Online shopping is a godsend for introverts like me. It lets me troll several web pages at once, hunt for bargains without leaving my desk or my bed, and get a hold of all sorts of merchandise from overseas. Best of all, I never have to make awkward small talk with an actual human (i.e., an overly perky or pushy salesperson) while I’m at it. Heck, the stuff I buy even arrives at my doorstep days later.
Christmas shopping’s no different. Every year, I frequent a handful of local and international retail websites for the naughty and nice people on my list, and this considerably lowers my stress levels during the holidays.
Some people still prefer to do their shopping offline, or rather, in actual brick and mortar stores. *theatrical gasp* Not that I can blame them, there’s still a lot to be said for inspecting the goods with your own eyes and hands before you fork over your hard-earned cash.
Now that the holidays are right around the corner (Already?????), which option would serve you better? Let’s take a look at their pros and cons:
Ease of access.
Just about anyone with an Internet connection can shop online. Simply type in the URL of your favorite online store, and voila!
Best of all, online shopping isn’t constrained by regular store hours thanks to automated ordering processes. Do you often get off work past ten pm? Worry not, Etsy and Amazon are still taking orders no matter the time of day, so there’s your shopping done without having to set foot inside a physical store.
The sheer range of merchandise available online.
You wouldn’t believe what sort of things I’ve been able to purchase over the Internet: holy grail Korean skincare serums, industrial strength cockroach killer, canned haggis from the UK, and even a fully-functioning portable toilet (it was for a camping trip).
That, my friend, is the beauty of the Internet. Every make and model of just about every conceivable product from all over the world is at your fingertips, and you don’t even need a plane ticket, let alone a car, to acquire them.
And with forwarding companies paving the way for buyers to ship things from international websites to Philippine addresses, it’s never been easier to get your significant other that one-of-a-kind vinyl record they’ve been lusting after for Christmas.
With online shopping, you don’t need to leave the house, drive, find a parking spot, or even put on pants (hey, don’t knock shopping online in your pj’s till you’ve tried it). You can simply have the goods delivered straight to your doorstep. No more carrying heavy packages home!
Online comparison shopping is unbelievably easy.
You can view prices across five different shops online in a matter of minutes, seconds even. No need to zip between far-off locations of a department store amidst unspeakably hellish traffic to do the same.
All that convenience does come with a cost. Shipping an item across continents doesn’t come cheap, and in some cases, it can cost more than the actual product itself.
You will most likely need a credit card to complete the purchase as well, and those come with annual charges and currency conversion costs that are incurred when you buy from international websites.
Tricky exchange policies.
A lot of online shops offer some pretty great return and exchange policies, but these aren’t easy to avail of if you’re ordering from the Philippines. Some retailers might charge an additional amount for shipping the item back and for restocking, and because of the time it takes for the item to arrive in the country, you’re likely to receive your order well after the return period has elapsed.
There’s no way you can see the actual item before you purchase.
No matter how detailed an online seller’s photos are online, some items might look different without the filters and special lighting. This is especially challenging if you’re looking for a specific color and have to make allowances for your computer or smartphone’s display settings.
Lastly, the human race has yet to come up with a way to let customers try on items like jeans or shoes online.
You can actually try things on or inspect them prior to purchase.
This is perhaps offline shopping’s biggest advantage over its online counterpart. You might be able to read 1,634 reviews of an AU$12 iPhone case, but nothing beats actually laying eyes on it and feeling it in your palm before snapping it up.
No waiting time.
With offline shopping, you can leave the store with exactly what you wanted or needed, so long as you have the money. You don’t have to wait for it to arrive via shipping, which can take a few days or even weeks if you placed your order right before the dreaded holiday rush.
Can be a bonding opportunity with people you love.
Stressful as Christmas shopping can be, doing it with your friends or family is a great way to squeeze in some quality time with them amidst all the Yuletide craziness. And if your job affords you little human interaction over days at a time, you might welcome the chance to go out into the world and actually talk to a person face to face, even if it’s just some overly perky salesperson bent on selling you that gold-flecked face cream.
Lines get really long during the holidays, and traffic gets really bad.
Unless you live in a pedestrian-friendly city (and Manila is not, who are we kidding?), you have to drive around to shop in your favorite stores. With traffic reaching Carmaggedon levels during the Ber months, this equates to a lot of time wasted sitting in your car and quite a lot of money spent on gas between all those trips.
By the time you get to your retail destination, you’re not likely to be in the best mood to shop around for presents. Ho, ho, ho.
If you don’t find what you need in one store, you need to go to the next one, and this can be exhausting.
“Ma’am, this item is no longer available, but our branch in Trinoma might still have it in stock.” Great, except Trinoma is on the other side of the metropolis. Looks like your BFF will have to settle for socks this year.
Malling can end up costing more than expected.
Have you ever experienced going out to buy a few pairs of underwear, only to come home with a bag full of discounted handwash, a box of donuts, and two bottles of fish food (hey, they were on a buy one, get one deal) even if the only pet you have at home is the stray dog that comes along every week for scraps?
Stores employ all sorts of gimmicks to get you to spend more. They might deploy certain scents or music throughout the store, offer you free samples of a new product, or orchestrate jaw-dropping price reductions. If you’re stressed out and hungry from having to drive through all that traffic, you’re especially vulnerable to these tempting distractions.
So, should you buy your presents online or offline? Personally, I think you can do both. You can special order a significant other’s present online ahead of time, and then nip into the department store for more generic gifts or for last-minute ones that may have gotten past you.
Whichever option you choose, don’t forget to set a realistic budget and to stick to it. Cliche as it sounds, it really is the thought that counts, and no one should have to go into debt proving how important someone is to them, the season of giving notwithstanding.