First There Was a River

The timing may seen off as worldwide we are all dealing with a deadly virus and facing an uncertain future of how our lives will play out, but perhaps it is the best time to inventory the way of everyday life. Time to appreciate what we took for granted a month or so ago.

(Truthfully, I had been planning a post on this topic for several months and never put all my thoughts together.)

Currently there are 2 — maybe 3 (by a stretch of imagination) who, when asked about Amazon would reply “The river or the company?”

Some months ago there was a business/financial article regarding declining sales of some traditional brick and mortar companies versus online retailers, stores known for years closing locations, bankruptcy, etc.  And I thought of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Macy’s sponsored 4th of July fireworks display in NYC.  What would happen should Macy’s go bankrupt after more than 100 years in business?

The ‘information highway’ turned into a worldwide gossip sharing space (Seriously, tissues would’ve made more sense than toilet.  Who reaches for toilet paper when they sneeze or cough?) and online shopping mall.  The intent was to share educational, professional, scientific information.  A global library of books (both fiction and non), journals, magazines, technical papers, etc. that could be accessed by anyone anywhere without physically traveling to the sources or waiting for a printed copy by snail mail.

The latest news due to COVID-19 is that Macy’s has furloughed almost all their employees since their physical stores are closed.  What happens when their business doesn’t survive this virus?

Would Amazon sponsor a Thanksgiving Day Parade?  And where would it be held?  In the city of the their headquarters?  In every city where there is a distribution center?  Would they invite bands and others around the country to participate?  Would there still be floats and balloons?  And what about Santa Claus?

I understand the lure of online shopping for 24/7 convenience, varied inventory and ‘instant’ gratification of two-day delivery.  Yes, I admit there have been times I have ordered from Amazon for items not available locally.  Can I remember what I bought?  No.

Did I tell everyone I knew what I bought and rave about their prices, selection, service?  No.

Are they my ‘go to’ shopping destination?  No.

Have I ever answered the question “Where did you get that?” with the answer “Amazon”?  No.

Not only is Amazon not the only online retailer, but there are some items that personally, I would never shop for on their site.  Clothing and furniture top that list.

I like to feel the fabric of clothing (soft? scratchy? warm enough? fabric too thin?), check out the workmanship (buttons ready to fall off before ever wearing?  straight seams?), try it on before buying.  You don’t have those options while scrolling online images.

Macy’s — and Bloomingdale’s which has the same parent company — have customer service not available online.  They don’t have stores everywhere it’s true, and sometimes I’ve had to go out of my way to shop there.  But Bloomies?  Worth the trip.  Private dressing rooms the size of a small bedroom with tufted seats, mirrors positioned so that with the turn of your head you can view all sides, a salesperson who will knock on the door to inquire if you need any assistance (like zipping up), or another size/style which they will bring to you.  Service that is just not possible with Amazon.

As for their online shopping, I can remember a time when I got a confirmation email for my order in a calligraphic font to thank me for shopping with them and that I had made a lovely purchase and had exquisite taste (or some such verbiage) and they were sure I would be delighted with my purchase.  Well, yes it was a designer dress I needed for an occasion, but the graciousness of the order confirmation made me smile and feel good about the splurge.

I’ve never gotten a warm fuzzy from an Amazon purchase confirmation.

And Macy’s used to have free gift days with an in-store purchase.  No free lipstick.  I got a set of four wine glasses.  Colored glass.  Nice sized.  Used them for years.  I can’t remember Amazon ever offering a free gift you would actually want or use.

There are other items I have found in stores that caught my eye as I passed by that I never would have gone looking for or caught my attention online.  Window shopping online is not the same as doing it in person.

As for furniture, is it real wood or just looks like wood?  How can I tell if it’s comfortable for me to sit on by looking at an image.  What about workmanship?  I can remember articles (a few years ago) about a very popular purple (yes, purple, go figure) couch sold online and the ensuing horror stories about the way it fell apart.  If the buyers had been able to view it in person and sit on it, they more than likely would never have spent money on it.

So, now that most brick and mortar stores are closed, along with movie and play theaters, the local watering hole and any other gathering places and there is very little human interaction due to distancing, do you still believe that online shopping ’is the future’ and want it to become the norm?  Wouldn’t you miss the stores decorated for Christmas?

Does your technology compliment you on your hair, clothing, furnishings, other possessions?  Can it carry on an extended conversation with you?  Cheer you on? Congratulate you?  Sympathize with you about a bad day?  Take you out on a date?  Lend a helping hand — literally?

I think not.

When the stores re-open I’ll be off to find some curtains. Because I need to ‘get the feel’ of the fabric.  And ensure the color.  And get assistance from a real live person.

And hopefully there will still be a Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show.  It’s an event you really should see in person at least once in your life.

And just how do you return a couch that you bought online?