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Shopping Sucks Now (vice.com)
233 points by dangerman 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments



When I was living in the PNW and realized I direly needed gloves, I just hit up a few of the department stores downtown until I found some that met my criteria. Which are probably similar to those of this author, I wanted some that looked cute, had a conductive patch on the finger so I could use my phone without taking them off, would fit on my long hands with long fingernails, and weren’t super expensive gloves designed for arctic expeditions. I could see them in person and make choices based on how their build quality felt.

I think my total time, including the bus rides downtown and back (even though I was probably doing other things downtown on that trip like “working”), was probably less than she spent opening ten thousand different tabs in her search for The Perfect Glove.

And then in a couple years I had to do it again because I could only find one of the gloves when it started to be too cold for bare hands again. It ain’t worth investing a ton of time into picking gloves or umbrellas or other things that tend to get lost or separated.

Shopping for physical goods on the Internet sucks.


I think the key to the article can be found in this passage:

> [T]he problem is that now, somewhat suddenly, perfect knowledge of the perfect glove, for you specifically, exists, if you simply do enough research.

When you're shopping in a physical store, you have no expectation that you're going to find the absolute, one-and-only perfect glove (or whatever) in the world for you. Even in the largest stores, you understand that their shelf space is limited, and therefore you set your expectations not to find the absolute, one-and-only perfect glove in the world for you, but to find a glove that's good enough for your needs. As long as you can find something that meets your requirements at an acceptable cost, you come away satisfied. Maybe not thrilled, but satisfied.

The infinite variety of online shopping tells us to set our expectations higher than that. Suddenly every thing we buy has to be the perfect version of that thing for us -- because if it isn't, that means we are lazy dullards who lacked the research skills and/or wherewithal to go out and find the perfect version. Instead of it being the fault of the shop that we had to settle for good enough, suddenly it's our fault.

The only way out of this trap is to realize that there is no such thing as the perfect product, that even the works of the finest craftspeople are going to have flaws and blemishes on them, and that good enough really is, you know, good enough.

Or, in other words, that happiness is not a glove that you can buy.


There was one other difference. Most physical stores outside the poundshops and end of line discounters really cared about their reputation. It was hard work to supply gloves (or anything) to many of the better department stores as first you would have to prove they were well made, consistent etc. If they were crap you would also hurt the reputation of the store... End result is most of the choices were good enough and which you bought came down to fit, design or materials.

Meanwhile on the internet, and Amazon especially, no one cares about quality any more. 9 out of 10 results are bottom tier unknown brands selling gloves that photograph well. They may be barely 1mm thick, appear to be sewn by someone wearing boxing gloves, and won't last two washes, but look at all that "choice". That's really crap masquerading as choice. Amazon seem to foolishly believe their reputation is immune to the shite on the marketplace and in every Amazon search.

On the internet good enough is increasingly rare. Even a "trusted" brand races to the bottom. For most physical things, clothes and shoes especially, I'm back to the shops and sad that so many of them have closed lately.

It shouldn't be this difficult!


I think your comment makes really excellent points. This line:

> The infinite variety of online shopping tells us to set our expectations higher than that.

made me think a bit -- that used to be true for me, but the effect is trending in the opposite direction now. I have learned that it's very nearly impossible to tell if a product being shown is actually any good or not unless I'm already familiar with that company's products, regardless of what the product listing or product reviews say.


Being overwhelmed with choice is known as analysis paralysis.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis_paralysis

https://xkcd.com/1801/


It’s the overwhelming choice yes, but it’s also the fact that companies sell junk online that looks good in a photo and then of course you receive it and it’s useless. The reviews are all rigged and the brands are unknown to you, so there’s no way of knowing until you’ve purchased it, and then in many cases there’s no way or it’s very difficult to return the dud.


> Being overwhelmed with choice is known as analysis paralysis.

Yes, but my point is that the inability to tell whether or not a product is any good reduces analysis paralysis because it reduces the trustworthiness of the analysis.


see also The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz


> The infinite variety of online shopping tells us to set our expectations higher than that.

I suspect online dating has some similar effects.


You see the same thing with travel lodging. In the past, you'd maybe have a few hotel/B&B names. Maybe some recommendations from friends or Lonely Planet. (Or, maybe going back a little further, just tell your travel agent to just book something.)

Today, it's really easy to go down a rabbit hole finding the best/best value/etc. place complete with lots of squinting at reviews to see if they're for real and/or have the same criteria you do.

I mostly don't sweat it too much but it's easy to do so.


"Hurry! Just 1 room left!"


