I really don’t like school shopping. My son is entering third grade this year, so I’ve been through this enough times to know a few things for absolute certain:
- I will not be able to get everything at one store. No matter which ring I throw my hat into, that store will be out of at least one thing, and I will have to go to a second – or even a third – store.
- No matter what time of day I go, the store will be crowded, the lines will be long, and the cashiers will be harried.
- I will have to ask for help finding at least three things. I have no idea which aisle Post-It notes are in. Construction paper is never with the paper. Neither is loose-leaf.
- I will forget my cloth shopping bags and the folders will rip through the plastic bags.
- I will buy the high-quality name-brand supplies, while many other parents will go to The Dollar Store and buy the paper you can’t erase on and non-washable markers. Why do I care? Because the classroom shares almost all of the supplies.
- I will stare at the 10-pack of glue, calculating how much I would be saving if I were buying all of these supplies in bulk.
Well, the Kindergarten teachers have done this year what I’ve always thought all of the classes should do: they requested we bring in $30 per child and not buy any supplies ourselves. That way they can get exactly what they need, and save money by buying bulk. Hallelujah. I know I spent way more than $30 when my son was in Kindergarten. May all of the other grades follow their lead next year.
But that still left a bunch of supplies needed for my son. For the past few years I’ve been doing more and more of my shopping online. My groceries get ordered online, delivered to my door and carried upstairs. Impulse purchases have always been way too easy with Amazon Prime, but now I get all of our drug-store type supplies there and a lot of our non-perishable grocery supplies too. Zappos.com is a wondrous thing. Why has it never occurred to me to do back-to-school shopping online?
So, 90-minutes and five websites later, I’m done. After checking out shipping options and spot-checking a few prices, I settled on Amazon.com (choosing only from Amazon Prime items) and Staples.com (free shipping over $50 – since I needed printer ink, that was easy!). I know that I got the best prices I could have gotten online taking everything into consideration. Could I have done better in the store? Maybe. But I would have had to go to the store! Instead, I know that everything is in-stock, and it’s all going to be here more than a week before school starts. And I got to watch Daily Show reruns while I shopped.
Customer service has undoubtedly gone down (of course, so has the behavior of the customers). I have to pay to park at my local Target and I’m not even allowed to take the cart back to my car. Traffic in Brooklyn often sucks. I’m having a hard time justifying shopping offline anymore.