Online Shopping And Painful Shipping

It’s definitely crunch time for holiday shopping, and if you haven’t finished yet, well, get to it!

What I’m interested in knowing, though, is how much of your Christmas/Hanukkah/etc. shopping is done online, and how much is done by getting in a car (or by subway or bike or foot) and walking inside a store. What about for the rest of the year?

Marion Jensen, writing for TechConsumer, has a nice story about the convenience offered by shopping online.
Access to research. Access to a community. No lines. No paper coupons. No parking. No driving...What’s not to like?
I agree, and in fact, this Christmas - with the exception of an awesome winter coat for my girlfriend that she picked out - every single gift I’m giving was purchased online. Most through Amazon, of course, but I found a couple other great shops. Heck, even my Christmas cards were ordered online (yes, I actually bought stamps to mail these - all the while feeling like a freakin’ caveman, to be honest).

As I mentioned in a comment on the TechConsumer post, my biggest issue with ordering online has very little to do with the e-tailers themselves, and almost everything to do with deficiencies in the various delivery services (USPS, UPS, FedEx - they all have their issues). Ordering stuff is a snap. Click - done. But actually getting what you ordered is frequently almost impossible - especially if you live in a apartment building.

UPS doesn’t deliver on Saturday, for example, and after three attempts, they’ll return your package - even if you call them to reschedule. They also rarely read or listen to any instructions you try to give them. A couple months ago I ordered a nice dresser set from Target, and by some stroke of complete idiocy, they decided to ship this piece of furniture using a service that only delivers during business hours. As a result, the dresser was returned to Target, my order automatically cancelled, and I refused to place it again. Both Target and UPS lost money because of this lack of judgment.

The United States Postal Service is even worse. They won’t ever leave a package at my door - and of course they only deliver during the day - which means I have to go to the post office to pick it up. Fine, I can deal with that, I have a branch that’s a 10-minute walk away. But wait - it is only open until 5 p.m. during the week, and for only three hours in the morning on Saturdays. How often do I get home before 5, and how frequently am I around on Saturday? Never, and not so frequently. USPS also has a terribly antiquated tracking system that hardly qualifies to be called such, and their phone service is unbearable.

Of course, there are those who recommend having packages shipped to your workplace, and sure, this is usually a better option. But sometimes this is impossible - furniture, large boxes full of Christmas presents: this stuff can’t be carried on the subway.

Is this an argument for buying a car and moving into the suburbs? Some might try to turn it into that, but I’m convinced it is less a deficiency of my lifestyle choice (which I share with millions), than a case of delivery services failing to keep up with the times, and focused far too much on their corporate customers than little people like you and me. Come on guys, surely there’s a better way. Maybe making the shipment tracking better would help? Some communication, even?

I don’t think I’m asking too much. All I want is a fast, reliable way to get my Christmas presents.

What has your online shopping experience been like?