Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Damn you, online shopping

I’m unfashionably late to this party

(Published on October 28, 2017 in Business Standard)

My generation regularly left home to go to shops to buy things, even after the advent of the internet and smartphones—which, for a long time, we did not even have. We lived for decades in these horrific conditions, like primitive amoebae scrabbling about in the mud. But let us not dwell on sad things.

The good thing is that, as the generation that went from booking long-distance calls two days in advance, to booking space travel online, we are fairly adaptable. We move with the times. In that spirit, I would like to announce that I may never visit a shop again, because of a thing I’ve discovered called ‘online shopping’.

If you’re going to tell me what a lame fossil I am, save it. Some people learn embarrassingly late in life that sexism is pervasive; others are late bloomers when it comes to giving all our money to Amazon and feeling grateful for it.

There have been many hurdles to my shopping online. One, I—still—need to put my foot in a shoe before buying it, and was applying this principle, donkey-like, to all products. Two, I have a pre-#DigitalIndia, post-#Aadhaar suspicion of connecting merchants with my bank account unless I’m physically present. I’m sure the actual process is very sophisticated, but in my head, when I click on ‘Place your order’, I see a giant pixelated blue hand reaching into my account and taking all my cash, and then running away with it to Fiji where it dips its giant pixelated blue toes in the surf, instead of sending me my things. 

Three, I hadn’t realised that you could buy anything on the internet, from a rubber band to a broccoli, to a bed, to a flying car. Four, I felt guilty about ordering, say, a packet of paper clips, and making other people use huge amounts of wrapping, fuel, and personal energy to bring it to your doorstep, when I can just as well walk down to the corner store and buy a packet of paper clips in four minutes without a bag.

Well, I’m over all of that. First, I live up three flights of stairs, and it’s much easier if someone else goes up and down carrying stuff. Second, I can buy anything at all from the fingertip superstore! Given the staircase situation, I have my eye on the flying car. Third, I can return anything I don’t like.

This last perk sounded dodgy to me at first, but I now know its evil plan. I scoured the internet for a compact milk jug that pours well, and ended up buying some unsatisfactory ceramic item. It arrived. After wading through kilos of packaging, I unveiled what looked like a big drunk bird—a dull yellow thing with a beaky schnoz that dripped. I immediately put the returns process in motion; but it turned out to be incredibly slow. In the many days since, I have fallen hopelessly in love with this milk jug, and cannot bear to be parted from it. It’s my fat yellow drunk and dribbling bird, yes it is, and we are very happy. I have torn up the returns labels and placed a broom near the front door, in case a returns person rings the doorbell and I have to brain him.

So here I am, bleeding profusely from the bank account, and it’s the best. Actually, you know what’s the best? A garlic peeler. You won’t know you needed one until you catch yourself buying it—and that is the limitless fuel of online retail.

See, moving with the times. Moving like Elvis.


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