Hmmm… should I admit that I like shopping? Well, shopping online, but even the local neighborhood mall is a comfortable space and one I enjoy visiting, probably because my teen years were spent in “The Valley” (yes, that valley, the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, home of “valley girls”, etc 🙂
Shopping seems like a fun social experience mostly, a chance to people watch and see a much wider variety of folks than I usually encounter on my day to day adventures in homogeneous Boulder. It’s also a nice place to go for a walk if the weather outside is frightful, though that’s less of a legit excuse as we’re in the spring moving into summer!
I’ve also enjoyed shopping online, more because of the great variety of selection than anything else. But in the last few years…
… it seems like shopping online has begun to get worse, not better. The problem is that there are too many “me too” online shops that sell the very same products as all of their competitors and even offer their wares through consolidators / pricing engines like NexTag and “online department stores” like Amazon.
After all, it’s just a database and it might be a matter of a day or less to open up a linen store, or a pool supply outlet or a women’s bikini shop. If it’s all cookie-cutter (a la Yahoo Stores) then all the graphics are already available from the suppliers, along with size information, colors, shipping options, and the entire shopping cart backend. Fine tune your template, press “publish” and you’re in business.
Which falls apart when there are no filters for the actual availability of products. And that’s the problem I am seeing more and more, whether it’s Amazon showing hundreds of “no longer available” products or Google searches for specific products landing you on page after page of discontinued or out of stock products.
I don’t remember this being such a problem five or ten years ago, when the sheer joy of escaping the limited inventory of the local shop was far outweighed by the occasional “out of stock” problem. Maybe I’m just forgetting how it really was back in the day, but nowadays it really seems like the problem is getting worse and worse.
Most recently I was in the market for a new tropical-theme comforter for my bed and, like a good local citizen, I started by visiting the local Bed, Bath and Beyond and Linens and Things, neither of which had anything in stock that matched my wants. So I went online, to their sites, to Amazon, to Google, to advertisements from linen and bedding shops, to… well… just about every online linen store trying to find both a product that met my checklist and was in stock and shipping.
It was surprisingly tough! Finally, after looking at zillions of comforters and spending a couple of days poking about, I settled on one that looks pretty nice, but it was a rather frustrating experience all-in-all.
I’m wondering if I’m the only one who experiences this while shopping online, or is it more widespread?