The flip side of infinite variety is also that there are some truly terrible products for sale online that would never make it past the selection process to get brick-and-mortar shelf space. So while going to a physical store results in just choosing the best of the available options, online shopping requires at least some research or else you end up wasting money on things that are utterly worthless or, worse yet, put your health and/or other property at risk.


It's one reason I like sites like Wirecutter and related. It doesn't necessarily work for categories where I have very specific opinions about what I like and don't like. But if I want a trowel, a USB hub, or whatever utilitarian object, I'll probably just order one of their recommendations and be done with it--and it will probably be just fine.


One of the reasons I have a membership to CostCo is that I've come to trust their product choices. If they only carry one variation of a product, it's almost certainly perfectly adequate and probably better than I could have selected on my own.


Bear in mind that financials in the form of exclusive corporate deals factor in, too.

I used to buy a lot of videotape at Price Club. I really liked the Maxell Hi-Fi tapes; they carried multiple grades of the Maxell line. After Costco took over, only Sony was sold.

Another example: the credit card partnerships. First Discover only, then Amex only, now Citi-branded Visa.


It's a case of "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".

Some time ago I read about a paper on HN. It was explaining what can you do to maximize happiness in life. IIRC, one piece of advice therein was to avoid comparison shopping. You elaborated very clearly why.


Yes, this.

In general, more choices don't make you happier -- in fact they usually have the opposite effect.


I think this is called the paradox of choice. There are TED talks and books about it.


The one from Malcom Gladwell about spaghetti sauce ?


That one, and also the one from Barry Schwartz.


> > [T]he problem is that now, somewhat suddenly, perfect knowledge of the perfect glove, for you specifically, exists, if you simply do enough research.

> When you're shopping in a physical store, you have no expectation that you're going to find the absolute, one-and-only perfect glove

Tinder for gloves problem sort of? The misleading impression of infinite possibilities on the Internet. In real life you optimize for local maximum only


Nobelist Herbert Simon coined it satisficing in 1956, there's a lot of economic theory around it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing?wprov=sfla1


This is true for online dating or other online experiences of ... plenty of choice.


^+1 In just a few paragraphs, you summed up my frustration with online dating.


I feel this so much. Sometimes I'll look up objects I've bought in brick & mortar stores that I've been completely happy with, and find that they have dismal reviews. This is why for certain items I make a conscious effort to not bother looking at the reviews. Even if it were possible for me to find the best doormat, it simply wouldn't be worth the time, labor, and emotional energy of sifting through reviews and forums and blog posts, and discerning fake reviews and influencer marketing and people who have different requirements and expectations than me, and product SKUs that have changed since reviews/posts/whatever were written.

As an aside: I'd love to find the best cat wand toy. I've tried hundreds from pretty much all the major eCommerce sites and they all suck. If someone knows of one that won't break immediately I'd be willing to pay top dollar for it.

But yeah, unfortunately as other commenters have pointed out, in small towns and even where I am in Albuquerque, brick & mortar stores are either disappearing or aggressively shifting their business to the internet, so it's becoming more and more unavoidable to come into contact with reviews and whatnot even for relatively basic items.


Go outside and find a reasonably solid stick, clean it up a bit, and take the cord and toy off of one of your broken cat wands. Or visit the hardware store and get a reasonably solid dowel and do the same.

It won’t be The Best but it will have a much lower carbon footprint than buying another plastic one made in China, shipped across the ocean, and then shipped around three or four times while people try to arbitrage costs between major e-commerce sites. And if you have any kind of mystical bent then it can also have the bonus of being charged with you thinking about how much you love your little mouse-murderer, and that will make it far better than any mass-produced toy.


> I'd love to find the best cat wand toy.

I don't know if there is a best one, but after trying several, my cats found one they really like:

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01ANUU12I/

We got this expansion kit to go with it:

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00UZK5WQC/

One nice thing about this wand is that it has three telescoping sections, so the tip section is thin and wiggly.

It's so wiggly that the cats learned to use it on their own!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46rROBUDPYI


Never had any problems with Da Bird wand.

https://www.dabird.com/da-bird


Many many times I've consciously thought "I'm going to give retail a chance!" and go out of my way to find something at a physical store. Often it's because I might want it that day; sometimes I've just wanted to explore.

Yet I always end up wasting many hours. I can't drive, so it's public transport and walking everywhere for me (that's fine, it just adds to the time). My experience has been that if you know exactly what you want and it's anything slightly off the beaten path, you're going to have a hard time finding a store that will stock it.

