I recently set out to buy a new winter coat. I have been meaning to make this purchase for some months now, but as I dislike shopping and hate the idea of wasting a weekend morning or afternoon doing something as dull and perfunctory as all that, I had put it off.
I have had the coat I would like to purchase in my mind for some time and luckily enough for me, it’s based in fact, not fiction. I often decide on buying something based not on anything as useful as its availability, but rather on an idea in my head of something I might like. You can imagine how this makes shopping tricky.
Anyhow, as I said, I’ve been meaning to make this purchase for some time now. So finally I went, after work, to the seventh circle of hell, also known as Oxford Circus, where I knew the flagship store to be. I was feeling quite impressed with myself about this actually. There is a smaller store, nearer to me, in a less crowded environment, but as it’s not the flagship store they don’t always have everything a bigger store might.
I had checked online, to make sure this coat still existed, and buoyed by the fact that it did, I set out, at pace. I made it to Oxford Circus with little in the way of irritation and went into the three-storey shop and looked around. But I couldn’t find the coat. I asked several shop assistants who were disinterested in me and the coat I wanted.
Online, they told me. You have to buy it online.
Fuming, I went home and promptly called The Mom.
“Online, the girl said. And then proceeded to ignore me and my petty requests.”
“Maybe they’ll have it here. You can check when you’re home.”
“No, more expensive at home. Even with the exchange rate. And there are only three left online.”
“Maybe you could choose another coat?”
“I’ve been thinking about this one for months. I think I like it.”
I am not known for liking things even when they are things I ought to like.
“It’s just like my old grey drug dealer coat.”
“I think you should accept the signs, dear, and give up on the purchase.”
“No. I must have this coat. It’s brown, big pockets. Tweedy.”
“I think the size is wrong.”
“Again, sounds awful. Do not purchase.”
“I just did.”
“Online, that’s what the girl said to do.”
“You can always return it.”
“That will be a palaver. I will have to like it.”
“What are the chances of that?”
“Do not question me.”
Now, first of all, let me explain. In high school, I had a grey coat that The Mom always called the drug dealer, as I looked like I was a dealer when I wore it. Not the fancy, blinged up modern type, but rather some throwback to the Beatnicks and Burroughs and that sort of thing. Though, people did used to ask me with a shocking frequency if I was selling drugs when I was wearing it. No matter. I loved it. It was shaped like a labcoat and it was divine. It’s still in my closet at home, I won’t let her thow it out. Sometimes I wear it around the house because I miss it.
Anyhow, the problem about this whole coat situation is really that I had to buy it online. And The Mom makes a fairly valid point in that, unless I’ve seen something in person, touched it, tried it on and properly considered it, the chances of me liking it are not good.
And the other thing is that I actually like, now and again, when I am shopping, to go and see the things I will buy before I buy them. People are always saying how online shopping is great because there are not queues and it comes right to your door, but there are also many inherent problems with that.
The first one is postal delivery in east London. Not good. My package, had I had it delivered to my home address, could have ended up at any of my neighbours’ homes which would then see me knocking on doors every night during the week to see who’s taken my coat in.
I had it delivered to work, which means I have to pay attention to the things I sign for, we get a lot of courier deliveries, and I have to hope that it arrives on a work day and before I fly home.
There was also the not so small problem of my internet connection which ranges wildly from bad to good to just given up which makes the endless number of pages one has to go through to conduct a transaction tricky to say the least.
Much as I don’t like shopping, I don’t want to live in a world where everything will be sold to me online. I like to touch things and look at them, and consider. And also, if everything goes online The Mom and I may never again have our twice yearly comedy trip to the mall.