March 3, 2011


Not long ago, Owen and I went out and I bought shoes. This is not a very notable event. As a matter of fact, I can read your minds and you're thinking he's talking about buying shoes? He's clearly out of ideas. But it was notable when you consider three things. 1) I rarely buy new shoes and generally wait until shoes are falling apart before I walk barefoot into a shoe store to procure more. 2) Owen in a shoe store is something to behold, mainly because he must try on every pair of shoes he sees. 3) Shoe shopping is one of the few things I don't do online.

I used to love going to stores - any stores - to shop. One of my primary decompression mechanisms was going to a bookstore after a long day or week at work. I'd walk the aisles, listen to the music, smell the books. That last thing almost got me kicked out of a few stores. A lot of my favorite places are gone or are fading fast. Barnes and Noble is still around but music stores like Tower shut their doors long ago and are now being joined by Borders. Now most of my shopping is done from the comfort of my Uncle Dick's old chair, iPad in hand.

So, while those brick and mortar browsing day's aren't long gone, they're fading fast. If I need books (which I always do), I download them. If I want music, I surf online, listen to samples, read reviews and download what I like. The only things I'm not 100% comfortable buying online are clothes. Nothing beats a nice tailored suit and I've realized that I'm more than a little picky about the dress shirts I wear (if I had a billion dollars, I'd buy tailored, French-cuffed shirts from Nordstroms but I don't so they're totally out of my league). I feel the same way about shoes. And vegetables. I like to choose my own vegetables.

What do you buy online? And what do you have to buy in-person?

Posted by Chris at March 3, 2011 7:07 AM

Most things I will buy online, but not groceries, shoes, pants and here is the big one, leather purses. I love to pick them out, touch them, smell them, etc before I buy. I know, weird, right?

Posted by: Maribeth at March 3, 2011 7:29 AM

Your post made me think about the Books-A-Million that was next to my office. I spent many a lunch hour there, and it closed a few weeks ago. :( But to answer your question, I buy everything online, even clothes. I hate going shopping, because where I live, going anywhere is a pain in the ass. The only thing I can't buy online is groceries and gas, and if I could figure out a way to pump my gas by clicking a button, I would so do it.

Posted by: Stephanie at March 3, 2011 7:38 AM

I did my whole wedding on Ebay (for a fraction of the cost I might add)...I've bought cars on Ebay and the only thing I dont buy online is clothes (although you might count catalogues in that). In fact, thinking about it, it's actually hard to think of something I dont do online. I've sold my house, found a place to rent, bought cars, bought books and music as well as shopping online. I rarely if ever visit a shop as everything I want is conveniently at my fingertips. I guess the only time I dont use an online purchase is when I dont actually know what I need and have to go to the shop for advice, such as new windscreen wipers for my car.

Posted by: AnonymousDeveloper at March 3, 2011 7:42 AM

I buy most everything, except clothes and food, online. You can buy anything from home these days! In fact, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of a pound of composting worms that I ordered online right now. Who knew?

Posted by: Elizabeth at March 3, 2011 9:27 AM

Like most everybody who has experienced the convenience, I can't stand to have to go to a store to shop for something, especially if I can get it online. But I think the thing that makes me choose to buy online versus physical is this:
Can the experience be transferred to a different medium?

For example,
Books can be read as paper, or on a screen. Online.
Music, from CD, or MP3. Online.
Car -> there is a distinct physical presence that the car generates, and I may or may not like it; does not transfer = physical presence.
Toilet paper -> While there is a physical experience, I never "feel it" prior to using the product post-purchase = online.
Veggies -> If you have a knack for picking ones you like, then you know you can't abstract that away ( at least not yet ) = physical.

I can see scenarios where if I always used remote sensing technology to purchase items ( which would mean I would learn _new_ techniques and adapting my old ones ), then I could transfer veggies to an online queue.

And yes, we need to be able to fill our tanks remotely. Best argument yet for electric cars with wireless charging capability! :)

Posted by: metawizard2 at March 3, 2011 10:06 AM

Textbooks for school - online
Books - half price store
Clothes - online (women's sizes never fit anyway, no point to pretending in a store)
Groceries - online when I had no car
Presents - I've been into making them myself
Furniture - craigslist. Where does that land?

Posted by: alektra at March 3, 2011 10:39 AM

It's sort of odd, actually. For a while there, I went to the online methods for music, but recently I've found that independent places in my town are closing, similar to what you've mentioned. When our favourite video store closed last month, it was a real shock. Consequently, I have started to frequent the local stores again. They may be going down, but at the very least, I like to go in there and not be a part of that.

