Archive for November, 2007

Cost of Choice

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

To use a well-worn cliche, the Internet has changed everything. Especially shopping. Nowadays, whenever you set out to buy something, there’re so many choices, there’s so much information available and there’re so many places to buy things from.

In the early days of the Internet, all this seemed hunky dory – customer is king and all that – but with the passage of time, you realize that all this comes at the cost of taking up a lot of your time and putting you under some kind of “shopping stress”.

Since there’s so much information available, you feel yourself coming under a lot of pressure of getting your decision right. You now spend endless hours glued to your computer doing research, gathering information on the different brands and models of products available in the market. User guides can help a lot in this step but finding the right one for the type of product you want to buy takes some time. Browsing them and using their comparison tools takes even more time.

Once you’ve decided the brand and model of what you want to buy, the next step of finding the best source for buying it is very time-consuming. While you can take a lot of help from comparison shopping websites, there’s a lot of diversity in the information presented in the individual shopping websites, especially relating to the exact contents of the package (“what’s in the box?”), price and shipping cost. I’ve found that it takes a lot of time to sort through the mountains of information and a vague kind of stress until you arrive at the decision.

In a recent attempt to buy a battery for my mobile phone, I came across the same item in two e-tailers: the first shop was charging 1 GBP for the product and 4 GBP for shipping. The second one was charging 5 GBP for the product and 2 GBP for shipping. Given the huge difference in the basic price, you begin to wonder if the first shop is really selling fake stuff? You also wonder why the first shop’s shipping cost is much higher than the second shop’s even though you’ve selected the same shipping option in both shops? If you’re conditioned to get all the information before you take any decision, just because you can do so in the Internet era, I guess you can contact both the shops and ask them for more details. Or, like me, if you think it’s not worth spending any more time or effort for such a small-value item, you simply look at your total cost and place your order on the first shop. Of course, this policy will only work if you can trust both e-tailers equally, otherwise you might land up spending less money but never getting the ordered item.

I’m not even going to talk about buying from auction sites, which is even more time-consuming and stressful! Some day, I’ll write about my experience with eBay and why I’ve totally stopped shopping at auction sites for new items that are available in e-tailers or brick-and-mortar stores.

Gone are the days when you had just a few items to select from while shopping! What you possibly lost by way of lack of choice, you probably more than made up in terms of time saved and stress avoided.

Anyway, nostalgia is not what it used to be, so let me leave you with a list of few websites I’ve found useful in the last few months in UK to buy a few things like an External Hard Disk Drive, a 3G USB Modem, PDA and a Wi-Fi Inkjet Printer.

Buyers Guide & Reviews: cnet.com, epinions.com

Comparison Shopping: pricegrabber.co.uk, moneysupermarket.com, which.co.uk

e-tailers: amazon.co.uk, dabs.com

PS: Hyperlinks to certain websites (e.g. moneysupermarket.com) have been removed on the basis of requests received from the respective webmasters.