For most of us, QVC and the Home Shopping Network are the height of shopping convenience. Just you, the tube, a diamond zirconium pendant and a credit card. Heaven. But some of us h" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" data-auth = "" >

Log on, load up By Judith Newma

For most of us, QVC and the Home Shopping Network are the height of shopping convenience. Just you, the tube, a diamond zirconium pendant and a credit card. Heaven. But some of us h

These computer “shopping malls” offer everything from automotive supplies to fruits of the month. And while they lack the allure of slick directmail catalogues (most items are described, not shown, because high-resolution graphics take an annoyingly long time to download) or the immediacy of TV shopping (the technology is still too pricey for Tova Borgnine to start nattering on over your monitor), they do have some real advantages.
Chief among these is the straightforward ad copy, which convinces us we’re making intelligent, rational shopping decisions and that we’re not being seduced by images. Let me illustrate the difference:
Shopping the Land’s End mail-order catalogue: Gee, this model has the legs of a praying mantis. Obviously, the pair of volley shorts she’s wearing elongates her legs. Therefore, if I buy these shorts, my legs will look exactly the same. Where’s my credit card?
Shopping Land’s End by computer: Hmmm. It says here the Land’s End volley shorts are “made of quick drying supplex, with clever mesh pocket panels for better wash drainage.” I wonder what they look like? Well, if they’re being sold without a picture, they must be one of those one-size-fits-all items that took great on everybody. Where’s my credit card?
OK, so I bought the volley shorts, although I still don’t know what volley shorts are. But then, I attend 12-step programs for this sort of thing. The point is, with computer shopping, the normnal buyer has much more control over his or her shopping impulses. And that’s just one of the things I learned on my recent foray into CompuServe’s Electronic Mall. Here are some of the others.
The computer mall is friendly and interested in my life. To qualify as a member of the “Computer Mall Elite,” a program that notifies me via E-mail of discounts and promotions, I only had to fill out a questionnaire on my buying habits. I can% remember any of my answers, but essentially they amounted to “Please! Sell me more! You do not get enough of my money!”
The computer mall gives me something I lack– an attention span. My normal shopping modus operandi is to compose a list of things I need (black linen jacket, matching pumps) and to return instead with things I will use once in my lifetime, if my lifetime includes a trip to Machu Picchu. (You never know when this mosquito netting will come in handy.) The electronic mall, however, allows me to eliminate outside distractions. For example, I can shop by category, or I can stay in one “store.” I can even shop for gifts for particular occasions. In May and June, for instance, I could access “Father’s Day” and decide whether Dad needs floating golf balls, a chocolate necktie and collor or any one of dozens of paternal items.
With a computer, I can shop within my budget and live to tell the tale. In the Mall Discount Center, I can choose to shop by price categories. Oh, sure, there aren’t many items in the over-$500 range. (How many people are willing to plunk down $899 on an unseen one-carat diamond wedding anniversary band?) But if you want just a little under$20 fix, what about that $5 car lint remover?
Just because I am a suave, technologically sophisticated woman does not mean I cannot wallow in bad taste. Here it is, a party in a basket! “Everything you need to throw a party except the music,” says the ad copy. I can’t wait to invite a few friends over to enjoy my basket of cider, crackers, gourmet beef sausage and five cheese foods. Perhaps I’ll slice the cheese foods with my other great new purchase, a Chicago Bears-logo Swiss Army knife.
If all else fails and I’m hopelessly confused, I can still get a print catalogue. Every mall merchant will send me a complete print catalogue via what’s now known as “snail mail,” i.e., the U.S. Postal Service.
Ordering by computer is just as easy as ordering over television or through direct mail–and the computer is more polite. You press “0” for order, give your name, address and credit card number and that’s it. Plus, you get a thank-you note in your electronic mailbox. After shopping yesterday, I just got a lovely thank-you note in from Parson’s Technology for placing my order. Unfortunately, they didn’t mention what that order was, and I’ve forgotten, too. Oh well. I’m sure whatever it was, it was important and carefully chosen. After all, it came from a computer.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)