Shop till your computer drops

SHOPPING: From the comfort of your own keyboard.

TERENCE KENNEDY offers up the online shopper’s prayer: ‘Dear Lord, please don’t let my wife be home when all my online orders arrive.’ 

AN older friend who doesn’t ‘do’ the internet just gave a local travel agent nearly €400 for air tickets I found online for €89. Frankly I was amazed travel agents still exist. 

Yes, doing stuff online can be risky, especially when a Nigerian prince offers you untold riches. But squadrillions of online transactions occur every day with barely a hitch, and by 2025 the majority of the world’s retail trade will apparently happen online. So there.

Why then, like our overcharged dinosaur friend, wouldn’t you do it? London department store Harrods used to advertise you could buy anything from an elephant to a safety-pin; these days with watertight security Amazon, China’s Alibaba and eBay sell more in a second than Harrods could in a year. Including elephants.

Hunt for an offbeat item in your local shops and you could be at it for days. Find it online in just seconds, have it delivered to your door the next day. Or perhaps in an hour if Amazon’s current drone delivery tests work out.

The main objections are fraud and identity theft. Yes they do happen, but the percentage is minuscule, and if you use a plastic card your bank covers most of your risk anyhow if things go pear-shaped.

The bad news for online-shopping virgins is that they soon won’t have any choice: from tax declarations to newsagents’ top-shelf magazines, everything’s moving online for better or worse. 

Worse, certainly, for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers, whose plight has even added a new word to the Oxford dictionary, ‘showrooming’: the practice of examining and fondling a product in a physical shop before going home to order it more cheaply online.

It was an album by Sting which is said to have launched online shopping back in 1994, say the (online!) histories. By next year online shopping will be nearly 9 per cent of all retail sales (but 18 per cent for the world’s most enthusiastic e-shoppers, the Brits). Seven out of every 10 internet users in Spain shop online, spending around €1,100 each a year.

The bad news for our reluctant buddy is that it’s unstoppable and that, inevitably, even he is going to have to bite the bullet (also available online). Within his lifetime only those enterprises which cannot easily sell through what he calls the ‘Interweb’ will be left standing, like convenience stores, bars, bistros and brothels. And perhaps elephant traders.

As for his happy travel agent? Most likely she will have followed the clever advice I once saw pasted up in a travel agent’s window: ‘Please go away!’

Staying safe

ONLINE fraud makes good headlines, but they don’t always match reality as any Daily Mail reader knows.

This year’s cybercrime estimate is €2.5 trillion worldwide, but very little of it is from online shopping.

Trusted payment methods like credit/debit cards or PayPal take the sleepless nights out of buying online. And if you’re worried about an online retailer’s reputation, so are they in these days of buyer review overload. 

The better retailers are on rating sites like Trustpilot. When an order of mine disappeared into a Hong Kong void recently, my critique on that site quickly got my cash back.

Just be careful not to overdo it. It really is time to stop shopping online when the computer asks if you need another shopping cart. 

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