The Reality of Virtual Shopping


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First, I’ll say that I don’t enjoy shopping online. I don’t like entering my personal data and thinking of some cyber spy collecting the data or counting my keystrokes. I especially don’t like entering my bank information. However, after the lockdowns and also due to living in a city that doesn’t have much to offer in regard to specialty food and organic clothing, I took the plunge and shopped online.

Clothing

Ordering clothing has been tricky with mixed results. Since I don’t have a measuring tape handy (nor anywhere offline to purchase one) I have to guess at my measurements for perfect fits. The clothing companies offer the correct measurements for each size but sizes vary since a small for one company isn’t the same as a small for another company. For instance, Land’s End’s size-small is 6 to 8 and Maggie’s Organics size-small is closer to 4 to 6. For a woman who is considered petite, this poses a problem.

But ordering extra-small (for dresses and shirts) the clothing is too tight around the shoulders. And you think that ordering undergarments would be easy by just going with small, medium, large, etc but it’s not that simple. There is a reason why women spend hours trying on bras in department stores (old school). There is no universal small, medium, and large. And even within one company, Maggie’s Organics (which I like overall), an extra-small jacket is too tight but the small drawstring skirt is too large.

At least with PACT clothing, most of the sizes work for trousers but not so much for dresses since my body does not match the size tables provided on the clothing company’s site. I end up with baggy on the top and right fit on the hips or too tight on the hips but fits right on the top. I’ve made it work but I certainly don’t resemble the elegant models from their photographs, not that I ever would. I’m five-feet four inches. At least I have super long legs for my size which is why the trousers aren’t dragging on the floor.

As far as the mandatory facemasks, the first ones I ordered were from a small boutique in Portland, Oregon and they were so tight around my ears that I ended up with bruises. And the cotton masks also weren’t breathable for whatever reason. Then, I eventually ordered the quirky Space Masks (even though I doubted the claims made in the reviews). Those masks were the best among all the masks I purchased off and online because they are lightweight, breathable, and when I first got them, they prevented my glasses from fogging up. But the nanotechnology fabric leaves me paranoid about toxins. And no, I didn’t space out wearing them.

Food Delivery Services

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At the beginning of the pandemic, just like others, I faced empty shelves at grocery stores and the prices seemed higher for the foods I normally buy. Then there were times where I didn’t want to pay those higher prices or hangout in crowded grocery store. At least I never saw anyone fighting over the last roll of toilet paper. There were none available for weeks.

Eventually, this led to me signing up with an online grocery service, Imperfect Foods. I tried to sign up with Thrive Market but their page for the low-income discount or free membership never seemed to be working correctly. I might try again at a later date.

I saw Imperfect Foods advertised on Facebook so I joined the service and received the discount for low-income which went from around 40% off to 20% because the management said it wanted to help as many low-income people as possible. The original ad said that I could save money because of the blemished produce or ugly fruit. But in reality, the local grocery store had sales on organic produce with the same prices for perfect produce.

For the first few weeks, I raved about Imperfect Foods and I looked forward to receiving my box bi-weekly. But then after the low-income discount was reduced, I lost an incentive for staying with this company. I actually had a bitter taste when the company sent out a mail saying that they were reducing the discount. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time when the stimulus unemployment was about to end. And then orders showed up with missing items that I already paid for. And then moldy carrots arrived and so on.

The final straw for me was a delivery that was delayed a day and I didn’t learn about it until that evening. Meanwhile, I waited all day for my box (which I need to be home to receive due to circumstances with my family). I tried to cancel the delivery but it was too late and I tried to remove my debit card from the site but was not able to without entering a different debit card.

Around the same time, I discovered numerous bad reviews from customers who faced similar and worst problems with the service. Now, having said that, the customer service reps are polite and helpful. It’s the delivery part that’s a mess and the fact that the company doesn’t charge your card until after the delivery in case they have to make adjustments to your order. Which is another thing. You select items during a five day window but you might not get everything you selected because gosh, darn it, IF ran out of that item. Then why did they list it as still available when I was placing my order? Oops, sorry, you won’t be receiving those avocadoes or blueberries (the two must-haves on my shopping list).

The other thing I found annoying is that IF fills up your online cart for you so if you don’t like the selections (I hardly ever do), you have to remove everything from the cart and start from scratch. I am a picky eater (no sugar, gluten, plant-based and organic only…) so don’t put cookies in my cart. And some of the times, I can’t get the types of produce I usually eat because IF only has conventional produce for those vegetables and fruit. It feels like paying for food at a food bank at times.

I haven’t tried any other food delivery services yet so I can’t make comparisons but Misfit Markets received an equal amount of bad reviews including reviews by their employees about the workplace and culture. Not exactly a shining example.

Sound Healing Tools and Musical Instruments

This is the area where I’ve had the most good fortune. I ordered tuning forks through Tools for Wellness and Sacred Waves. Both websites have amazing customer service. I ordered my flutes through Stellar Flutes (based in Washington State) and those people are lovely. And I bought my Koshi Chimes through a company in Idaho (sorry, I don’t remember the name except it had Heaven in its name).

Supplements and Nutritional Food

I went with two companies, Pure Formulas and Vitacost. Vitacost is part of a chain of offline grocery stores. It has good price but their shipping and delivery sucks. They mostly go through Fed-Ex ground shipping which has contract drivers. The packages get stuck at facilities and worse yet, left in trucks overnight so you end up with spoiled food. Vitacost also has high shipping costs. It does carry foods that Pure Formulas doesn’t carry so I only use Vitacost as a backup.

Pure Formulas on the other hand, is a family-owned company based in Florida. The free deliveries appear within two to three days, almost magically on the doorstep. The customer service reps are among the friendliest and their warehouse team knows how to pack a box well. The discounts are worth the trip online and the company has weekly specials so if what you want isn’t on sale this week and you don’t need it right away wait a week or two and see if it gets discounted with a special deal.

That’s my breakdown of my online shopping experiences. I also shopped through Chewy.com, Best Buy, and but never Amazon or Walmart (I refuse). I also forgot to mention the 20+ classes I bought from Udemy during its many sales. Lifelong learning is a hobby of mine and I turned some of this knowledge into a new business (this is for another post).

I don’t enjoy the flurry of email specials from the companies, especially when I don’t sign up for them. And I don’t enjoy leaving my card information on a site that could be hacked when even secure government and bank sites have been hacked.

And I still feel uncomfortable about the hackers and cyber spies collecting data or keystrokes to decipher my passwords. I’ve never felt completely comfortable online anyway, not even blogging and sharing my personal life. However, if any of this information is helpful for you, let me know in the comments.