I go online at home the old-fashioned click, dial and screech way, a la 56Kbps. I wait for JPEGs to download, for JPEGs that never download, for JPEGs that are so illegible that I wish they hadn't downloaded. I cope with search engines that don't work or are just annoying, like one home goods and clothing store that hardly ever finds what I seek but always offers me a gift certificate instead -- that way, I can commit to buying more things at a place that doesn't have what I want anyway.
Then there are the e-mails to sort through, because no matter how hard I try to check all the right boxes and uncheck the wrong ones, I will end up receiving regular, colorful e-mails from a store that wants me to buy another 20-pound bag of cat food when my 15-pound darling isn't halfway through the last one. This doesn't even count the three or four status updates that seem standard with any online order.
The worst part, though, is getting the darn packages. When I worked at home and therefore had delusions that I would actually be able to answer the doorbell when the sun was high in the sky, the local UPS guy knew me as the woman who regularly and wildly chased him down on the street. A typical morning: I waited until noon to shower, thinking he'd come at 9 a.m. like last time. I took the world's fastest shower (a little-known environmental benefit of online shopping), poked my wet head out the door, found the little yellow note and caught a glimpse of the big brown truck. (I've been told that UPS has trademarked brown for clothing and vehicles, and what a lovely color it is.) There I was, running through my neighborhood in untied shoes, chasing a brown blur that had just delivered my third notice, thinking to myself how nice it would be if I had my bike -- which had a flat tire, which needed an air pump, which brought me back to the contents of my package. Someone wiser than me once pointed out that until everyone has a lockable mailbox the size of your average meat locker, online shopping will continue to be a bother.
And the freebies are running out. Already the deals at Amazing-bargains.com -- a tacky but useful site that posts the coupon codes for online deals -- have become less amazing. (Save $10 on a $30 order? Pshaw.) Online sellers are under pressure to start turning a profit. But the freebies haven't been going on long enough to put local stores out of business -- and specialty items aside, consumers will go back to them, once the prices are the same. Until people have faster connections, more trust in online retailing, a better delivery method and stores come up with a more effective way of dealing with returns and order fulfillment problems, there's plenty of money to be made inside the bricks.