Recent examples that come to mind: a certain kind of USB cable, an SSD, musician's earplugs, an induction cooker. Plus almost any book that I want.

This year was the first year that I've done the majority of my Christmas shopping online (I actually managed to get to it early enough!). It's been hands-down the best experience I've had Christmas shopping. Not to mention that I haven't had that Mariah Carey Christmas song shoved down my ears this year as a result :)

Physical stores just can't compete for certain kinds of shoppers.

Also, I hear so much about physical stores treating their employees like shit. Primary examples include GameStop and EB Games. When I think of that, I think that some stores deserve to fail.


> physical stores treating their employees like shit

Wait until you hear about amazon.


The problem is that even in big cities, real world shops are disappearing.

This year I wanted to buy a TV, and wanted to see them in real life to judge colors/brightness levels, and shockingly, in London, I found just one place which had like 10 TVs from the leading brands. I'm sure there are a few more, but I wasn't able to locate them using google, or walking the main shopping streets. I remember shops 10 years ago which had acres of electronics (albeit in a different country).


Brick and mortar shops can't stop you from coming in and finding the perfect item, then buying it online to save money. I bought an office chair recently and didn't feel confident picking one without trying chairs out in person. The chair I settled on was $100 cheaper online


I wouldn't mind paying a few pounds for them to let me browse the products. Maybe this is a viable business model.


Maybe they can offer a super wide selection available to see, since they don't need to carry stock. And perhaps you can order from them if you like it, and they run an online store where they ship it from, and you get your $10 back as a discount.


This is basically describing the Amazon stores.


Another approach is the manufacturer showroom. They don't care where you buy it so they just try to induce the demand.


But it's not very common. I expected showrooming to develop into a more formalized thing but it really hasn't. I guess between Walmart and B&M chains like Best Buy that have managed to stabilize for the most part, there hasn't been a compelling need for manufacturers to establish a showroom presence.


This is one point the article forgot (or didn't catch) to touch upon. I would like to go buy items in-store but I always hesitate to make the purchase because I know that same item will likely be significantly cheaper somewhere online. Of course, when I go online to find that product, I get distracted by the score of other options available leading to further indecision.


It is especially weird when it's cheaper online on the SAME store. That happened with me in brazil.


What's worse is when the store won't honor their own online price. That happened to me in the US, I think it was Walmart.


They recently honored it for me. 20% difference.


Rumor has it that a certain US retailer has an online store that tries to determine whether you are checking prices from inside their physical store, and raises the advertised price to match those of the store you are in.


Happened to me in target the other day.


At Target, at the checkout you can show them the price on their own website, and they will sell it to you for the online price.


A shift I've noticed in the USA, is I'll go to an electronics retailer, and the item I want isn't on the shelf. In it's place is a placard instructing me to order it online. My hope was to actually handle the item and see if I liked it, then not buy it if I didn't like it.

Instead I have to order it online and then if I don't like it, either return it to the store or send it back via post.

While its super convenient for the consumer, in some respects, ordering everything online seems wasteful and bad for even the consumer and retailer in many respects.


I think this might be the key.

It's not that the internet provides too wide a selection, it's that it fails to provide some very basic pieces of information.

How does the product feel in your hand? Is it soft? Does it feel durable? Does the stitching look neat, or haphazard and frizzy?

When we evaluate a product in person, we make all of these assessments without even thinking about them.


It's also that dishonesty goes unpunished. Any semi-sentient slime mold can set up a new business with FBA and do the same shitty shopping practices. They'll make enough before they're found out.

It's also why every product is like 4.5 stars -- they just astroturf the reviews by giving away product.


Definitely. Shops have limited inventory so they will tend to sell a well rounded, well made product (depends on store of course). And if it is junk, you can usually tell in person.


Shopping for physical goods in B&M stores sucks.

After the last few decades of recessions, stores have gradually dropped their inventory of goods for anybody outside the meat of the bell curve. I will shop for things for months just to buy local and end up buying online because nobody will carry what I want or will fit.


Ironically, having size 12 hands, I’ve looked for years for winter gloves that fit in person, and only very recently was able to find gloves that actually fit. Meanwhile I can order work gloves in size 12 from Amazon all day long. So kinda the opposite experience.


What's interesting is your second time around was probably faster because your research from the first round could have altered the second round of choosing gloves.


Well, _my_ winter gloves have a karabiner on them. I shall call them The Best Gloves. </snark>


You can buy duplicates of a consumable.


You're talking about a pretty specific type of physical goods that have to fit properly and meet your requirements for aesthetics, quality, and function.

