Thursday, February 23, 2012

For The Love of Shopping

Back in the days before I had kids, I would hoard gift cards and checks sent for my birthday and Christmas.  I would savor them for a day in the future when I could get my “shop” on. 

 My master plan was to set out – all by my lonesome – to my favorite local mall on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  I would always splurge and stop at Starbucks for a Venti latte.

Then I would walk the mall, checking out all my favorite stores and scouring the fashion, sales and prices at various shops. Comfy shoes were a must because I never, ever purchased on my first walk through.  This was my research.  Being on a budget, I felt compelled to find the right pieces for my wardrobe but, even more importantly, at the right price.

One shopping trip in particular, I ventured into my local mall’s double-decker Forever 21.  I had my coffee, the music was pumping and a gift card was in my pocket:  I was on a natural high that was fueled by the endorphins of shopping and my high octane java. 

 I found myself at a large table of Navajo print sweaters that I was drooling over.  I put said latte down amongst those beautiful sweaters and, in my excitement, starting probing the piles in search of my size, when my elbow (inadvertently) knocked over my full coffee. The worst thing imaginable happened, the lid came off.

I stopped in mid-shop – mortified and shocked – at what I had done.  I looked around and, since it was early in the morning, no one was around. I am ashamed to say that I high-tailed it out of the store. 

I felt so bad thinking about all those sweaters sodden with Pike Place ® Roast.  And, I am truly a loyal person, but at that moment, I knew that F21 would absolutely make me pay for my sins and I would have had to say buh-bye to that gift card.

So, I did a quick lap, only to reenter Forever 21 about 20 minutes later. Even though I wouldn’t score a Navajo print sweater, I still had my gift card.  I was chagrined to see one of the associates at the sweater table with her headset on frantically speaking and gesturing about the mess.  I broke out in a cold sweat and drove a few miles to my “less than favorite” mall to complete my mission.

I may not be Catholic, but I definitely carry enough guilt to be a full-fledged parishioner.

However, those days of leisurely shopping are a thing of the past.

Today, I have a full-time job in which I log more than 9+ hours a day and a seven year-old son to co-raise.  On the weekends, my shopping sojourns have been replaced by soccer games, play dates at the park, and tutoring homework.  The only shopping I get out to do these days is of the grocery kind and it is usually late Sunday afternoon along with the 7 trillion other people that live on planet earth.

Yet my love of shopping has not waned, just the time to do it.

Currently, I am holding onto a few gift cards from Christmas but I swear I haven’t had a second to shop and experience the joy of using them; so the quick fix is to go down a virtual road.

I have become an online shopper. I never really thought this would be my forte but, without the time, I have switched into survival mode. 

In the beginning of my online shopping career, I was very hesitant.  Growing up on the East Coast in a more traditional family setting, my initial thoughts were hesitant and suspicious of shopping on the Net.  What if it is not a real store? What is someone steals my credit card number?    More importantly, I was worried that what you see is not what you get. 

And, to validate that concern, I have certainly had a few hit and misses.

One online purchase brought a pair of buttery boots to my home. 
I felt I could not live without these shoes after seeing them on the website.  I found myself disappointed when, I excitedly unwrapped them, that they were like melted butter.  Those suckers were so slouchy that I looked like I was wearing leg warmers.  I wanted them to work so bad that I kept them for as long as I could, asking all my best BFF’s opinions.  All the responses were the same, “Please return them.”

On a more positive note, I recently went online after the holidays and purchased a pair of Nine West booties that were 60% off.  These were to replace the butter boots and the booties lived up to every expectation.  Not only do they look cool, but they are comfortable.  In addition, they seem to go with 98% of everything that I have in my wardrobe.  Score!

But I have been a consistent online shopper for almost 5 years now and have learned a few tricks:

First, always look for an online coupon.  RetailMeNot ( is my favorite and I have certainly had the most success with this site.  But, there are plenty of other coupon sites not to mention when individual stores have sales.

Second, NexTag ( and ( are just two of the shopping comparison sites out there, so you are able to see which online providers offer the best deal.  Events like Cyber Monday and various other online shopping sales make this strategy worthwhile to online shoppers.

A word to the wise: I always read reviews.  Whether it is the inside scoop on buying a size larger or smaller, or information about the quality; I look to my online shopping peeps to give me their feedback.  They may be complete strangers, but I trust them more than the online stores.

Third, I always try my hardest to find free shipping.  Living in the Los Angeles area, our sales tax is 8.75%.  I am completely traumatized by this fact.  When you buy something online, it can all be for naught if – when you add tax and shipping –you are paying double for the item.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was spoiled.  We only paid sales tax on luxury items and they still do today.  Anything that is a necessity – such as clothing, shoes and food for home consumption – does not incur tariffs.  Other lucky states that follow this protocol are Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Lastly, please make sure that your online store offers a good return policy.  Not being able to return a dud can make the whole experience worthless.  Take it from my experience and, I can honestly say, not everything you try to sell on eBay makes a profit. 

So there are unquestionably a lot of factors that come into play when buying online. 

Personally, if I can get out there and actually shop in the stores, I will do it.  But, since that is “virtually” impossible, I get almost as much satisfaction from shopping and buying online.

And it is definitely for the love of shopping.

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