Window Shopping In The Age Of E-Commerce
When I was young I remember going to Best Buy to buy a VCR. They had like ten models and we thought about it and then just bought one. Then we went home and watched whatever Blockbuster had. I cannot imagine doing this today.
Today I would first research VCRs vs. LaserDisc vs. BetaMax. Then I would go into WireCutter and Verge comparisons of the latest models, eventually falling down another YouTube hole of people who seemingly just buy VCRs all day.
Then, assuming I found a model that optimized my existence, I would go shopping across multiple websites, comparing shipping and tax options, and then maybe… maybe I’d contact a local shop. If I did, I’d already know exactly what I wanted and what price it should be. I wouldn’t in any real sense be shopping there, they would just be a warehouse for my Internet brain.
In the e-commerce era, I still go to the mall, but I don’t buy anything. I can’t. Sometimes I’ll find something that I like but I’m paralyzed by FOMO, like, what if there’s a better price on the Internet? What if this product is not the best possible version of itself and, therefore, I am not the best possible version of me? I can’t just browse and find something that fits my needs and get it and move on. Today we have infinite choices and thus, choice paralysis.
In the e-commerce era, the mall is everywhere and there’s always a new shop opening past the froyo stand. If the product you truly desire doesn’t exist yet someone is kickstarting it. Every next best thing has a next best thing, just waiting in the wings. We have global options and global knowledge and it’s impossible to make a decision.
And so I still wander the mall, looking at things as if they’re in a museum. They have no stars, no reviews, no context. They have not been unboxed, or compared, or torn down. I look and instead of being distracted by the next thing in the mall, I am distracted by the infinite things in the infinite mall. I put down the object in horror. What if I buy a thing which is not the best thing, or not even in the top ten? What if I pay a price that is not the best price?
I walk away. At least we’ll always have froyo.