Here is a brief excerpt—on my favorite subject, shopping—from my upcoming book Every Woman’s Guide to Technology
Women often tell me they don’t like Internet shopping because they can’t try things on. My girlfriends and I could not disagree more. “I love shopping for clothes online,” says Annette. “You get to see how the outfit looks on a body. Okay, granted it’s always an emaciated unrealistic model’s body, but I can usually extrapolate and tell what it’ll look like on my overweight aging body.”
Some merchants use technology to help you extrapolate. “I like the virtual tools,” says Melissa. “What’s the first thing you do with a pair of shoes in the shoe store? You pick it up turn it over and look at it from all sides. And Zappos has this great online tool that does exactly that with the shoes virtually.”
Melissa also likes the My Virtual Model tool at Lands End. “You can personalize the image with your body dimensions to be able to see what the clothes will look like—or at least get a much closer approximation than those ultra-thin catalog models who look fabulous in everything,” she explains. Enter your actual measurements and My Virtual Model shows you a computer drawing of someone who matches them. Then you can choose clothes and see how they look on her and which size fits her best.
I find that shopping for clothes on the Internet requires a Zen-like acceptance of the return process. I think returning items through the mail is easier than driving to the mall, but it does take a little getting used to. Once you accept the inevitable return, you will find yourself willing to buy in two possible sizes or explore styles the way you do when you take the time to go to a department store. My daughter is moody and contrary in shoe stores, for example. So, when she needs shoes, I order a selection of items she might like, sometimes in two sizes each, from the massive online shoe store Zappos. Then I set up a pretend shoe store in the dining room. That way her choices are limited to the things I think are school-appropriate and she can try them on when she is in the mood instead of when I have time to haul her to the store. Once she makes her choice, I put the rejects back in the box, slap on a return label and leave it for the mailman to pick up. “I love Zappos,” agrees Annette. “Free shipping both ways, what’s not to like?”
The pretend in-home store works just as well for me too. I like to try things on in my own bedroom, with the right pair of shoes and jewelry, before I decide if they are keepers. Sometimes, especially with dress-up items or lingerie, I like to have a glass of wine and get a second opinion from someone I trust. Items that fail these tests go back. I sometimes lose money on the shipping charges—sometimes both ways, sometimes only one way—for a fashion that looked great on that skinny model but will never work on me. But driving to the mall, parking, using up my precious time, and having a cup of coffee while I’m there isn’t free either. I think Internet shopping is cheaper, even with the shipping charges, because it eliminates the impulse purchases, like the earrings I didn’t need and the skirt that was too cheap to resist but will still have the tags on in two years.
Shopping online is not only efficient, it is private. And there are times when private shopping is nice. I’m too old to be squeamish about buying personal items such as feminine hygiene products, pregnancy tests, or condoms at the drugstore, but for those who are embarrassed by this, the Internet provides an easy solution. Just be careful of online pharmacies that sell without a prescription (there is a lot of fraud and counterfeiting on the Internet when it comes to pharmaceuticals). Despite my blasÃ© attitude toward most personal items, there are goods I’d prefer to peruse in private. My girlfriends all agree (in a, just-don’t-use-my-name sort of way).
We are all women here but I’ll use a euphemism anyway. Let’s face it, shopping for “intimate tools” is, in most cities, somewhat out of the question, especially if you have children in tow. If you live in
“I bought a gift for someone at Goodvibes.com once,” says Karen. “But only because I didn’t have time to go to the store.” Exactly. Who has time? Melissa says, “I have never shopped there myself but I hear that Babeland.com is worth a visit.” I don’t personally shop at any of these sites either, but in researching this book I did notice that some of the . . . er . . . toys have cute names, like