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Tag: online shopping

What to do When your Holiday Gift doesn’t Show up

Packages don’t always arrive on time. Here’s how I try to handle that inevitability.

“Your package is on the way, but running late. We’re sorry for the delay. Now expected December 27 to December 29.”

That’s the email I recently received from Amazon. Yes, the package in question was a holiday gift for our son, and now it wasn’t.

You might think I was upset to receive that disappointing update. I was not.

Expect the Unexpected
I’ve always been something of a last-minute shopper. Try as I may, wrapping up gift purchases comes down to the wire every year. But I’ve always gotten it done. That said, this year was particularly difficult. (More on this in another post.)

As you might expect, online shopping has made the gifting equation easier for me, until it didn’t, when the pandemic and supply-chain issues delayed almost every delivery.

I was retrained to expect disruption.

And when online shopping returned mostly to normal, I wasn’t so quick to assume that ‘promised’ delivery times would always hold up.

So, did I expect some shipping delays and ultimately buy more gifts for our son than needed during my 2022 last-minute shopping sprint? Yes, I did.

And yes, there was a back-up gift ready to go to the front of the line.

Do You have a Back-up Plan?
So no, it was not disappointment I experienced when Amazon shared the bad news with me. I actually felt relief and a bit of joy. I think I even smiled. I was happy that I had successfully hedged against this possibility.

And I knew that I could easily return the package. Or perhaps I’ll keep it as a back-up gift for next year. (How’s that for early planning?)

It’s Not about the Gift
I know that the holidays shouldn’t always be about gift giving. Instead, it’s an opportunity to be with family and friends. It’s a time to connect and sometimes reconnect.

And it’s a time to celebrate who and what you have in your life.

You just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

And if a gift shows up late, so what? As long as everyone you care about shows up, that’s all that really matters.

Happy holidays, and here’s to smiling at every late package arrival.

The Double-Edged Sword of Repeat Deliveries

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program is a great time saver, but over time it may be more than you need. Here’s why…

Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program originally made me feel like I had been transported to a Star Trek-like future where people could focus on higher-level cognitive challenges as opposed to pondering if they were about to run out of toilet paper.

It was a magical leap forward in shopping design, where you could automatically receive your supplies without worrying that you’d forget to reorder. Plus, you’d get an ongoing discount on these Subscribe & Save orders. How great is that?!

It was set-it-and-forget-it, and your stuff showed up.

What could possibly go wrong?

Too Many Vitamins!
This morning, I woke up, walked downstairs to the kitchen and opened up the cupboard to take some vitamins, including my daily Omega 3 supplement. I grabbed the plastic bottle, unscrewed the top and took out the very last capsule.

I smiled, because I knew I was ready for this moment. There would be another Subscribe & Save bottle in the back of the cupboard ready to go. I peered behind some other vitamin bottles, and I squinted to be sure what I saw. I didn’t see a replacement bottle. I saw three.


Clearly my family and I weren’t consuming as many Omega 3’s as my subscription was providing. You might say it’s an easy arithmetic equation to figure out. It is, but somehow it had gotten way off balance.

And I hadn’t been paying attention, because it was set-it-and-forget-it.

Inevitable Imbalance
I sat down at my desk with my cup of Joe and finally allowed myself to fully face the other recent clues of imbalance in my shopping utopia from the future.

  • I had collected in my basement an extra year’s supply of AC/furnace air filters.
  • My paper towel subscription for the premium Bounty brand had been inexplicably cancelled and replaced by the less luxurious Brawny.
  • My toothpaste subscription was also cancelled, and I needed to actively replace it, which I didn’t. (I was supposed to “forget it,” right?) Then, I ran out of toothpaste.

The Best Price?
Amazon clearly states that prices go up and down. If you’re looking for the best pricing over time, I’m not sure that repeat deliveries will get you that, even with the subscription discount.

You’ve got to keep track. And that doesn’t align well with the set-and-forget mentality.

The Easy Fix
Yes, the odds are running out of supplies are certainly lower with repeat-delivery subscriptions, although it can happen if your subscriptions get cancelled, and you don’t choose an alternate item (guilty).

But unless your estimated consumption metrics are perfect, you’re likely to over order.

Subscribe & Save will save you shopping time, but over the months, your supplies may start to pile up.

It’s not like I was entirely unaware of this, and it’s easy to fix by going online and adjusting the frequency of the repeat deliveries. But it’s the kind of thing you tell yourself you’ll do tomorrow.

And then tomorrow never comes.

