February 16, 2006


I hate shopping.

Okay, hate is a strong word. But I really don't enjoy the process of being in malls or stores. There are a few exceptions, like grocery stores and small independent boutiques where I don't feel overwhelmed by all the stuff and people. This isn't to say I don't like getting new things. When I want something, I sincerely enjoy getting it. I just don't like finding new things more than I dislike dealing with stores and people in them.

So, Internet shopping was made for me. I've been an Amazon addict since long before the bubble burst. I started buying shoes at Zappos long before it was popular with the general public. I ordered my bridesmaids' shoes & my shoes from an online vendor and despite the troubles I had with them, I found it MUCH more pleasant than going to stores and dealing with the physical reality of shopping. I picked out my bridesmaids' dresses from one of my favorite online clothing vendors. Last night, after going to David's Bridal and being shocked at the price one can pay for a piece of mesh-on-a-comb, I decided to buy my veil online. A couple of weeks ago, I saved at least 40% over the physical vendor by purchasing my bridal petticoat online.

The one bummer about shopping online, from a regular's perspective, is the difficulty of returns & exchanges. After several false starts, I've found that it's best to frequent online stores that allow you to do returns in their physical stores if something you order online doesn't work for some reason. Walking straight to the counter to deal with a human is much more enjoyable than sitting in a phone queue to speak with a consultant in order to learn just how much of a pain and how expensive it's going to be to pack up the stuff they sent you and send it back.

Some vendors have figured this out, lately. My last order from Victoria's Secret came with a pre-printed shipping label for returns and exchanges. When the pants don't fit, fill out the exchange information, slap the label on the box they came in and drop it off at UPS. Nice.

But the best online return experience I've ever had was last night. L.L. Bean is the maker of the rolling bag I've been using for school since my last bag broke in October of '04. A few days ago, the retractable handle detached from my bag. After two days of carrying my billion pound bag on my shoulder, I gave in. So, last night, I called L. L. Bean, prepared to hear any number of messages about when I could call during business hours or how long the wait was. I was shocked when a human answered the phone after no ring at 10:30 PM. I was even more shocked to learn that they will send me a new bag and a shipping label to send back the old back. I'm out the cost of the new bag, but only until they receive the broken one when I send it back in the box they use for the new one.

16 months after purchase, my trusty bag spontaneously failed. Had it lasted 'til the end of school (19 months) I would have been completely satisfied. But now, after personal service with no wait on my time schedule, from the comfort of my own home, and a brand new bag is on its way for what will ultimately be no charge... Well, I'm more than satisfied. Consequently, I couldn't help but poke around their website to make plans to fill whatever needs I may have in the future from their site.

Man, I love the Internet.

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