”I spent two minutes
Just two minutes
Two minutes shopping for your gift ….”
Old Amazon . com TV Commercial
I hate walking around shopping malls and schlepping stuff in bags. I hate big department stores even more, because you almost need a passport with all the traveling you have to do to find anything. By the time I get to the cashier’s line, I’m cranky, bored and tired and my knees hurt. It’s an ordeal worthy of Vlad the Impaler.
But I love shopping on the Internet, where I can sit at home, in my comfortable desk chair, and browse through a magic world of merchandise, including all kinds of stuff that sends me into Shiny-Pretty-I-Want mode.
I am an Internet shopaholic.
You would think that, with all my experience spending more money than I should on things I find online, Christmas shopping would be a snap. Think again.
Let’s pretend there is a site called AllYouCanBuy.com and I am on it, ready to shop for a Christmas gift for a hypothetical good friend named Bob. Bob always gives his close friends really nice Christmas gifts, so it would not be fair to give him a pair of socks or something like that.
Bob is into video games. I know that he wants a game called “Exploders of the Universe.” He wants it like Ralphie wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle in that movie we all love and quote all the time. I also know that all of Bob’s family and other friends think he is nuts for playing video games at his age (67) and nobody is going to give that game to him. I have taken it upon myself to make sure that his Christmas isn’t totally shot.
I click on the search area on AllYouCanBuy.com and type “Explorers of the Universe.” The search brings me to about ninety books and thirty movie DVDs, but no video games. I search through all of the books and movies, wondering what I am missing. After about fifteen minutes of this, I look at the top of the screen and notice that I made a typo when inputting the name for the search.
I heave a sigh, click on the search area again, and, very, very carefully, type the correct name. This time that little circle of death keeps winding round and round, and it does that for an eternity before the video game comes up.
The game comes in four versions: (1) Basic Version for Windows; (2) Basic Version for Mac; (3) Enhanced Version for Windows; (4) Enhanced Version for Mac.
I can’t remember if Bob has a PC or a Mac.
I close my eyes and try to picture Bob’s computer as it looked the last time I saw it. I don’t remember seeing a picture of a partially-eaten apple on it, and I had no trouble when he let me use it one time. Okay. It’s a PC. One problem solved.
Well, not quite. Knowing that Bob would not be happy with anything other than the Enhanced Version, I click on Enhanced Version for PC, all ready to fill out my payment information and order it. The first thing I see, besides the picture of the video game box, is, “This version works only in Windows 7 and 8. For earlier versions of Windows, choose the Basic Version.”
Damn! I don’t know what version of Windows Bob has on his PC. Knowing him, it’s the latest version with every update imaginable, because he’s a computer nut as well as a video game enthusiast. I don’t know this for sure, though. Bob is 67 years old. He might have suddenly decided to use his computer only for emails and posting pictures on Facebook every six months. That isn’t likely, but anything can happen.
I spend another 10 minutes searching through the AllYouCanBuy website to see if they have a return or exchange policy. I find out that anything I buy on their website can be returned or exchanged, as long as it hasn’t been opened or in any way tampered with. Good. Bob reads everything on every label on everything he ever buys or receives, so if it’s the wrong version he’ll find out before he takes a box cutter to the impossible plastic cover.
So far, I have spent about forty-five minutes on something that should only take a few minutes. These are forty-five minutes of my life. Bob had better love this present, or, so help me, I’ll murder the bastard, even if he is one of my best friends.
Okay, so I click on the “BUY” button. The website already has my credit card information stored in it, so I only have to take a few seconds reminding it that it already knows how to take my money. I type in Bob’s address, so they’ll send it directly to him and save me the trouble. I submit the order.
A message comes onto the screen, letting me know that, because the item is so popular, they won’t be able to fill my order right away, and it will be put on backorder. I can hope to receive it sometime in February, and do I want to cancel the order? Yes, I cancel the order.
I go back onto the home page, go through the whole process again and order an AllYouCanBuy gift card for Bob. He can buy his own freaking video game.
Before I press the SUBMIT button, I order myself three bars of scented soap, some lavender air freshener, an Elf on a Shelf, two bayberry candles, a new coffeemaker and three African wood carvings.
I deserve it.
Kathy Minicozzi is the author of Opera for People Who Don’t Like It, available on Amazon.com.