Do you remember when online shopping was new, and it hardly ever worked? The Internet was so slow that it seemed faster to drive to the store. In the early days, few things were available online. And the shopping sites had an annoying habit of crashing before you completed your purchase.

Over time, the online shopping sites got their act together. The Internet got faster, the selection improved, and buying online was far easier than visiting a store. That wonderful situation lasted until, oh, this year.

Have you tried to buy anything online lately? Yesterday my wife, Shelly, helpfully handed me a catalog with some items circled as "suggestions" I might consider buying her for Christmas. Perfect, I thought. I'll have this stuff ordered online in five minutes.

Then Shelly pointed to the discount code number for this retailer and reminded me to enter it for the buy-one-thing-get-another-free promotion. No problem. It added some complication, but not much. I figured I'd just type a number in a box. Bingo-bango.

Then Shelly handed me a gift card she got from some sort of loyalty program, with its own code, for some additional discounts. Okay. I'll figure this out. Two complications is no problem.

Then Shelly explained she wanted two items, and each would have its own free thing that comes with it, and each was different. Now I'm wondering if the promotional code applies to just one thing or everything, and when will I know the right time to enter it for multiple item purchases? Hmm. I'm starting to confuse myself. But I'll figure this out.

Then Shelly pointed to the expiration date for this deal. I only had a few hours! I needed to drop what I was doing. Suddenly this project went from awesome to inconvenient. I had better things to do in the next few hours.

When I went to the retailer's site, I noticed it offered free shipping for purchases over $100. My purchase would be near the limit, but would my discount code and gift card push me back below it? Now things are getting complicated because I have a thousand things on my mind and I'm not sure I can remember to apply the discount code, use the gift card, request the free item, and game the system for free shipping. And there are some codes on the back of the magazine that seem important. Do they matter?

Next I need to navigate to the page for my item. No problem, I think. But I didn't count on the site being designed by terrorists. The site starts by begging me to register so they have me on file. No thanks. I try to search for my items, but I'm being attacked by pop up ads and offers. No! No! Dammit, NO! I swat them back and press on through the over-designed pages with too much detail and too little clarity. Finally, I find the items I seek, despite the site designers' excellent effort in making the navigation difficult so I would see lots of other stuff I don't want.

Luckily, I have Norton's Identity Safe that lets me fill in forms automatically with my name, address, and credit card. But Norton keeps filling in my phone number wrong. And every time I fix it manually, it somehow reverts back to wrong. This takes seven retries.

Meanwhile, I notice it's doing the same thing with the credit card number. It's insisting on auto-filling with my old credit card number, not the one I signed up for to get airlines miles, which was another giant headache. I could edit the Identity Safe database so this doesn't happen, but that's ten minutes of additional problems I'm not willing to take on. Just...let...me...do...this.

But does my preferred credit card have any available balance, I wonder? I remembered seeing an email that said my statement was ready. I track down the email, and from there headed online to check my balance. While I was logged in, it seemed efficient to pay off the credit card. Now I'm drifting further from my core task, and the timer is ticking on the sale window. I return to the retail site.

But there's a complication. The item has some size options I wasn't expecting. Now I have to hunt down Shelly and query her. I repeat the hunting and querying two more times for other questions I wasn't expecting to encounter.

When it was time to check out, my tally came to $99. I was one dollar short of free shipping. Screw it. I was too close to the finish line. I completed my purchase and ate the shipping costs. Now I hate the retailer with a white hot vengeance for making me work so hard to do something so simple.

This experience wasn't unique. Another big retailer put me through an even worse hassle for an item that, when I finally got to checkout, wasn't actually available. My point is that online shopping has gone from convenient to intentionally complicated, and I don't see that changing. Amazingly, I now prefer driving to the store, fighting for parking, and simply handing my item and my credit card to a sales clerk. I'd even pay extra for the convenience.

Is it just me, or has buying online become a pain in the ass?
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +133
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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 5, 2012
I use retailmenot to get coupons easily.
I use adblock to avoid popups.
I buy from sites where i know the interface easily (amazon, ebay, newegg, etsy, etc).
I use mint to track my card balances easily.

I love online shopping and it's easy simple and pain free for me for many purchases for many years.

I think you're making things difficult on yourself, and making the story convoluted with other issues that don't have to do with the store.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 13, 2011
"...is it just me...?" - asks Scott Adams... ==> YES it is you, online shopping is awesome and couldn't be simpler these days. Amazon purchases are so fast for me it's not even funny. Your problem is 2-fold:
1) you insist on using umpteen special offer combinations. It's your own fault for being cheap.
2) you insist on using Norton's P.O.S. software which purportedly "protects" you, yet cause 90% of your frustration.

Try it the way most of us do, and you'll find the online experience is every bit as wonderful as the rest of us find it to be. All of your other complaints are just silly ramblings that could happen in a brick-mortar store, too (do I have enough balance on this card?? - please.)

Dec 11, 2011
It could be worse--if Miller Bros. doesn't have it it could mean a long trip down the mountain to Catskill
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 9, 2011
So the only question left is why the site bothers with such a s h i t t y profanity filter when you can easily get any word you like through it.
Dec 9, 2011
Really guys? You can't figure out S h e l l y is forbidden because Scott doesn't want people writing about his wife?
Dec 9, 2011
I've done some shopping recently, and it seems as if the new trend is to only reveal shipping cost at the very last minute, even after you've entered your credit card information.

I was on the brink of buying a $6.50 item, and found that the shipping was going to cost $5.50 (and the item weight no more than 2 ounces). They design their site as if you would not care about shipping cost.
Dec 8, 2011
Well, yeah, it can be a hassle, but there's one big advantage to online shopping, and that's online price comparisons. You can either do a search for the article yourself or go to one of the online comparison shopping engines and check out prices. It also gives you the advantage of seeing, in most cases, shipping and tax information, so you can compare total price paid rather than just the price of the item.

