The wonders of online shopping are numerous, but not handsome enough to tempt me.
Words by Zara Zhuang
My first brush with online shopping was two years ago. I received a lovely dress.
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But I didn’t buy it myself. It was a gift of sorts, from a neighbor whose daughter purchased it on the Internet but couldn’t fit into it when it arrived.
How very vexing. The frock was lovely, a creation from Love, Bonito, one of the most successful online retail companies, or blog shops, in Singapore. If I had bought an item that turned out to be ill fitting, I would have been quite annoyed with myself.
And this is precisely one of the reasons that keep me from shutting myself in with my laptop and buying everything online. Don’t get me wrong — I love me some Amazon. But I use online shopping more for books or household items for which quality isn’t crucial.
But it seems I might be in the minority here. Data from market research firm Euromonitor shows the online retail market in Singapore has been growing since 2010 and is expected to amass a market size of S$1.64 million in four years’ time, while growth in physical retail markets has slowed over the same period.
Even though the opposite trend is seen when examining world markets, with global retail sales forecasted to reach S$26.5 trillion by 2019, I could be on the wrong side of history.
[Photo Credit: Vulcan Post]
Shopping is an experience
But underneath my 27-year-old appearance, I’m an old person and very much stuck in my ways.
I live to wander. I love to browse. I prefer to look at actual items instead of staring at webpages, gauging product dimensions with flimsy measuring tape, and scrolling through page after page of customer reviews, from five-star ones (“Best glassware ever made!”) to one-star (“Waste of money — don’t buy this crap.”).
And shopping, to me, remains a social activity. Inviting your friends to go shopping likely still means a physical trip to the Orchard strip — you won’t find a group huddled in a circle with their laptops (unless they happen to be playing World of Warcraft or some other MMORPG).
If you’re still unconvinced, let me remind you: A trip to the mall is an adventure. Snack stops, meal breaks, people watching — you know you love them.
Please don’t, Mr. Postman
I’m a fussy shopper, one of those people who insist on reaching for an item further in on a shelf or rack, even if it’s just a box of cereal. I feel compelled to make sure I truly like what I buy, so I go about feeling fabrics, trying on clothes for size, assessing the toughness of plastic or metal kitchen utensils, and knocking on watermelons to listen out for hollow ones (yes, folks, that is how you pick ripe watermelons).
You could fall in love with what you see on display but start doubting it when you examine it more closely. Changing your mind then is as easy as walking away — that’s an advantage lost to online purchases.
Plus, instead of lining up at the post office to return a purchase by mail, I’d much rather go back to a brick-and-mortar store to do an exchange. At least I can walk through a mall and buy myself consolatory bubble tea along the way.
Lies, damn lies and photography
What you see online may not be what you get delivered. You could receive products with a ton of problems — chipping paint, cheap fabric, shoddy stitching, plastic that snaps like a crispy pretzel. It’s the non-human version of OkCupid profile pictures.
By now you must have heard the horror stories about people discovering they were sent an unconvincing variant of what they ordered online: the ghastly wedding dresses that barely resemble their ads and the mother who was forced to give up her haul to her daughter when the clothes that arrived were way, way too small.
[This is what happens when you order ridiculously cheap clothing from Singapore, says Lindsay Ferrier. Photo Credit: Huffingpost]
You might think I’m hating on Internet retail, but I do enjoy the occasional online browsing. I’ve spent many (unproductive) hours saving more than 300 pictures of items I liked from ModCloth.com, Forever21, Etsy and Victoria’s Secret (this was years before the birth of Pinterest).
But for now I’ll save actual online shopping for bland everyday items such as kitchen towels and toilet rolls.
I’m not about to give up shopping trips just yet. Years from now, I expect I’ll still be faithfully hopping to the nearest mall on a regular basis — even if I need only a plain white tee.