Until you realize you’ve got an extra year’s worth of Omega 3 tablets piling up in your cabinet.

So today, I reviewed all of my subscriptions and made the necessary adjustments.

It’s Time to Wake Up
Amazon would tell me that I regularly receive reminder emails to check and adjust my Subscribe & Save items. And I do.

So why didn’t I just follow their ongoing recommendations to perform a little subscription maintenance?

Because I wanted to set-it-and-forget-it.

Autopilot-mode is nice. But you really shouldn’t disconnect for too long. Otherwise you may wake up one day and realize you’re surprised by what you see.

Why I May Never Visit a Supermarket Again

Eating sour grapes can be a powerful motivator in how to source your food. The question is whether you need to physically go the market to maintain a sweet experience.

When I was a kid growing up in New York City, my mother often took me along when she shopped at the supermarket. During those little excursions, she taught me that you had to touch the produce to make sure you were getting the freshest and tastiest pieces. Green grapes were a family favorite, but I always thought it was a little strange when I saw her pop a grape in her mouth in the middle of the fruit aisle to make sure the bunch was sweet. But then I saw other ‘experienced’ shoppers doing the same, and I quickly learned that stealing one grape was okay (but not two).

This very hands-on grape-selection process clearly requires an in-person presence, one that online grocery shopping simply can’t provide. This early lesson set my perspective on how to shop for my groceries for decades.

Early Doubts
When services like Peapod cropped up, I wasn’t interested. I figured it would be unlikely that a stranger would gather up the best-quality produce for me.

And I also couldn’t integrate the hit of the delivery cost with the benefit of time saved not shopping and not waiting on the check-out line. It just didn’t align with the value system that I had learned growing up.

But like so many things, the pandemic changed all of that.

I Became an Online Grocery Shopper
Last year, in my total focus to practice social distancing, I tore up my shopping rule book and turned to the web to source my family’s groceries and supplies. I shopped online at FreshDirect, Whole Foods Market and Stop & Shop. Of course, because so many others were practicing the same strategy, it was especially difficult to find open delivery slots.

Eventually, even though the pandemic continued on, grocery shopping websites seemingly became more adept at handling the demand. And I eventually found it much easier to schedule deliveries whenever I needed them.

Recently, I visited Whole Foods online at 6:30am, because I realized that we were low on eggs. On the check-out page, I spotted an open 12-2pm delivery slot. By 1pm, the neatly packed bags of groceries were on our doorstep. And by 1:10pm, the eggs were safely in my refrigerator.

The cost for this emergency egg delivery?


That’s because I’m an Amazon Prime member. I only added in a tip.

Wow. Right?

Pleasantly Surprised
And no eggs were cracked! While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, it does support my general finding that online items actually show up in really good shape.

We typically shop weekly at FreshDirect, and the apples, pears and bananas have been top quality.

That said, some of the red grape orders have been disappointing. When grapes start to go out of season, you can taste it immediately. Unfortunately, there’s no ‘pop-a-grape’ button to press on the website. You’ve just got to go for it.

Yes, you may not get exactly what you want when you shop for your food online, but grapes notwithstanding, I’ve found that it’s been pretty darn close over the past year.

My Prediction
I certainly understand that many people continue to shop safely at the market by wearing their masks and practicing social distancing. I’ve simply chosen a different practice, which was first (admittedly) prompted by fear. And now, I’ve become accustomed to this new shopping mindset, which works really well for my family. And I figure since I’ve come this far, why take the risk?

But one day (hopefully soon), herd immunity will take that concern off the table. And this leads to the obvious question. Will I eventually go back to the market after the pandemic is over?

Predicting future behavior is always tricky. But I’m going to say… no. Certainly not as a regular practice.

I think the pandemic has permanently changed my grocery shopping from the physical to the virtual.

Sure, I might need to run in to the market for something I can’t wait a few hours to have delivered. (Writing that sentence would feel entirely absurd to me a year ago.)

But when it comes to my weekly patterns, I don’t believe visiting the supermarket will return to my schedule.

Sour Grapes
Yes, there’s the loss of the social factor. Sometimes it’s nice just to get out and see a few people. Maybe run into someone you know at the market.

But aren’t we already on Zoom, 24/7, being exposed to a seemingly limitless supply of human faces? Why would anyone feel the need to go out into the physical world? (cough)

Sometimes, tasting a few sour grapes reflects the pleasures of the larger journey. And those moments don’t need to be confined to the produce aisle.

There’s a whole world out there that hopefully we can return to soon… and be free to source our next sour grape. It’s the journey that matters.

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