The New, “Simpler” Way of Christmas Shopping

Online Xmas

I can count on one hand the number of times I go “shopping” over the course of a year. Perhaps the following story will explain why. I’m apparently bad at it.

Our latest shopping adventure — it started with talk about getting a new coffeemaker.

The last few years, Gail and I have taken advantage of internet shopping, getting most of our gifts at Amazon. We are Prime members, so the shipping is free, gifts show up at the designated door a couple of days after ordering them, and the whole process is simple, effective, and easy. It seems more and more people are catching on — because we’ve noticed more and more items out of stock at Amazon as we’ve browsed this year. In fact, Amazon is so popular, rumor has it that Jeff Bezos is considering buying the states of North and South Dakota and turning them into giant warehouses.

We shopped online this year too, but we also bought a few gifts locally. This included our big present for each other, made possible because of some funds we had received. We needed a new mattress and a few other things for our revamped bedroom, and that meant we’ve spent more time out and about amid the silver bells and shoppers rushing home with their treasures.

Another thing we wanted was a new coffeemaker. We’ve been running two, a drip coffeemaker that I bought several years ago as a gift for her, and a Keurig that she bought a couple of years ago for me. It is possible now to buy a machine that combines both kinds of coffee-making, so we thought it was time to redeem some counter space. Besides, she could use the Keurig at her counseling office and one of our kids would be able to use the drip machine.

Of course, we started our shopping online. The machine was available at Amazon, but it sold for a lower price on a couple of other sites. That gave me an idea — we had planned to go out shopping on Saturday, so I thought I’d try to find the coffeemaker locally. Before going out, of course, I checked a number of websites for local stores. No one had it in stock at a site near us.

Then I found it — at our local discount warehouse club. Good price, in stock. I thought I’d order it online and pick it up at the store. That’s the way we do this capitalist consumer thing nowadays, right?

In order to shop at this club online, you have to sign up for a temporary membership. So I did, and bought the coffeemaker. Except after numerous steps to check out, I received an error message. This kind of membership does not allow one to buy online and pick up in store. Not wanting to pay the fifty bucks for the full membership, I cancelled.

However, the site said that our local club was having a guest weekend. We could go to the store, get a one-day pass, and purchase the machine. Plus, we might be able to get some other things for Christmas and for each other. Despite the fact that it was a day of torrential rains here in Indiana — we’re talking four-plus inches of rain — we ventured out.

We found our coffeemaker easily. And more. We have been talking about discontinuing our satellite TV service, trying a “smart” TV and just streaming the programs we want to watch. This could save us hundreds of dollars a year. While at the club, we ended up buying a smart TV for the bedroom and a wi-fi Blu-ray player for the living room. After also loading up on groceries for the guests coming over the holidays, we went home.

While setting up the Blu-ray player, I realized I had bought the wrong one. It was “Wi-Fi” but it wasn’t “Smart,” and the number of apps was limited. I would have to return it and get the next model. Therefore, I did what all good consumers do today, I looked online again for the best deal. It was available at a big box discount store, an electronics store, and at the warehouse club.

I went to the discount store first, where the website said it was on sale and in stock. I drove the fifteen miles, parked, and then raced through sheets of rain that were falling from the sky into the store. They had it, but it wasn’t on sale. Disappointed, I pulled out my smart phone and verified that the warehouse club had it in stock.

I got soaked again as I splashed back to the car and drove five miles back to the warehouse club. At the returns desk, the clerk said, “Just go get the one you want to exchange this one for.” So I went to the aisle. No sign of the model I needed. I told one of the associates that the website said they had the player in stock. “That’s because the website lies,” she told me, as if it were common knowledge. “The website is never right,” she added.

This sodden shopper was not happy. I thought the internet was supposed to make all this easier, even when you actually go to the store.

Back into the driving storm again, now to the electronics store. Almost there, I saw flashing lights ahead. The police were blocking the road and not letting anyone pass because the road was flooded. Did I mention it was raining?

So I doubled back and had to return to the road the warehouse club was on in order to circle around to the electronics store. I’m thankful to report they had the machine I needed, just like their website said. And at the same price their website reported.

I was already soaked, so a couple more times in and out of the car didn’t matter. I made it home through the impending flood. All turned out well. I peeled off my soppy clothing and sighed.

I love you, Amazon. I promise I’ll be faithful next year.

