We prefer shopping solo. Sometimes we drag our husbands along and it’s not as much fun as we think it’ll be. They have a shorter attention span, and we don’t like anyone looking over our shoulder at the price tag. We’re not fond of shopping in small boutiques where enthusiastic saleswomen assure us that “it looks fabulous on you.” We don’t even go into those fancy stores that put you in the dressing room and bring you a few precious items one at a time. We’ve stood naked while the sales woman hollers to the front of the store, “Do we have it in an extra large?”
We used to think that shopping online was a boon to us solo shoppers – where we could in peace at any hour of the day or night, but it turns out someone is always watching.
We were in the market for a new food processor last winter – and yes, we visited a few websites to compare features and prices. We bought one. For six months after, we were targeted by ads for jumbo-size food processors, battery-powered food processors, and mini-chop food processors. It wouldn’t stop nagging us to make a choice.
When you shop online, every click indicates interest. The computer doesn’t differentiate between window shopping and serious shopping. It doesn’t know that we already made our purchase. How many food processors do we need?
We don’t always remember what’s in the back of our closet. We’ve been known to walk into a department store, pick up a purple shirt and buy it because we liked it. It was perfect. We’d come home and find that we already owned one exactly like it. There’s less chance of this happening when we shop online. That electronic reminder that tells us that “customers who bought this also bought…” is a clue to us not to purchase the same shirt again.
In the old days, dress shopping for an occasion meant making many trips to specialty stores, where we’d decide if what looked good on the hanger looked good on us. Now we wonder if what looks good on the laptop will look good on us – and if the color described online as “dove grey” will be more “mud brown” when we take it out of the FedEx package.
We have a friend who bought a fancy dress from Bloomingdales.com. She felt a little guilty paying full retail price, but look what she saved on gas. The purchase was complete and gone from her mind – until her computer thought otherwise. The next day, a targeted ad offered the exact same dress at a lower price. Our friend couldn’t resist. She bought it and planned to return the first. The nightmare continued the next day when her computer offered up a third dress at an even lower price. She took the bait. She’s now busy printing out return labels, filling out the forms, and driving to the post office to mail Dress 1 and Dress 2 back. It would have been easier to say yes to the dress at an actual brick and mortar store.
Don’t make the mistake of shopping online for something sketchy. We thought we were searching privately with no one looking over our shoulder, but we were wrong. We asked Google how to skirt the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, and now we’re inundated with offers to join the Communist party, buy Cuban cigars, and purchase cases of rum. We peeked at our daughter’s screen and saw that her targeted ads were Victoria’s Secret bras, fancy chocolate, and tickets to Coachella. And we thought she was studying for finals.
We try to keep our online personal information to a minimum, but our husbands might feel bad if we didn’t tag them as our spouses. Likewise, we won’t get invited to the reunion if we don’t list our high school graduation year. The downside is that we are getting ads for teeth whitening, 55-plus communities, and loan consolidation. Our computer has figured out that we are women of a certain age.
We used to have real friends – just a handful – not 367 Facebook friends. We would see them in person and talk to them using our voice, not 140 characters. If we told a friend that we liked her new glasses, it was simply an exchange of pleasantries – without a paper trail. Today, if we click “like” on a friend’s Puerto Vallarta vacation photos, we’re inundated with ads for Mexican hotels.
We don’t enjoy being typecast as middle-aged moms who drive Subarus to Macys to buy Spanx, so we’ve been trying to figure out how to outsmart our computer. Technical advice, like clearing our cache and giving back our cookies makes us nervous.
So once in a while, we click on some things that are out of character. Just yesterday we searched for youth hostels in Hamburg, Germany, and thong underwear in size XS. We can’t wait to see what our computer wants us to purchase tomorrow.