Buying physical commodities or items where those factors don't matter on the Internet is incredible. I don't have to go anywhere, I don't have to talk to anyone, I don't have to lug anything anywhere, etc.


Did you read the article or go straight to the comments? I’m talking about buying the exact same thing the article used as an example. I think that’s a fair thing to contrast with its thesis that “all shopping sucks now”.

She had a terrible time spending days researching the Perfect Pair Of Gloves online, going to the one “big box” store in her area that had supposedly had it, and going back home ungloved instead of looking at other stores when the one store had no gloves in stock that day. I had a perfectly fine time going downtown when I was probably going there for some other reasons already and visiting a couple of stores looking for some Okay Gloves.


Your comment violates HN guidelines:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

To promote quality discourse, I will not reply. Feel free to edit and re-submit.


What are you buying that quality and function don't matter? I expect quality and function even in something as basic as toilet paper. It used to be I could find a brand and type that I liked, and then order it over the internet, often in bulk since it stores without really going bad. But now, I can't be sure I'll even get the genuine product from ahemazon certain vendors.


online shopping !== amazon


At Sam's Club today, eyeing a watch. Waiting for associate to let me see it. Open Amazon, read reviews. Over $20 less on Amazon. Asked if Sam's price matches.

> No.

In two taps, right in front of her, ordered it.

Said she understood. Thanked her for showing it to me.


Dude, that’s a total dick move.

Is twenty bucks really that precious to you that you’ll throw money out of your local economy into Bezos’ pockets? Right in front of someone who just helped you decide this is the watch you wanted and could have put it in your hands right now instead of waiting for shipping in the middle of the super-busy Christmas season and hoping it’s not gonna end up be a counterfeit copy?


And the Walton family needs another buck? I don't think Sam's club is any better for the local economy then amazon.


You being able to see and touch it costs money.

The time of the employee who showed it to you costs money.


Why didn't you give her a tip?


Sorry, but I just can't get on board with this point of view.

Shopping has always sucked. Badly. Going to the shops has to be one of the single most annoying and unpleasant day to day experiences I deal with[1].

If you live anywhere even remotely populous when you visit the shops there are people milling around just ####ing everywhere. Dithering, dawdling, standing around chatting at every choke point in the aisles, demonstrating a spectacular lack of spatial awareness - but, honestly, who can blame them when the entire environment is so overstimulating and overcrowded?

And after all this there's a damn good chance you're not going to find what you want anyway.

I dare anyone to visit a department store in a city for half an hour on a Saturday and come out afterwards without having entertained a single murderous thought.

But nowadays I can do a bit of research online, which might be quick or might take a while depending on what I want, find exactly what I want, find somewhere that sells it (generally not Amazon because I just don't trust them that much these days), and either order it for delivery, or click and collect (very handy at places like Screwfix, Toolstation, and B&Q).

It's just way less stressful and way more pleasant. I mean, still not necessarily the most fun thing in the world, but it makes shopping suck a lot less.

[1] There are clearly far worse problems to have, and this may be a #firstworldproblem, but in terms of the normal humdrum routine of daily life, visiting the shops often really sucks.


This sounds an awful lot like autism man.


Agreed ! Going shoe shopping is usually something I have todo to find a nice fit, after wittering down the look/style/options I travel into the shoe stores only to be met by workers that couldn't care less, don't have my size in stock and then yea all the people mulling about you !


Sounds like you just hate people


I think it's more that some people want to purchase while others want to shop. Purchasing is a functional task while shopping is a social activity. Places like department stores are designed for shoppers.


I've never seen it put this way before. This exactly describes me - I enjoy purchasing. I don't enjoy shopping.


Pretty extreme accusation. There's a difference between "hating people" and being frustrated with those who lack awareness of others in a specific moment.


To be fair, have you met people?


"People. They're the worst!". -- George Costanza


I had the same impression.


That "tyranny of perfect information" begets FOMO. If you'd looked at one more site or one more review you might have discovered a "better" (cheaper, high quality, higher utility) item.

I'd add that's it's worse because the world is flatter. Why should I buy Brand Item when I can get a version from Alibaba for 10-20%? If it truly is comparable, then why pay the markup when the internet lets me cut out the middleman? But then when the version from Alibaba is total crap, there's no recourse. It's not like a local shop with reputation at risk.

So you end up in this world where nothing matters and it's a race to maximize attention. Which means, as a consumer, you have to do your research or risk getting taken for a ride.


Consistent quality is the entire point of brands. Find a soap you like and you can mindlessly get the same thing for the next 20+ years. Which also generally means you can pick a random brand and not end up with junk as long as trust the supply chain.