The other thing is that I recently bought a Sony Reader to house my books. Having read two so far, I completely love this thing. The screen is unbelievably awesome for reading, and the ease with which I can carry around books that I'd historically leave at home because they're too unruly has me reading more, and in places I have never read before. Thankfully, the independent bookstore in my town is also going in to selling ebooks this spring.

All this is the long way around saying that I actually *miss* the social aspects and decompression therapy of going out to get the stuff I need or want. I don't buy anything online unless I can't get it in town. That happens more than I'd like still, but at least I've made it option 2.

Posted by: Martin at March 3, 2011 11:07 AM

Most of what I buy these days can be broken down into groceries, clothes, or baby supplies, so there's not much day-to-day things I'll buy online. That being said, any presents I need (birthdays, Christmas, etc.)are always bought online. I just don't have the time or desire to battle crowded stores when I can have everything just shipped to the front door.

Posted by: J at March 3, 2011 11:39 AM

The line is more blurry every year. I bought my first pair of online shoes last year when the stores I shopped didn't have any styles I wanted. It worked out great and I'll do it again.

I guess the only things I still wont buy online are big ticket items like vehicles, or customized things like hockey helmets and skates. Too many variables there.

Posted by: Brad at March 3, 2011 11:42 AM

I buy food in person, that's pretty much the only thing I insist on. I have to buy jeans online because I have an extra-long inseam and you can NEVER get those in stores. Unless I'm having an instant-gratification moment, I'll just order from Amazon. Two days later, no shipping charge, it shows up on my doorstep. Sometimes even overnight, if I order early in the day.

I used to love cruising through record stores, seeing what imports they had. There are no record stores in my town now, except Best Buy and meh, it's just not the same. Our Borders closed too. So it's Amazon for me.

Posted by: Brooke at March 3, 2011 11:57 AM

i hate to buy food stuffs in general... the bank actually refused my card at a grocery store once cause "i hadnt spent more than 20 bucks in a grocery store in more than 7 years" they thought my card had been stolen...
i have even bought cars...on ebay...
the only thing i dont buy online is jeans and boots... and do love to browse a book store ...but
everything else is fair game ...

Posted by: suicide_blond at March 3, 2011 12:38 PM

I do buy clothes and shoes on-line. I can get the name brands my kids like for ridiculously cheap prices on ebay. Yes they are used but we dont mind. I have also had great luck with turning around and reselling them for as much or even more than what I paid for them.

Posted by: Leilani at March 3, 2011 2:38 PM

I buy everything online with the exception of food and furniture. I can't easily return furniture, so I want to be sure it looks and feels good in real life; a picture doesn't cut it.

Clothes, shoes, toys, housewares, toilet paper -- all that stuff is more easily purchased online. I am not shy about returning what I don't like. The library, netflix, and my husband's music site provide for all my entertainment needs.

I hate, hate, hate shopping in malls and chain stores, so going online has been a real plus for me. However, I'm starting to feel guilty about the shipping -- the non-union shops online retailers use, and the fuel wasted to get stuff directly to my door.

Posted by: Laura Gato at March 3, 2011 3:52 PM

I like to go shopping but I do buy a lot online as it's more convenient and there aren't any other people to annoy me. I never buy trousers online though, and only shoes once as I was confident they would be comfortable.

We don't have Borders anymore in the UK, it was a good store although they were looking pretty scruffy in their last year or so of trading.

Posted by: Katherine at March 3, 2011 4:48 PM

There's really very little I don't buy online. I do still buy shoes in actual shops (particularly for the girls), but have also bought them (successfully) online. I do all my food shopping online except fruit and vegetables (because I have Montpellier's largest organic-and-not-organic market twice a week almost literally outside my front door); I buy most of my clothes, most of my daughters' clothes. I buy books (not downloading - can't bring myself to try that yet, I still love paper), DVDs, CDs (no, no MP3 either), toys, games, travel arrangements (hotels, trains, planes, rental accommodation), gifts, toiletries, perfume, make-up, jewellry...
A lot of this is because a) I don't drive (don't laugh!), b) I work a lot and there's no such thing as "late opening" (or, when there is, I can't afford/don't want babysitting for shopping) and c) I'm pretty much nocturnal nowadays through poor self-discipline and an inability to go to bed at a reasonable time.
Seriously, without Internet, my life crumbles...

Posted by: Kirsty at March 3, 2011 5:29 PM

, games, travel arrangements (hotels, trains, planes, rental accommodation), gifts, toiletries, perfume, make-up, jewellry...
A lot of this is because a) I don't drive (don't laugh!), b) I work a lot and there's no such thing as "late opening" (or, when there is, I can't afford/don't want babysitting for shopping) and c) I'm pretty much nocturnal nowadays through poor self-discipline and an inability to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Posted by: Balmain Clothing at November 24, 2011 1:06 AM