Recently I went into an electronics store to buy a stand for my television. (We’d had it mounted on the wall but after redecorating decided to place it on a table). Unable to find what I was looking for I asked a salesman who replied they no longer stocked television stands in their stores, rather, customers had to order these items from their online website. That surprised me, although I guess it shouldn’t. Last summer I needed to buy a wedding gift. I drove to the store where they were registered, printed off their wedding list and wandered through the store to make my selection but everything they listed was ‘only available online’. Why do we have store fronts if nothing is available there? (aaaah, maybe that’s the point!)
Companies are looking to ditch their ‘bricks and mortar’ because of the cost…..no real estate to maintain. And no real estate means no sales people to pay. Now they can direct customers to their self-serve online shopping site, where we can do all the work ourselves. And if we do need to speak to a live body there’s an 800 number answered by someone in a third world country, who doesn’t speak English, but that’s ok, cause he hasn’t a clue about the products we’re inquiring about anyway.
I think mine is the last generation of those who legitimately like to shop in person. I need to touch it, see it, feel it, before I buy. I don’t care about your easy return policy. When I ‘touch it, see it, feel it’, I know whether I want it, so if I buy I won’t need to return it, making your easy return policy unnecessary. I don’t want an 800 number. I want a sales person, a living breathing one who looks me in the eye. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to find these things and I suspect that’ll only get worse.
Future generations will likely only shop online and since I am not a member of the future generation my opinion matters little.
I think the hardest part of all this for me is that I (and many of my peers) thoroughly enjoy shopping. It’s an event, an outing. It’s a social ritual and for those of us firmly committed to retail therapy, it’s a religious ritual. When I need to buy a gift I thrill at the exercise of selecting that special something after wandering various shops. I love getting my fellow shoppers opinion, and when we stop for lunch we review our purchases, celebrating our ‘finds’. At the end of the day we all go home tired and satisfied because we enjoyed our outing and did our part to support the economy. Going online to order merchandise isn’t quite the same. It’s a mechanical task and for me, it takes all the fun out of giving a gift.
It’s been 3 months since I went into that electronics store and I have not yet gone online and ordered my television stand. I refuse to. If you can’t stock basic items in your store I won’t shop there. And if it costs more for me to buy the same item at a local boutique than via your online portal, I will do it, because I am determined to support the ritual of shopping; the way it was meant to be.
Technology has already robbed us of so many simple niceties. Can’t we just enjoy some of these manual processes, if for no other reason than socialization? I think I’m fighting a losing battle here.