The issue is when you want something different than the millions of other people out there. Sure, things change and the quality may slip, but there is only so much time in the world is comparison shopping really worth it to you?


A lot of brands also try to push cheapo goods under their good brand, usually by adding some stupid suffix like "express" to the brand name, which you don't realize until after you've bought the item.

Electronics especially is very difficult. Take Samsung for example, any phone that is not the latest S-model is really disappointing. Less educated consumers just know that "samsung phones are good", when most reviews only refer to S10. Likewise I can't mindlessly go into a store an buy a Sony TV even if my last Sony TV was good, i need to do the online research to figure out that the last 2 characters in the model-nr indicates if this is the premium version or not. Things change so quickly also that the brand that had the lead one year ago is no longer having the best options.


Unfortunately private equity funds buy out companies with a good brand reputation, do "quality fade" on the produce, and milk the company's reputation until it is in tatters, then get a tax deduction for the inevitable bankruptcy.


That's kind of the point, though. Supply chains are becoming more transparent and accessible to the end customer, so in 2020, you have a much better chance of going "directly to the source" than you did 20 years ago.

So the FOMO is paying a brand markup for consistent quality you could get for less.

Then you have "established" brands that are just trying to maximize profit. And "new" brands that are just AliExpress resellers. So trust that even a Brand™ experience will be a good one is waning.

In other words, the premise that you're paying for time savings is less assured, and the information to actually make comparison shopping worthwhile is right there.


30 years ago, there were 10 options, but the information was hard to get. Now, the information is right there, but there are 1000 options. Does it now take less time, or more?


> Why should I buy Brand Item when I can get a version from Alibaba for 10-20%? If it truly is comparable, then why pay the markup when the internet lets me cut out the middleman? But then when the version from Alibaba is total crap, there's no recourse. It's not like a local shop with reputation at risk.

The unfortunate reality these days is that the majority of items on, say, Amazon, are the same crap from Alibaba imported by a guy who read a How To Make Money On Amazon book, or just marked up directly by the same people selling on Alibaba. Heck, even the "brand items" may turn out to be a cheap clone that someone had shipped to Amazon fulfillment, bypassing their incredibly stringent "I pinky-swear this really is the authentic item" vetting process.


Right! So why should I pay for crap, or the other way around, why should I overpay for good quality, if I can get a solid substitute for less?

For example, I'm shopping for landscape lighting right now. You can spend a lot on landscape lighting. A nice bronze spotlight from a "good" brand like Kichler can run you $100+ ea.[1], and I need 8–10 of them.

Conversely, I can get an 6-pack of albeit-plastic spotlights off Amazon from a Chinese company for 40 bucks, with 4.5 stars and 252 reviews.[2]

I am getting ripped off with Kichler? I am getting crap from Zuckeo? Who knows!?

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Kichler-16012BBR30-10-Degree-3000K-Br...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/ZUCKEO-Landscape-Spotlight-Decorative...


And this goes the other way, too. In the same vein as lighting, I was trying to find a simple, modern, LED vanity fixture.

You can get builder-grade and often-ugly crap from Home Depot (see also: Brands not being an indicator of quality), or spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on designer pieces.

I ended up finding one I really liked off a no-name website, with the product shipped from Hong Kong for like $80. Solid metal, reasonable-looking electronics, arrived in 2 weeks, good communication... very happy!


> The unfortunate reality these days is that the majority of items on, say, Amazon

I find “on, say, Amazon” entertaining. Amazon may well be the worst largeish US online vendor. It’s gotten to the point where I trust eBay more.

If you want winter gear, buy from one of several excellent online stores dedicated to it.


>It’s gotten to the point where I trust eBay more.

Absolutely! I recently bought a simple item, a roll of wiring loom tape. It was on Amazon and had a few reviews that stated that the received tape was old and didn't stick very well anymore.

Same item on eBay for cheaper has the seller specifically mentioning that they only sell fresh tape from the running production, not old stock. Even better, the seller specialized in these (and other) tapes.

It seems that eBay has just cultivated a much higher quality base of vendors. Many of them seem specialized.


If I want winter gear, I'll physically go to REI or Sportsman's Warehouse and buy a coat that actually fits.

I was actually thinking about my recent experience trying to buy a $5 Monoprice USB-PS/2 converter when I typed my original comment.


yeah, I get bombarded with ads on Instagram for a decent looking product at a "must be a quality item" price. But a quick AliExpress search reveals there probably just getting it there and reselling for huge markups. Pretty smart actually.


