I’ve never been one for online shopping. There are various reasons for this. For example, I hate browsing for products online. Trying to figure out the magic phrase needed to plunk into a website search engine so it will take me to what I actually want is maddening to me, and scrolling through page after page of photo after photo isn’t an effective way to communicate information to my brain. I need to be able to see and touch things before I buy them, and if I have questions, I’ll take a conversation with a real, live human being any day over reading an FAQ page that never answers the questions I have.
People go on about how much easier online shopping is. Take clothes. I hear that a lot about clothes. Now, I won’t buy clothes online, because I want to see how they look and feel how they fit before I shell out my hard earned dollars. And the people who claim it’s easier to buy clothes online often respond to that with, “You can return them if you don’t like them.” So what they’re saying is: finding the product online, waiting for the order to arrive, opening the parcel, trying the clothes on, deciding you don’t like them, repacking the box, initiating the return process, printing a return address label, and taking the box to a local shipping agent, and at the end of all that still not having new clothes – that’s somehow easier than just going to the mall? I mean, it’s great if you don’t like crowds, or it’s difficult to physically get to a store. But easier? No, it’s not. It’s just different.
However, my primary reason for not shopping online is that I’m a staunch supporter of supporting local businesses. I’m a farmer’s market, direct from growers, craft brewery, independent eatery kinda person.
And those places don’t generally deliver.
Until now. Over the last few months, with shops being closed, many of the businesses I frequent have transitioned to online shopping with local delivery. And with social distancing being so important, I have embraced this option. What it means is I have a regular stream of independent drivers – not big courier companies, just a shop employee in a company vehicle – trying to find my home. And I’ve learned a couple of things as a result.
First, GPS systems don’t know where I live. And second, the majority of people have no idea what to do when their GPS fails them.
I live on a crescent, and my property actually runs all the way around the curve of one of the inner corners. It’s also on quite a steep hill, so I have what I refer to as an upper and a lower yard. My house is in the upper yard, and my shed is in the lower.
GPS devices always direct people to my lower yard. Now, my shed’s pretty impressive – I told Ron to design something big enough to hold all his shit – but it can’t quite be mistaken for a house. Seeing as my shed’s actually closer to my neighbour’s house than my own, it’s not surprising that delivery people think that’s where they need to go. But it’s not, and an alarming number of people can’t figure out what to do next.
Let’s say my house number is lucky ol’ 13. My neighbours are in a duplex with the house numbers 11 and 9. And because this is a crescent, and I’m on the inside of it, there are more houses on the opposite side of the street. So this means that directly across from my 11 and 9 neighbours is house number 22.
I’ve lost count of the number of phone calls I’ve had that went like this:
“Is your house yellow?”
“No, it’s blue. The yellow house is my neighbour. I’m the next house up the hill.”
“Oh. Is there a green jeep parked in the driveway?”
“You mean the green jeep in the driveway of the yellow house? No, that’s still my neighbour. I’m the next house, the blue one up the hill.”
“Well, I’m in front of 11, and 22 is across the street. There’s no 13.”
“13 is on the same side of the street as 11. It’s the blue house just up the hill.”
I have genuinely had to go stand at the end of my driveway to flag delivery drivers down as they drove loop after loop around the crescent on which I live. My house number is clearly visible from the street. The street on which I live follows the standard numbering system. Yet tonnes of people are unaware that odd numbers are on one side of the street, evens are on the other, and they get incrementally larger or smaller depending on which direction you’re travelling. They’re so unaware of this that if their GPS doesn’t land them precisely in front of their destination, they can’t work their own way out of it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying GPS – or, for that matter, online shopping – isn’t a great tool. True, my first experience using it was a bit rocky. I unknowingly had it set to avoid toll roads in Italy which, since every Italian highway is a toll road, led to a much longer than planned drive on the one day I was on an actual time requirement. Even so, it won me over.
But I still always take a road map with me as backup. And I know how to read it.