Monday, July 25, 2011

Who needs brick and mortar?

If you would have told me 3 years ago that the bulk of my non-grocery retail purchases would come from an online vendor I would have laughed at you. How can you assess the quality of the item if you can’t touch it? How can you be sure it fits if you don’t try it on? How big of a pain in the ear will it be when you have to return it?  These were all of the arguments I had against e-shopping.

Fast forward to now and I can tell you that I would lead a miserable existence without Amazon, Overstock, Zappos, Red Box and a host of others.  Couple these online stores with smart-phone apps and you have created a retail crack-den for those of us with a shopping addiction.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been suffering through a boring lecture at school while perusing the latest book and movie releases on Amazon, or stood in line at the motor vehicle association deciding between ordering a pair of  bronze ballet flats or patent leather heels. Does multi-tasking get better than this? I think not!

Shopper feedback has replaced shopper handling of the merchandise and I for one have become reliant on this honest customer critique.  In fact, I will often eschew an item that has no feedback because I don’t want to be the consumer-guinea pig.  I especially appreciate people who provide comments after they have used an item for an extended period of time, I have saved myself a lot of heartache by not purchasing a widget only to find out that of the 30 people who left feedback, 18 had the widget break within a month. You don’t get that kind of candid knowledge when shopping at your local brick and mortar store, heck I am generally lucky if I can even find a sales associate to ask a question!

Recently I wanted to purchase an item from my new favorite online purveyor of handmade goods, Etsy, only to find that the vendor had no feedback yet as he just started selling on the site in June.  Not to be deterred, I emailed him to ask a question about color selection and within minutes I had a response.  A few prompt email exchanges back and forth a day later and I was still somewhat on the fence.  I sent one final question wanting clarification on the color (I have learned that color is the one deceiving aspect of ordering online as all monitors read color differently) the vendor provided an honest response that the color pink I was describing was not what he had listed on his site, however he had contacted his supplier and found the exact shade of baby pink that I was looking for. SOLD!

Vinyl lettering of my most favorite quote from NothinbutVinyl
I was so pleased with the level of customer service I received from Nathan at NothinbutVinyl that I was willing to take a shot and be his consumer-guinea pig… and it was totally worth it.  I received my vinyl lettering within 3 days and the quality was impeccable.  As an online shopper, I am militant about providing feedback, positive or negative for a purchase because I know how important this information is to me.  Therefore, I was honored to be the first person to leave feedback for Nathan’s business and I hope that having at least one positive rating will encourage others to take a chance on him as well!

Now I do occasionally shop in a store, The Loft and HomeGoods being my guiltiest pleasures, but I can see in the near future (especially once I get my hands on an IPad) that I may even do my grocery shopping online because can you really beat shopping for groceries in nothing but a t-shirt and underpants?

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