There are many extreme highs and devastating lows in the game of online shopping, the infinite browsing of the biggest store that you can imagine, the anticipation of how something might feel or fit, and not forgetting the anticipation of the delivery. The arrival of a parcel on many occasions has been right up there with the arrival of a newborn there is simply nothing like it or more special in this world, I feel emotional just thinking of the process. But nothing can be this glorious all the time, with these extreme thrills come with crushing lows; items that look nothing like they did online, the poor delivery, damaged goods on arrival or a messy returns process.
As a fashion blogger, which now a nice justification to act as a plausible excuse for the obscene levels of parcels arriving weekly, I have experienced first hand many of the issues that the minefield of online shopping presents. Here are my tips, tricks and unbiased views of what to look out for.
The curse of the serial returner
Bloggers do these things called ‘hauls’. This is where they buy a tonne of stuff from somewhere like ASOS or Zara, try it all on, photograph themselves in it and then send it back. I don’t quite agree with this for several reasons. It is false promotion as if you try something on and talk about how ‘fabulous’ it is then why wouldn’t you keep it? I ALWAYS keep it, hence why my wardrobe is bursting and I can’t join the eco-warriors as I have enough plastic in my purse to wipe out all sea life to keep my shopping addiction topped up. Also, the volume of bloggers and now shoppers alike that are doing this is insane, increasingly my ‘brand new’ item has been worn and photographed 27 times and has the signs to show it. This is having a direct impact on you the regular shopper, returns can take longer and in some cases at your expense, thanks but no thanks fashion blogger pals.
Some stores have introduced new measures to try and reduce this but it’s so difficult with such a high volume of customers and parcels to keep track. ASOS for example now monitor serial returners and have changed their returns policy so you may be blacklisted. The company states that “If we suspect someone is actually wearing their purchases and then returning them or ordering and returning in large volumes - way more than even the most loyal ASOS customer would - then we might deactivate their account and associated accounts.” ASOS shares dropped by 37% last year and the company blame this solely on two issues, one - serial returners and two - distribution issues. Don’t worry though, this would have to be consistent behaviour and huge volumes more than your average shopper, even by my heroic efforts I am not on the ASOS shit list. My top tip for anything that you order online is to inspect it the day that arrives, I mean who the hell doesn’t rip that parcel open with their teeth to see what’s inside the moment that it arrives? Yes, there are some casual shoppers out there, I don’t associate with them though, it may be catching. Contact the store on the day it arrives if you have a question or concern with the quality of the item, this goes a long way to removing the finger being pointed at you for causing any damage if they can see you noticed any defects on the day it arrived. Also, try on your purchase with care and consideration as if you were loaning it from a friend, it may not be the one for you but it may be the one for someone else, don’t be mean to the clothes, ever otherwise I will hunt you down like a dog in the night. ASOS generally is my biggest hit or miss, the items are either perfect fit, style and as described or literally couldn’t be further away from what I thought I was buying. Returns are quick and easy with ASOS, Topshop, ZARA and John Lewis, never had any issues with any of these companies personally, delivery, however, is another matter entirely.
Model view or clothes view?
Most of the larger chains offer you the option to view the clothes on the model or as an item. Always go ‘model view’ for skimming to see what you like then and then clothes view to make a decision and purchase. Having been fortunate enough to see how these things work on photoshoots, rarely is the model just wearing the item as you see it, front view it has been clipped, stuck or lit to give the illusion of a shape that is often not a true reflection and with the description being ‘model is 5’10’’ wearing a size 8’ it's not helpful. You can often tell how the item will look on you when you view the item on its own as you know your dimensions. I can see if it is too wide on the chest in proportion to the waist it 100% won’t work for me, zoom in and have a look at the fabric and the fastenings, anything with a chunky seam and a zip won’t work for those getting dressed with no one around as that model has had a lot of help. As you can see below although the first dress looks boring on the first photograph which is how it's displayed online I can tell by the proportions of a shorter top and longer skirt section will work for me. The dress on the left although looks amazing on the image I can tell by the proportions that it will be A-line knee length and the waist detail too low for my short bod so no point in pressing the wonderful 'add to cart' button.