With traditional stores, you have to pull teeth to find out what each item costs, and when the sale ends if there is one. But the real problem is that unless you do that for every item you're buying (in which case you drive to fifteen different stores and use up $200 worth of gas and two days driving), you end up going to one store to get the best price on one item and then buy the rest of them at that store at a higher price.

Overall, I think the online shopping experience is much easier than going to the store. You do have a lot of choices, and if you don't like the experience at one online store, you almost always have a lot of alternatives.

At the same time, there is a shared human experience in going to retail outlets. I do still go to stores because you can see a lot of things at once and get some ideas, as well as sharing the time with other people.

As far as your wife goes: it's a lot more fun for her if she starts to give you ideas months ahead of time, so you can pick and choose what to get her, and it's still somewhat of a surprise. She may forget what she's asked for, adding to the surprise. If she waits until mid-December, she's just ordering items using you to do the work. Hmmmm. Maybe that's the point!

As an aside, one benefit of this string has been to realize that your blog software seems to thinks that S h e l l y is a dirty word. Haven't I asked you many times to have your blog software guys to change what they consider bad words? Of course, there's absolutely no way that you could have added your wife's name to the bad words list. Is there? No. Certainly not.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 8, 2011
I once bought somethign online with a coupon code I got from the store (spend $50 in store and get a $15 coupon for online). I found what I wanted online and went to checkout. I entered my coupon code, but the price didn't change. After entering my shipping info and credit card number, I clicked continue thinking I could review my order and see the final price before clicking purchase. WRONG! Instead, "continue" meant "purchase", and the next page told me my coupon code was not valid (later found out it is only available between 2 dates, and I was too early).

WTF is the point of telling someone their online coupon is invalid AFTER you purchase? Absolutely rediculous.
Dec 8, 2011
Yes, it is. However, it would still be simple if you cared more about your time than cost. I was raised by a man who didn't put up with much !$%*! If he got to the front of the store with a full cart and the line was 30 minutes long due to some incompetent K-mart management, he'd just leave his cart and walk out the door. If it was more expensive to buy something at the store next door than it was to drive across town, then the store next door got his business. When I got to college, this merged with my education as my economics teacher wrote Time = $ on the chalkboard.

We have all decided that we are willing to pay for shipping if we don't have to leave the house to buy something. However, we've never really been OK with it. We're still trying to win that battle of paying a premium and that's where these coupons, discount codes, gift cards, and shipping price points come in. ooooh, if I could just make this cost as much as the store, I will win the game!
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 8, 2011
And then you voted (with your wallet). People like you keep these imbeciles in business...
Dec 8, 2011
I read a blog post about a book, clicked on the link in the post to go to Amazon, clicked the One Click button to buy it and 30 seconds later it arrived on my Kindle.

Some shopping has become much, much easier.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 8, 2011
Further to my comment - I see that you STILL only ship to Queensland in Australia - and not the rest of the country - so the problem still hasn't been solved - I have sent another email to your customer service line and asked that if they are going to send me a gift for pointing out the problem they don't want to fix - can they send me the "time is Money" thing - as that is what I have been trying to buy!!!!!!!

+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 8, 2011
OK Mr Scott,

Some time ago I tried to buy a product from the Dilbert online store - and couldn't because you didn't list my state in Australia (Western Australia) - you had Queensland - but not WA. I then wrote an email telling you so - and get this - your web site people asked for my address and sent me a Dilbert bobel head by way of saying sorry - but still didn't solve the problem. I still can't give you my money to buy your product . . . . . . . but thanks for the free bobble head!
Dec 7, 2011
It's all just trade-off for the convenience of not having to leave your chair.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 7, 2011
Yeah, it's not an online vs. offline thing. Just today I stopped by a tire/oil change place to get some wiper blades because it was close. The guy's first question was my name, which I gave him. He then asked for my address. I said "for wiper blades?" He said he had to do an RO, unless I wanted him to just make it a cash sale. Like I'm supposed to know what an RO is. So I said OK (as in, cash sale, which was a misnomer because I paid with a credit card). Five minutes later I finally have my overpriced wiper blades and will never visit there again.
Dec 7, 2011
It's a lot less complicated if you're in Australia. You can assume that there will be no free shipping on anything, no extra promotional items, and no extra deals. Yay for convenience!
Dec 7, 2011
in all honesty, it kinda sounds like when my grand father had trouble operating a cell phone. technology is advancing at an ever increasing clip, by the time you get used to the 'online buying experience', you should understand that it will have changed.
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 7, 2011
Presumably you were shopping for women's items on a women's web site that has promotions and programs that appeal to women. The complication was a feature, not a bug. It allows women to blow $200 on $20 worth of crap and brag about what savvy shoppers they are.

Go to Fry's or ThinkGeek.com and see if it's as painful.
Dec 7, 2011
You're a 1 percenter! Why do you care about discounts? You should share your discounts with your followers! I jest.

My biggest pet peeve is when a website doesn't have a good description of the product, so then I have to go to the manufacturers website (and hope they have their own catalog instead of only having resellers). CDW is notoriously bad at it. I'm kinda stuck ordering through them because of corporate contract, but when I need a very specialized piece of equipment, I can never easily compare two different options.

As far as Norton Identity Safe, I've have yet to find a product in that category that actually saves me time. By the time I get everything configured properly, fix the bugs on the most popular websites, and fix the inevitable errors that pop up, I'd rather just type my info in each time.
Dec 7, 2011
check out ghostery - a brower add-on that blocks analytics and speeds browsing - that and trashing your cookies periodically should keep the dynamic pricing at bay
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