Hi's Eye

Online or in line: holiday shopping debate

Jessica Shih, Iris Commentary Editor

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With the increasing popularity of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores have struggled to stay afloat. And this holiday season, they continue their downward spiral. Online shopping is quick and convenient, and offers competitive prices—temptations that few shoppers are willing to turn down.
But while online shopping has its perks, it’s also an impersonal, solitary and dull process. After all, nothing says “holiday spirit” less than sitting at home on your laptop, staring at the online countdown clock (a mere 20 minutes and 4 seconds left) until the “ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME HOLIDAY SPECIAL: 50% OFF ON ALL ITEMS” goes live.
Holiday shopping can and should be fun and inviting. Storefronts offer in-person customer service, a physical in-store experience and the instant gratification of actually having your purchase in hand.
Online stores may offer real-time customer service, but I fear it’s nothing more than a text conversation with a robot. I like the idea of seeing and talking to a real human store representative. That way, I know this person works in the store and can genuinely address my concerns or provide well-informed opinions.
When I’m shopping for a friend or a loved one, I like being able to feel the weight of the product in my hands in order to weigh the pros and cons of the purchase to ensure that it’s of good quality and perfect for the recipient. There’s nothing more gratifying than leaving the store with the purchase after going through this detailed mental checklist.
Of course, if I’m gifting a certain clothing-store enthusiast—namely, myself—I can try on different sizes and styles to figure out which one best fits me. That way, I don’t have to go through the hassle of ordering several sizes of an item I think I might like online out of uncertainty over which one would fit me, then paying shipping returns on those that I’m unsatisfied with.
Plus, the in-person shopping experience is one that appeals to the senses. You’ve been there—the sight of the colorful, holiday-themed display window; the festive-smelling perfume wafting throughout the store; and the scrumptious, free samples of food. These are all present during the holiday season and are far more enticing than clicking through page after page of products.
Brick-and-mortar stores may be in decline, but there are still aspects that make in-person holiday shopping more fulfilling than the online version.
After all, there’s a miracle on 34th Street, but there’s not a miracle on Amazon.com.

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