Weighing the options: on-line vs. in-line shopping

http://flickr.com/photos/zenia/72226995/Crunch time for holiday shopping is upon us (especially you Hanukkah shoppers!) and you may be torn between attacking the mall or buy on-line. For your consideration, here are some criteria to weigh in making your decision:

Costs of shopping locally:

Time - Often overlooked is the opportunity cost of shopping. Perhaps there's a reason you finish the holiday season exhausted, ready for the social gulag of January! To put a monetary value on your time, you might consider the cost of buying cookies instead of making them, hiring a babysitter, the cost of the drying-out clinic you have to send the old man to because you weren't home to cut him off in time.

Travel - The IRS allows $0.485 per mile, so using this as a starting point, it doesn't take many trips to the mall to offset any sales savings.

Meals - You know that you're going to have to eat at some point during the day, and the Cheesecake Factory is so convenient.

Medications - Not everyone has to increase their blood pressure medication in prep for shopping, but how about the Advil for your aching feet?

Price - Generally, a brick and mortar business has higher overhead, and therefore has to charge more than an internet business.

Price comparison - Unless you have the patience of a saint and the feet of a marine, comparison shopping is a chore few will pursue.

    Costs of shopping on-line:

    - Is there a person alive who doesn't seethe when faced with customer disservice when on-line shopping goes awry?

    Shipping - Double check this cost, which some vendors use as a profit center allowing them to lowball the sales item.

    Returns - Expecting them to follow the sometimes arcane rules to return online gifts can result in you receiving that same gift back from them next year.

    Out of stocks - You'd think that companies that sell over the internet integrate their inventory with their catalogue sales. You'd think.

    Home as prison - Somehow, the local Fedex delivery person is able to predict the timing of my restroom visits, ringing the door bell at the very most inopportune time.

    The laying on of hands - For many of us, the touching is a crucial part of a satisfying shopping experience. Touching the screen on which an item is displayed is not a good substitute (although it seems to work in the porn industry).

      So which to choose? My take is that, if shopping excites you, head to the mall. If it gives you the heebie-jeebies, think Amazon. Either way, time is growing short.
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