The Ethics of Online Shopping

A couple of months back, I was shopping for flats. I was sick of wearing sneakers to work and I wanted something that looked grown up. Something that would go well with jeans. And most importantly something comfortable.

I spent the whole afternoon looking at just shoes. I decided to go cheapo first and went to Payless. Needless to say I couldn’t find anything. After stopping at a few other shoe stores and not finding anything I liked, I stepped into Boston Store (another favorite of mine) I found a lot of styles I liked and the saleswoman was really helpful. After a lot of trials, I zeroed in on one. Unfortunately they didn’t have that in my size. The saleswoman was very apologetic and said they were expecting some in a few days and asked me to check back in a week.

I went home and googled the brand. When I went to their website, they were having a 70% off sale. The $90 shoes I wanted was available in my size for $25! I was thrilled beyond words and ordered my shoes (they even had free shipping).

This brings up an interesting question. Am I cheating the store by trying on their shoes and choosing something (the saleslady really worked hard for me that day) and then buying it cheaper elsewhere? I know I would have bought the shoes at the store if they had it in my size. But I don’t know what I would have done if I came home and found that I could have have it for much lesser online.

This applies to other things like – perfumes, clothes, makeup etc. I find the store experience to be superior since I would like to try these things before I buy them. But is this worth paying a premium? A friend of mine does most of her shopping online, but always buys 2 or more of the same thing in difference colors, sizes and so on so that she can try them on and return the ones she doesn’t want. Is this ethical? The company accepts returns, pays for shipping twice and has to restock the item just because I like to try things out at home.

I wish I could pick a path here and stick to it. I feel cheated when I buy something and realize later that I could have bought it for much cheaper elsewhere. Maybe I should just brush up my couponing skills and be on the lookout for sales and such and never shop impromptu.

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5 Responses to The Ethics of Online Shopping

  1. LBC Teacher says:

    I think the ordering two and returning is fine. The company accepts returns and if they were losing money on this deal, they would change their policy. I see your point about looking in the store and then buying online…maybe try not to use too much of the salesperson’s time? Like try to browse on your own so that you don’t feel bad? Interesting questions though, ones I hadn’t really thought too much about.

    • Ella says:

      Yeah I guess buying more and returning them is not an issue actually. Companies are no fools to lose money on such things.

      I am in the market for a nice bottle of perfume (Mike lost a bet! lol) I would love to peruse the perfume aisles and just smell the ones for which they have testers out and then buy it for much cheaper online. Do you think it’s ok? The last thing I want is bad karma!

  2. Makky's Mom says:

    Personally, I think if a brick and mortar store loses out on a sale because an on-line store can sell it cheaper, they need to find a way to be more competitive. I say use the real stores to check the product out, then buy it wherever you can get the cheapest price. Isn’t that ultimately the point of price-matching? You find product x for $100 at store A. You find the same product x for $90 at store B but you prefer the return/exchange policy of store A. You use store B’s price and go to store A to get a price match. Was that unfair to store B? Maybe not, but that’s business. I have no issue with doing that. Your purchase is but a drop in the sea of money coming in and out of a business. I wouldn’t over analyze the ethics of it all. 🙂 The bottom line is what your wallet can afford.

    • Ella says:

      Just what I wanted to hear! 🙂 You hit the nail on the head with the word “over analyze” – I tend to do that a lot.

      I understand your comparisons about Store A vs Store B. But how about Store A vs Website B? B has a much lesser operating cost. So do you think it is still fair?

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