I, like most men, often have an adverse reaction to shopping.
When I was a teenager, I prided myself on being a pretty good shopper. I went shopping with my sister, and her female friends, and I found it amusing, if not outright pleasant. Quite frankly, I probably had nothing better to do, and it was one of the few interactions I had with the opposite gender, so it doesn’t suprise me that I enjoyed it.
Things, however, have changed. Shopping is no longer an activity, it is a chore. I have subscribed to the hunter-male aspect of shopping where the goal is not the journey, it is the destination. The destination, of course, is always at home, in my sweatpants, relaxing with a beer. Shopping for an object is merely an obstacle in the way of that eventual nirvana, and as such, ought to be treated with disdain.
Even though I can clearly see the ills and evils of shopping, not all treat shopping with as much trepidation as I do. For you, I present to you The Hidden Costs of Shopping.
Late at night, I once made the bold claim that sleeping is inefficient. This, of course, was met with a
resounding counter argument. Like that, I will also claim that retail shopping is incredibly inefficient. I know what I want, I just don’t know where to get it. Why do I have to travel through multiple levels of multiple malls into multiple stores to look at all the gray shirts in said mall? Why doesn’t the mall have a “sort by type” option? At the very least, they could group the stores by type so that I don’t have to travel such great distances between practically identical shops.
Retail shopping takes time, and a lot of it. It takes time to travel to the mall, from the mall, around the mall, and in the mall. It takes time to find the clothes, assess the clothes, compare the clothes, and try the clothes on. It takes time to buy the purchase, carry the purchase, and transport the purchase home. I find myself constantly “out of time”. Now that we’ve been wedding shopping, and now that we’re just over a month away from the wedding, I find that time dominates most shopping decisions. At first, we could say, “Well, we’ll wait and see if there’s something better”. Now it is simply “good enough”.
Hidden Cost: Greater potential for rushed purchases
Prevent: Plan ahead; prepare lists; call ahead, don’t browse
Some people feed off the buzz of other people. They get into a room and just light up. I am not one of those people. Being surrounded, trapped, and confined into small spaces with lots of people often just makes me feel cranky and paranoid. I’m also 90 years old, apparently. Regardless, shopping sucks the life out of me. Especially after a long day at work, I’m not ready to expend the energy to make a smart purchasing decision, let alone comparison shop. This can often lead to “feel good purchases” and impulse buys.
Hidden Cost: Potential for impulse purchases.
Prevent: Apply the $100 Rule; bring snacks to combat hunger, sleeve your credit cards.
So why don’t I just shop online? These days, I can get practically everything delivered to my door. Fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, why even bother leaving the house? Sadly, the online world of shopping has just as great hidden costs as retail shopping does.
Shipping & Handling
Don’t bother trying to save gas by buying online. It definitely won’t save you much money. Most online retailers charge you for the convinience of having goods delivered to your door. If they don’t charge a shipping fee, the cost is reflected in the price of the object. Even when you can get “free shipping” from certain stores, like Amazon, you have to purchase a minimum amount of goods. Increasing your total purchase to earn free shipping will often end up costing you more money, which is exactly why they offer it. When I ordered the complete series of Newsradio from Amazon I decided to pay the shipping rather than pay for more useless crap I won’t use.
Hidden Cost: $5+, depending on item/location. Also has potential to increase your total purchase price.
Prevent: Batch purchases to take advantage of free shipping, stick to lists, check the cost with and without additional purchases
It is much more difficult to return something to an online store than it is to a brick and mortar. If your purchase arrives damage, its your word against the delivery companies. If you end up purchasing a brick instead of a macbook pro, you have to prove to them that your delivery was made in error. Its your money on the line, not theirs. Shopping online also has a higher risk of returns, as certain purchases can’t be guarranteed to fit. See: shoes, clothing.
Hidden Cost: Additional shipping fees, burden of proof upon the consumer
Prevent: Use a credit card with good consumer protections, deal only with reputable dealers, check return policy before you purchase clothing
Inability to Bargain
Shopping online is a blissfully quiet, but impersonal business. One of the best ways to get a deal on something is simply to ask. Its hard to ask a credit card form for a discount. When we were purchasing our wedding rings, we could have gotten a pretty good deal online, but we couldn’t guarantee that we would like how it looked on our fingers. We had plenty of online options, and if we waited, might have been able to score a sweet deal off craigslist or ebay, but we would have no way of knowing what quality it would be. That’s why we shopped in person, and asked for a deal.
Hidden Cost: Potential loss of % savings
Prevent: Check for coupons online, call and ask for a discount, check locally to see if they’ll match/better the price
So which is better? Online or Retail? Neither. Both has their advantages, disadvantages, and hidden costs. This rant, while attempting to get my fiancee to make me shop less, is attempting to get us all to think just a little more clearly about the true cost of a purchase. Online might save us some time, at least at first, until we have to deal with terrible customer service on a botched delivery. Retail might be easier and quicker, but might come with additional purchases and grumpy companionship (so sorry).
So which do you do? Which do you prefer? How do you combat the hidden costs?