Some people are "satisficers" content with good-enough. Some are "maximizers", who want to find the absolute best product, which leads to wasting enormous time on research, and ultimately frustration and buyers' remorse. Usually people are maximizers in some product categories and satisficers for the vast majority of other items. In my case, I am a maximizer for computers, cameras and optics, but couldn't care less about shampoo or hand cream and just want an end to the madness.


> On the first page, there are two different gloves listed, one for $17 and one for $60, that look exactly identical and come in the exact same colors. Both have the same exact star rating (4.5/5) and hundreds of positive reviews.

> I’d love to only spend $17 except there is no way 17-dollar leather gloves won’t be fake and off color and smell of gasoline when they arrive, and after only a few wears the lining will pill or develop holes. I’d love to just buy the $60 gloves except that seems like a pretty large amount of money to spend on non-weatherproof gloves, and how can I, when there are identical $17 gloves right there.

It could also be that the $60 gloves came from the same factory and are exactly identical to the $17 gloves, and if you buy them you're going to get ripped off by at least $43.

I wouldn't say that the problem of shopping is now "perfect information," it's rather a deluge of information liberally peppered with dishonesty and arbitrariness.


You never know if the review you're reading is genuine or paid content, especially when it's part of one of those top 10 <product type> of <year>.

All I want to know is what to expect. Will this item break on me after X years/uses, or should I expect it to last longer? Am I paying for the brand/design, or durability?

Personally, I'm trying to cut down on the stuff I buy and discard, and a large part of that is buying quality items that last. In the past, I could expect that paying more means I'll get a more durable product, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore, especially when I've purchased name brand items that break far more quickly than off brand items.

I just wish we had a better way of signaling the trade-off between durability and aesthetics.


Anyone working on a Trader Joes meets Amazon? That curates maybe 1-3 versions of things, largely eliminating paradox of choice.

I guess Costco is kind of a bulk version of that...

Also I've been increasingly interested in just buying things once and having them last a decade+, ideally a lifetime (less waste). But this takes a lot of research. Trader Joes does a good job of curating groceries and I've come to trust their choices. It would be nice to have this for products.

Essentially, "This is the version of X that will last 10+ years."


In 2006, I started a blogstore called "Reasonable Goods", and this was the whole premise. I got a Consumer Reports subscription and did a bunch of online research and tried hard to pick the one I thought would work well for ~80% of people in a bunch of categories. The first category was "toaster", and I found a decently-reviewed $20 basic toaster from a major manufacturer. I started using the tagline "It shouldn't take all day to buy a toaster".

For the one-year anniversary post, I decided to write a follow-up article on the toaster. That's when I discovered, in an ironic twist, that a half-dozen of our flagship pick had caught on fire during operation, and because of this the model had been recalled by the manufacturer.

That's when I realized that trying to find a commodity item that will last for a decade+ is impossible (these days anyway). The same model isn't manufactured for a decade, so you can't rely on history. Major manufacturers make mistakes and/or cut costs and/or sell their brand, so you can't rely on reputation. Even a top-3 recommendation from Consumer Reports did not prevent me from picking a lemon despite my sincere best effort to avoid it.


Without irony I say the first two paragraphs of this post are one of the best parables of all time.



You mentioned it, but: costco.com. The restricted set of choices is very freeing!


Brandless is pursuing something down this line:

https://brandless.com/


CBD is listed as the first item...

My trust in such a brand quickly goes to zero.


I don’t understand how that makes them untrustworthy


What is CBD?



Brandless makes no sense to me. They mostly buy from China and their products are more expensive than they should be (their product descriptions don't offer any arguments why, at least). They claim to be health and environmentally-conscious but there's no relevant information to read on the product pages.

Take this random Brandless product: https://brandless.com/products/stainless-steel-wooden-turner

Why on Earth would you buy it? How can you possibly tell that it's eco-friendly or not?


"At Brandless, we define clean beauty as beauty products that are made without questionable ingredients and only formulated with the minimum ingredients required for the product to function."

I looked at a lotion, which includes the ingredient "fragrance". This is automatically questionable because it doesn't tell you what the ingredient actually is. Moreover, it's a term that companies use instead of telling us what's actually in the product, including any number of potentially harmful ingredients. It is also patently not required for the product to function, so it's clearly against Brandless's stated aim.

Brandless looks to me like an Orwellian marketing gimmick: they claim to be brandless, yet they're actually trying to develop a brand.


