don’t want you to think I am a shopaholic. Shopping is a pleasure, while I have more books, shoes and clothes than is probably reasonable, I would like to point out that they have been collected and cared for over a number of decades.

And it isn’t just these items that I have bought cheaper online. I recently bought a rabbit hutch – larger and at a quarter the price of any I could find locally. I simply could not find an adequate alternative in any of the shops I could drive to. I have also bought exercise equipment and had it delivered to my door across the country.

Shopping online has a number of advantages to the average punter. Convenience – in a world where time is precious and we cocoon ourselves away in our houses, online shopping is available anytime, in the warmth and security of our own homes. Prices are often much better even allowing for postage or delivery. The range may be better.

What brought all of this to mind was the recent media interest from shop owners in Australia (and no doubt in other countries) complaining about online shopping. I can understand that this is financially threatening to them, and that it impacts on employment as well. But I can’t help thinking that online shopping isn’t going to go away.

Sadly, perhaps this revolution in shopping is like the advent of supermarkets and department stores, which largely drove the corner shop and speciality shops out of business.

It’s a brutal thing to say, but perhaps they need to work out how to survive in the new world, rather than trying to change it back.

It didn’t work for King Canute.

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