While some other diehard web shoppers may have been doing this for a few years, this was the first year I did 100% of my holiday shopping online. It started with my frustration with the local bookstores.
I read some books, mainly fiction, through iBooks on my iPhone, but most of the physical pieces reading material I purchase these days are cookbooks, cooking magazines, and similar how-to manuals. I like to be able to worry about writing in or on these, get them covered with food or bike grease, and so on, so I haven’t switched to a Kindle or similar device yet.
The irony is that as more people buy books online or straight to these portable devices, the selection at the local bookstores gets worse, and so I end up buying more online. I still buy fiction at the local independent store, Books & Books, but I was previously getting cookbooks at Barnes & Noble, where the selection was better. When it came time to renew my Barnes & Noble membership discount card, though, I declined.
Instead, I went to Amazon.com to look for a particular book — and wound up signing up for an $80 Amazon Prime membership. It’s amazing, and I wish I had signed up earlier. The $80 has been more than recouped in savings on potential shipping costs and Amazon’s lower prices — not to mention my time, which I consider very valuable.
Because Amazon fulfills shipping for so many different kinds of sellers, I was able to complete all of my shopping the other night, including everything from books, of course, to collectible toys, to designer watches and accessories. I feel totally comfortable doing this thanks to relatively liberal return policies.
Actually, come to think of it, consumer-friendly return policies are spurring me to shop online almost exclusively for non-essential items. This year, whenever I’ve wanted a specific type of shoe, I’ve gone through Zappo’s because there is pretty much no downside for me. When I couldn’t figure out which pair of gray boot I wanted, I ordered four pairs, because I knew I could return three (or all) if I didn’t like them, with no penalty.
I will still buy some Christmas items and clothing if I happen to be out and about and see something that strikes me — in other words, I will still make impulse buys — but for planned and even unplanned shopping, Amazon and Zappo’s are my new best friends.