10 thoughts on “The New, “Simpler” Way of Christmas Shopping

  1. Mike, I feel exhausted after just reading this. I also feel cold and wet, though I’m sitting here dry and cozy. Oh, well, enjoy your new loot!


  2. > The apparent contradiction is resolved by the realization that chain stores don’t
    > really count as local. They are to some extent, of course, but they suck more \
    > money out of the local economy than they put in.

    The picture is actually quite complicated. Some big-boxes are notoriously parasitic [Walmart being the classic example] but others do not necessarily operate that way [Costco, for example, provides health-care to workers and an above industry standard wage]. Also the multi-use complexes that also house `truly local` businesses often have big-box anchors – and the financing of those complexes [and the required infrastructure to achieve sustainability such as transit stations and storm water management improvements] can often depend on the participation of the big-box corporations.

    A major grocery-store & department store chain in my region includes transit stops at most of its facilities – everyone on that system benefits. But it is not entirely altruistic – those big-boxes operate on wage-workers at wages where automobile ownership is unrealistic, and if those workers did commute the employer would then have to provide more parking which demands more real-estate [and a lower FAR (floor-space-to-acherage) meaning less tax revenue per acre] as parking-space which in turn requires more storm water management, etc… [parking space and storm water management is an often overlooked issue, it can be expensive].


  3. I was an early adopter of Amazon, especially for Christmas shopping. This was made easier early on by being in a family where getting nothing but books is considered a good Christmas. The result is that I haven’t been forced to do old-fashioned shopping trips during Christmas for many years. This is happy indeed, as those trips were uniformly hideous experiences.

    At the same time, I also support buying local. The apparent contradiction is resolved by the realization that chain stores don’t really count as local. They are to some extent, of course, but they suck more money out of the local economy than they put in. So I buy truly local to the extent possible: locally owned businesses, farmers markets, and the like. Anything I can buy that way I do, even if the price is a bit higher. But when, as is all too frequently the case nowadays, this isn’t possible, then I go for the cheapest or most convenient. In practice this often means buying online.

    Your mistake was trying to combine the two. Ordering something online but driving to the local big box store to pick it up rather than wait for it to be delivered sounds like a great idea. In practice, you have discovered that it can combine the worst of both worlds. You also ended up buying a bunch of stuff you hadn’t planned on: a feature for the stores, but a bug for the consumer. My advice is next time just have it shipped to you.


  4. I did online shopping for awhile. I have changed my mind.

    I shop, whenever I can, in my local brick-and-mortar stores. The ones that employ people and pay taxes that support my community, it’s schools, transit system, and parks.

    I’ve always hated shopping. But I’ve tried very hard to change my outlook. Not it is almost fun. You get to meet people, talk to people, and get some exercise.

    There is altogether to much fortress building going on, even if just in the name of convenience. We shop from home, watch movies at home, etc… and wonder why there is no community.


  5. Mike … Mike … Mike ….

    There are no “states” called North and South Dakota. Those are bad jokes played on us by Canada …

    And I love Amazon Prime. It has once again made Christmas fun for me by giving me back my time.


  6. I do not like shopping. There I said it. Because of this I am a targeted shopper, go in, get what I need, get out. So internet shopping should be right up my alley right? Wrong… because my wife likes to shop, window shop, comparison shop, deal shop, shop-shop-shop.

    I have lerned to look at it as time spent with my wife, dinner and shopping. We don’t do it often but if I suggest it I receive an additional 30% and value dollars in my brownie points account. Acting interested gets me 100 more points. OK, being a bit sarcastic but in truth I don’t like to buy things I can’t pick up in my hands and look at so internet shopping doesn’t work for me… unless its for somee Godzilla action figures fresh over from Tokyo for my son and only available at Banzai Toys are Us Guys in New York City (seriously have bought Godzilla stuff on the internet).

    Here’s a supporting story on my shopping prowess (and part of the story about meeting my wife). I was a young guy and had just finished working out of the local gym. I stopped off at the local department store picked up a shirt and pants since I was meeting some friends at a bar later and my clothes were trashed. I walked in, grabbed a pair of pants, and a nice button down shirt that caught my eye… took all of about 7 minutes. Got home and took a shower. When I took the shirt out of the package I realized it had long sleeves (it was the middle of summer) and so instead of stressing I simply made it a short sleeve shirt with a handy pair of scissors, rolled the sleeve up once to hide the jagged edge and away I went. Later that night I met my wife (no I did not meet her at the local Bible study, thats not how us Catholics do things), and the rest is history for another day….


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