I think they're trying to convey a sense of trust across all of the items they offer through their parent 'Brand' which is a bit ironic given the name. Ideally they only offer eco-friendly items and that relieves the consumers of the burden of making that choice for themselves. As noted on other Acacia products, it's a fast-growing renewable wood.

https://brandless.com/products/acacia-wood-cheese-board


I don’t understand how selling items manufactured in a country with the environmental regulatory environment of China can honestly be sold as eco-friendly.


China is improving, if only because a rising middle-class is demanding air that doesn't choke their lung in cities like Beijing or Shanghai. The US, on the other hand, is regressing.


There are many vectors to environmental health besides the PM2.5 and PM10 levels. Chinese industry dumps straight into the rivers and onto the ground. Among many other environmental shortcomings relative to western industry. They also have no/toothless Occupational Safety,a separate but still reasonable concern.


Why wouldn't you buy it? It's a $4 kitchen spoon. What could you possibly want to know?

Edit: A bit of poking around suggests that Acacia is a fairly sustainable source of wood, so I would guess that's the thing that makes it eco-friendly. Some of their other acacia products do mention this, but the spoon doesn't for some reason.


I was going to say, that's a pretty nice looking spoon for $4.


Weird that "/products/stainless-steel-wooden-turner" doesn't seem to involve stainless steel at all.


The care instructions still mention that the handle is stainless steel. I suspect they’ve revised the design without creating a new SKU.

I do wonder why they felt the need to add metal at all though; I’ve never felt that a plain wooden spoon was lacking anything and having a heat-conductive material in a hot pot seems like a good way to get a burn. The description just says it’s a “nice accent.”


You can search for Amazon Basics or Amazon Essentials, which seem to be listings of high volume commodity products. However, I don't see adult dress gloves in Amazon Essentials. There are kids gloves. And if you want high style, these products aren't for you.

The other alternative is to use specific branded sites, such as LL Bean or REI. These will provide premium products at a premium price.

Finally, you can go directly to the manufacturer. If you want Marmot gloves, go to marmot.com. (Of course, it's unlikely that Marmot actually manufactures their gloves.)


AB and AE are not hand-curated, and often as not just as crappy.


https://www.manufactum.com

I haven’t but anything from them but this seems to be their premise.



Hilarious. Aren't you basically advocating for a planned economy? Just with a corporate, instead of a government, bureaucracy.


Not OP, but I would say no. The corporation is subject to competition. If their curated products suck eventually people will figure it out and they'll go out of business. Do you consider Trader Joe's a planned economy?


Something that has been lost is genuine reviews. First you have all the sponsored reviews and then all the equally worthless "I don't know how to use it so it's junk" or "it never arrived" 1 star reviews. And so many "review" sites look like they've been procedurally generated then SEO optimized and filled with ads.


Currently I only trust reddit for "genuine" reviews. Seems like Amazon reviews these days are gamed to the max. Once companies figure this out and reddit has a high degree of astroturf it will be impossible to find out what normal, unbiased (as in don't have an agenda) humans think about a product.


I suspect that once that fails, the next step is going to be having to join the Discord server or whatever chat-group exists for that niche. Then asking for a recommendation from some weirdo whose super obsessed with gloves or whatever. The future is weird.


Super niche forums have existed for this need for many years and cover everything from multi-tools and flashlights to makeup and perfume. It's just that they require more effort to use and many are disappearing due to social media.


I used to drive down those ratholes but found the superniche items of choice tended to be dated, hard to find, expensive & suffered from hyper-optimization. Worst of all due to being dated, I found mainstream products were actually comparable to superior in nearly all measures.


Gloves Reviews Discord Server, I actually lol'd


Proper glovemaking actually requires a surprising amount of skill. Even crappy gloves do.


one of my private slacks started a collab spreadsheet of products we have found and now swear by.


But reddit is flawed in a different way - it's extremely biased towards the trendy and the fashionable.

For example if you search reddit for what computer mouse to buy, you'll be told that unless it weighs less than 70g and has holes, it's utter shit and not worth your money.


Bleh. I see those honeycombed mice and I automatically mentally fill all the holes with finger-crud and dust. No ty.


That's when you hit up r/builtForLifeMice... That's one of the strengths of Reddit: you can get ever increasingly niche with your community.


I was expecting a real sub ha! It wouldn't surprise me


I suspect reviews have been gamed for some time. Now it seems like all reviews are always gamed. I even have a conspiracy theory that Amazon is gaming Costco products. A number of their household products have had sub-3 star reviews; seems suspicious. I still feel somewhat confident in products with over 1k reviews. The same goes for reading a few reviews and "trusting" the helpful ones to some extent.


