Why it's time to pull the plug on online shopping

After one too many cock-ups, I've decided once and for all to pull the plug on online shopping.

The whole 'click and you're done' experience  has just never really worked out for me. It's been more like 'click and you're soon to be standing in a queue 10 deep at the post office, desperately hoping the box you're returning comes in at under two kilos'.

And they said it was supposed to be all so easy and enjoyable.

The gift of getting

Of course, in many ways it is. Who doesn't love buying exactly what you're after at 10pm while lying in bed? Who doesn't love the tracking-updates saying your parcel has just arrived at the local postal depot? And most of all, who doesn't absolutely cherish the delivery of a parcel to work, the perfect panacea to an interminable afternoon.

That moment alone is worth the never-ending stream of emails that will flow to your inbox from that point on, constantly trying to lure you back in with that most seductive of marketing ploys, the promotional code.

Shopping old school

But even with all the joy that comes from receiving brown cardboard boxes and scribbling your signature with a crappy stylus, I'm giving it up.

From now on, whenever I want to buy a piece of clothing – no matter how cheap, small or insignificant – it will be down to the shops I go.

Looking back, my first ever major online purchase was a portent. It was a Donegal tweed jacket from a store in Ireland. I had scoured the internet and found what I thought was an absolute gem, exactly what I was after. However, I felt a bit uneasy when buying it because of the rather strange fact that there was nowhere on the page to select my size.

The back and forth

I put it down as a simple oversight; too busy making superb tweed jackets to notice small omissions on their website, I told myself. So I emailed them my size instead and thought all would be fine.


But, surprise surprise, when the jacket arrived it was about four sizes too big.  So I sent it back accompanied with a very polite letter stating that they'd mistakenly sent me the wrong size. When the replacement arrived there was some improvement, it was only two sizes too big.

Exasperated, and sick of late night phone calls to people eating their morning tea in Donegal, I decided to fork out a significant sum and have it altered.

It's not you, it's me

If only I had realised at this point that online shopping wasn't for me…

But of course, I put it down to an aberration, an unlucky one off, and resolved that next time it would all go swimmingly.

Yes, there were some good times: the English shoes I've bought when the Aussie dollar has been riding high against the pound (as it so temptingly is now); the jacket I took a chance on for my wife's birthday present that happened to fit her perfectly; and of course, the immense sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing the mark down on a multi-buy shirt order – that one almost requires a cup of tea and a lie down. However, the game is now up.

The final nail in the online coffin

The final straw came earlier this year when I came across an overseas shoe store with prices I just couldn't resist. The only trouble was I wasn't quite sure of my size and having recently shipped a pair back to the UK at the cost of $60, I feared another $60 could easily follow. So I did that most awful thing, the thing retailers reserve a special type of abhorrence for: I went into a store and pretended to be interested in the shoes only to try them on and get my size.

Well, who or whatever adjudicates karma must particularly dislike this practice also. When my shoes arrived they fitted perfectly alright, they just happened to be the wrong colour. What they sent wasn't even close.

What I want, when I want

While the mistake was duly fixed by the retailer at their expense I was stuck pondering how ridiculous it all was. Shipping shoes back across the world when the exact ones I wanted were sitting in a store not 10 minutes down the road.

Yes I'd pay more for them, but I'd get exactly what I wanted, be served from a person employed to make sure I got what I wanted, and if I chose to I could have worn them straight out the store. What a thought!

Bricks and mortar shopping, sign me back up.

Had a similar series of setbacks with online shopping? Share your experience in the comments section below.