So you want to buy something – for the sake of this argument let’s say you want to buy an adaptor for your phone so that you can plug in any earphones you want. You know the product you’re looking for exists, you may have even seen it physically or on the Interblag somewhere, and you decided on not buying it on the Interblag for whatever reason (lack of credit card, delivery time, shipping costs – whatever, I don’t care). The obvious next step is to either phone a bunch of unhelpful people or to go to your local mall and look for it in the myriad of shops littering the place. Here are some reasons why it would have been a better idea to just buy it online.
Crowds. I hate crowds, even in virtual environments. When I go somewhere, I want to get there as fast as possible so that I can enjoy that somewhere for the full time that I have available for it, and crowds inevitably slow you down to a point where it would be faster to get there via glacier. People in crowds talk too loudly about things that no one else cares about, but have to hear about anyway, and they always stand too close to you, invading that personal bubble to such an extent that you want to get out your emergency zombie-apocalypse spade and beat them away from you. A hint for those loud-mouthed, slow-moving, space-invading cretins: Pretend that it is the zombie apocalypse and get out of my way in a prompt “I-don’t-want-to-have-my-brains-eaten” manner. Thanks.
Shop assistants. Now that you have navigated the mire, you get inside a shop that potentially has the product you are looking for and are almost instantly jumped on by two or more “assistants” – people that are supposed to know their industry and the products it produces to some degree and should be able to help you find what you are looking for. Except most of them can’t. You ask them for the product you’re looking for (earphone adaptor), even showing them what you want (show input port and required output port) and then they come back and try to sell you something that you aren’t looking for, like a data cable. I can’t put my 3.5mm earphones in a USB data cable, can I? It doesn’t seem like these “assistants” really care about the products they’re peddling or, in fact, their jobs as a whole. If you don’t like what you’re doing, why not rather find something you do like doing?
Availability. You’re through the swamp and you’ve managed to explain to the assistant what it is you’re looking for (an activity that probably took longer than just looking for it yourself), now comes the part where (a) they tell you the product doesn’t exist (I’ve had this before and I actually found what I was looking for ten minutes later – by myself) or (b) they tell you that they don’t have what you’re looking for. (a) The product does exist, they just don’t know what you’re talking about and (b) they probably do have it, they just don’t know what you’re talking about. In either case, if you don’t want to help me find what I’m looking for then I’m not going to help pay for your salary.
Now, it’s at this point that you want to cry bloody murder and run home to your precious computer and just do what you know can be done. BidOrBuy, Kalahari, hell Gumtree would be fine at this point. I went to three (3) shops at very different parts in the mall and in each case I had to navigate crowds and shop assistants and hear about the availability crises. It was after the third attempt that I shook my head and silently walked past the clustering zombie-food to my computer. Ten minutes later I had ordered what I was looking for and played a good game of Alien Swarm.
If this is the best that our retail industry has to offer then I’m going to try my best to avoid it at all costs. I can get books and CD’s from Amazon and Kalahari for comparable, if not cheaper, prices. Tech-related stuff is generally available from some or other vendor on BidOrBuy and if I felt the need I’m pretty sure I could get my groceries delivered from Woolworths.
I realise that I alone won’t get much done. A sharply worded comment on Hellopeter might effect a short-term change, but the only way for a long-term solution is to hit them where it hurts – their wallets. I’ve cast my vote.