Well, actually its not that bad but over the course of a few millenia* buying gear from online I thought I would share a few observations (*not really strictly true, it just feels that way).
Actually, this is generally a positive thing if buying online. Generally speaking, online retailers offer better discounts against gear and clothing than shop retailers. The downside of this is that the small shops can suffer badly in price match ups. The upshot is that generally you will be able to buy cheaper online and also compare prices much more easily to find the best price for an item. Also there is nothing cheeky about browsing for stuff in a physical shop and then researching the online prices. Sometimes a chat with the shopkeeper can engender a deal on the price of the item in the shop there and then. The other thing to note is that if you use a browser like Google to look up shopping results for an item, this doesnt necessarily show you all the shops selling that item. If the item is relatively costly it may be worth going through as many online websites as you can find to research prices. I have done this in the past and found better prices that Google shopping results would indicate.
No two ways about it, buying on the internet is incredibly easy and quick (sometimes too quick!) when compared to getting into the car/bus/train/cycle and travelling to a shop. I suspect the proliferation on online shopping has lead to an awful lot of extra gear being bought by people over the last few years (bought in haste and repented at leisure!). BUT online shops dont allow that gear fondling experience so beloved of outdoor enthusiasts AND for shoe and clothing purchases quite often end in items being returned. For example my wife is currently trying to buy a pair of winter boots for walking the dog, low level rambling etc and we have had to return 2 pairs so far because she cant get them on. This results in postage costs, faff and if you dont live next to a post office…..a trip in itself. Hence today a short trip to Brecon to allow wifey to try on some boots in the flesh (er, so to speak).
It goes without saying that the internet provides a far better choice of gear than a physical shop ever can. This is great in terms of cost and choice but also can actually cause dithering and over purchasing! Back in the good old days, I used to go into a shop such as Blacks or the YHA shops (remember those?) find something I liked and as long as it was fit for purpose and was in the right price bracket, job was a good ‘un. When I first got into backpacking in the early 80’s this was the only way of kitting yourself out and you were restricted to local shops (having said that there were more local shops in those days). The “best” day’s gear shopping I ever had was going to a camping exhibition being held at a local large camping shop in Bristol and buying my first backpacking tent. I was looking for a one man tent that was waterproof and didnt weight too much. There was one tent in that bracket at the exhibition and it was £45, a ridge tent with telescopic poles and weighing in at around 2kg (light in those days). I haggled with the seller because I was a few pounds short of the asking price. We did the deal and I left with a superb little tent and 10p to phone my dad with to pick me up from the railway station 🙂
Words of warning
So a bit more on the perils of…. Yes its far easier to buy stuff on the internet and so the temptation is to buy more than you need (and afford). This is why I now only buy things on the internet on a cost neutral basis. Sell some stuff to buy new stuff. This wont work forever because things do wear out and need to be replaced but so far in 2012 I managed it and I will try to do it in 2013 as well. Also, and dont laugh, pubs and online shopping dont mix! A few jars with your mates down the pub, a chat about outdoor gear and upcoming trips and hey presto you get home and suddenly the internet starts calling to you like a siren!
The other thing to note is around the DSR’s or Distance Selling Regulations. Always make sure you read the Terms and Conditions of a website you use. These should state exactly what to do in the case of a refund and if they dont then they are implied by the DSR’s. Refunds are a constant bugbear of mine when online shopping. The DSR’s are explicit in stating that delivery costs are to be refunded to customers in all cases of orders being returned for refund. This has to happen within 7 working days of the order being delivered in the 1st instance. In addition to this, if the goods are faulty then the vendor also has to pay for the return postage as the DSR’s state that the buyer should not be out of pocket in these instances. If anyone has trouble getting delivery (or return postage costs in the case of faulty goods) costs from online shops then contact Consumer Direct or Trading Standards.
So there you have it. I have learnt a few things about shopping online over the past few years, some good, some bad and all worth remembering. For all that online shopping brings, I still cant help but enjoy that physical shop experience though.
Off to Brecon for a fondle……