Other things to look out for are the people that bought this also bought’... No, they didn’t hun, don’t be an idiot, this is often stock that they want to shift.
There are four main shipping methods used by the largest retailers in the UK, these are; Dpd, Hermes, Royal Mail and Yodel. Success with each of these couriers varies greatly, however in my vast experience Hermes is shite, repeatedly. They are like the ex-boyfriend that you keep taking back because they tell you they have changed, but turns out they are still an absolute moron and you are annoyed at yourself for believing that they have learned anything at all. Hermes drivers in case you haven’t seen them are changing their uniform to something Butch Cassidy would wear as they are the cowboys of the delivery game. Hermes has single-handedly lost items, forced items through a letterbox causing damage, thrown them over a wall into a yard with a delightful Husky that enjoyed 'opening' the parcel (Sully had a great time), left parcels with neighbours but with no note to indicate who and lately left a beautiful and very expensive parcel from Other Stories in a ‘safe place’. Turns out the safe place was the doorstep, when I was at work, therefore assuming that it wasn’t a dishonest passerby, Phoebe the local cat is now strutting around the street in a size 6 leather dress. Other Stories were wonderful by way of dealing with this, Hermes, not so much. Therefore my best and most successful tip to always getting the parcel is to buy the receptionist/front desk staff at your place of work nice things, bribe them shamelessly. There is nothing more satisfying during the working day to get a nice email from Tracey on reception telling me that there is a parcel for me, on the way out of work after a long arduous day to leaving with a little parcel of joy to try on at home puts a spring in your step. Failing that, befriend a neighbour that never leaves the house, otherwise, you may never get the parcel which could be the dress, shoes or hair accessory that will always be the one that got away. Lastly on the note of deliveries, there is one service that is the best possible thing that I have ever known, read on.
In terms of online deliveries this gem is right up there with the invention of the wheel, the telephone and the discovery of penicillin. This is Selfridges+. Similar to ASOS premier with unlimited next day deliveries but this is where the similarity ends. For a mere £10 a year you not only get next day timed deliveries but you also get the most beautiful wrapping even if you are just an eyebrow pencil, the warm glow from those yellow boxes and the nice little ‘hello yellow’ note inside makes me just want to buy more and more….. Oh yes, I walk right into the marketing trap. If there is one £10 you spend this year, spend it on that, I buy normal stuff like foundation, eyeliner and gifts as well as clothes, remember Selfridges sells so many things from YSL to Topshop.
This my nemesis, it should go well in theory but rarely does. It just seems like a licence to print money, import duties, taxes, tracking and lost items (that you never see again) are all risks to the international retail market. Some companies such as Victorias Secret and J.Crew use a broker such as eShopWorld to ship so everything is inclusive of the price which makes it a lot easier. However, a lot don’t, I have ended paying nearly as much as the item itself due to all of the additional charges. I am also currently in a dispute with Royal Mail over a tracked and signed for lost dress. I would only purchase internationally at your peril unless you really cannot live without it. I don’t know if this will be the case for Europe soon too (deep mournful sigh) by the end of October if the devastating yet seemingly inevitable leaving of the EU happens, but we may struggle with additional fees then too, and don't forget ZARA is Spanish, you don't see them discussing that in Parliament do you? Maybe they will realise and be like 'holy shit.....let's pull the plug on this pronto'.
Online or physical shopping trips?
As much as I love an online delivery, when they arrive, I don’t think that there is anything that replaces the feeling of walking out of a store and feeling the nice weight of a newly purchased item in your little fashion mitt. Carefully taking it home with you and introducing it to the clothes that live with you already is a really special feeling. The beauty of online shopping works for the convenience of many, but don’t forget about the physical stores, the coffee stops, then the cocktail breaks, trying on the cosmetics and the quality time with your shopping buddy, online has its perks but nothing replaces a Saturday shopping trip, that’s where the magic happens.