Published On : Sun, May 21st, 2017

In praise of offline shopping : Dr. Tejinder Singh Rawal

Nagpur: I miss the days of traditional shopping. You might argue that the online shopping is user-friendly, accessible 24x7x365, you may buy in your pyjamas, or sitting on your toilet, no parking hassles, no crowd, you may compare prices with multiple vendors, less of compulsive shopping, easy return and exchange, no haggling, you may buy without letting your neighbour know what you are buying, and it is a convenient way to shop. I don’t like online shopping for these very reasons.

Shopping in the good old days was an unforgettable experience. The family would often plan the shopping trip together. The family shopping day would be announced. The whole week we would be waiting for the shopping day. Lots of preparation would go into making of this shopping trip. You would have to miss a school or a tuition session; you would dress well, and would go for shopping.

Our favourite shop for buying clothes was India House (It was the best store in Nagpur but could not survive in the face of competition from modern retail). As you enter the shop you are greeted by a friendly salesman. Words like “Sir” and “Madam” have not been invented yet, and it is invariably “Bhayia” and “Bhabhi” and they even remembered the kids by name. You tell him what you wanted and you will find him laying before you a stake of shirts, which will keep coming incessantly. All the time he is looking at your expressions, the moment you nod, the shirt in his hand is kept aside. The man has unlimited energy and the smile on his face does not fade!

You are still not convinced, more and more items keep pouring in. Meanwhile, someone- one of the owners of the shop- is watching the whole process very smartly from a distance. He is assessing the probability of closing the sale. When he is confident it has reached the tipping point, he makes a secret gesture to the salesman, and he now asks you if you would like to have a cup of tea or soft drink. The owner is an experienced person, and his strike rate of soft-drinks has been near cent percent.

Some customers are fussy, and they won’t get convinced easily. Now is the turn of the super-salesman- the owner of the shop who had been keeping an eye on you- to come to the rescue of the salesman. And he knows how to sell. He has been able to sell to the most fastidious of customers. And he makes sure that purchasing from his shop is a great experience for you.

And a great experience it indeed is. Your shopping is not complete without multiple visits to the trial room. And when you try a dress, you are not content with showing it to the mirror; you would come out for a ramp-walk in front of your entire family, whose approval would be required before you take the buy call. Online shopping is no match for the joy you get.

This is not the only joy, online shopping has killed.The Sindhi shopkeeper would even remind you that this shirt goes well with the pair of trousers you bought last week. Internet won’t care so much for you. Though the likes of Amazon and Flipkart deliver your goods lightning fast, it can’t be as fast as immediate. The joy of holding the shopping cart – real, not virtual- can’t be matched by online shopping site. Sometimes I would be so excited with the shopping, such as a pair of shoes, that I would come home or head for a party wearing the new pair, and carrying back the old worn out pair packed in the box. Amazon is yet to reach that level of excellence.

While online shopping makes return an easy job, with no questions asked, it kills the joy. Those days the salesman will take the goods back, there was no question of paying the money back, because now is the time for him to employ even greater sales skills, and we would invariably end up buying more than what we returned. “Don’t worry about the difference, if you haven’t bought the money, you can always pay it later”, he would say.

Visit to India House or Gaysons was invariably accompanied by a visit to Anand Bhandar next door for the tastiest rosogollas andmishtidohi in town. It was a compulsory ritual. Shopping those days was therapeutic in nature, it was retail therapy, which elevated your mood and lifted your spirits. It waslike taking a break from your routine and going for an excursion. It was a positive distraction that rewarded you by way of indulgence and pampering. Online shopping fails all these tests. And when you buy from a shop, an actual person does a little happy dance.