Reddit works in many (not all) cases for reviews because if there's something falsey enough, you can often count on the hive mind to provide many points as to why that is fake, links to reliable sources on better info, or alternative experiences and documentation (photos/vids) to back it up. Unlike retailer sites or Amazon, where the platform has a vested interest in just getting you to hit Buy, Reddit has no such issues, and there's no real policing of dissenting reviews.

It is self-policing in some ways. But again, some review categories are better for this than others, and the hive mind can be susceptible to hype and astroturf.


I used to work for on of those "review" websites and it completely ruined my trust in most online product review sites. It's all just affiliate links, optimized for which offer pays out the highest conversion fee, with little to zero regard for the actual product.

I would pay a decent amount of money for a tool that just filtered out any sites in Google search that promote products using affiliate links.


What about something like The Wirecutter? Would you trust them?


Any time money is involved I have to believe there will always be a motive, however small, to alter results for financial benefit. It's common for other "trusted" media companies to be impacted by their advertisers - why would the NYT be immune?


If you're interested in a deeper treatment of these issues check out the 2004 book [1] The Paradox of Choice.

Some interesting notes from follow-up research [2]:

> In a meta‐analysis of 99 observations (N = 7202) reported by prior research, we identify four key factors—choice set complexity, decision task difficulty, preference uncertainty, and decision goal—that moderate the impact of assortment size on choice overload. We further show that each of these four factors has a reliable and significant impact on choice overload, whereby higher levels of decision task difficulty, greater choice set complexity, higher preference uncertainty, and a more prominent, effort‐minimizing goal facilitate choice overload. We also find that four of the measures of choice overload used in prior research—satisfaction/confidence, regret, choice deferral, and switching likelihood—are equally powerful measures of choice overload and can be used interchangeably.

[1] https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780060005696

[2] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.jcps.2014....


Gonna add that Barry Schwartz does a TED talk by the same name. Really eye opening.

link: https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choi...


+1 I'd forgotten Paradox of Choice. So true


Faced with the situation described in this article many times in recent years, I've come to appreciate the value of the wholesale buyer at traditional retailers.

While obviously there are a variety of incentives involved, the buyer has evaluated a variety of products and found ones that they not only expect to be profitable for them, but that are also something they expect their customers to like and want to buy. Also, it's very unlikely they'll risk selling counterfeits. The majority of Amazon sellers seem to optimize exclusively for profitability, and make up for it by gaming the system with fake reviews and the like.


This is pretty much the main reason to shop at Costco. I’m not really convinced anything is actually a good bulk deal. It’s just a matter of having a place to shop where you can safely grab stuff and have a decently high floor on quality.


At Costco, the generous return policy also inspires confidence. If Costco stocks an item that's not very good, they will get many returns which cost them money, so they have an incentive to research any item they sell to filter out bad quality.


There are many things at Costco where you save quite a bit compared to buying elsewhere: Cheese, smoked salmon, maple syrup, vitamins, cereal bars, peanuts, Kerry Gold butter, Chobani plain yogurt ($3 vs $6), socks.


Do you know of a good resource that tells you which things are significantly better priced?


Or stop trying to hyper-optimize?

Buy from a handful of trusted brands; if it doesn't work out, don't buy from them again. Like what people did before all this information was available.


Where do you get your initial trusted list from, and what do you do when "it doesn't work out" and you need a replacement supplier?


What I tend to do in that situation is to do a master's thesis level of research of every forum post and review I can find until 2 weeks and 750 browser tabs later the existential angst wipes out all my desire to buy the item and/or to live.


Spreadsheet for me. Not pictured: pile of returns, especially for clothing.


Read forums or ask people in person.


Exactly. Unless your decision has lasting, serious ramifications on your life, just make a decision.


Well... make a fairly fast decision rather than an optimal one.

Say I'm looking for something that costs $20 online. I might look at three or four sites. I might take five minutes. It's not worth it to take more time.

Say I'm looking to rent a ski chalet for a week for $3000. Now I'm taking considerably longer - probably at least an evening, followed by letting it sit in my mind overnight.

Let the size of the purchase scale the amount of time you spend looking for a better answer.


Unfortunately, I find I do the exact opposite naturally.

Bigger ticket items are a pain, but they also don't have as much variety, so I'm more motivated to get it over with and choose between my available options fairly quickly (buying house, car, etc). I'm also more likely to be able to adapt the more expensive items to my needs.

However, smaller purchases tend to have far more options and searching more will nearly always turn up even more. Smaller items are also difficult to adapt, and I really don't like to add more to the landfill than necessary, so I worry quite a bit over these smaller purchases.


That’s exactly how I approach it.

The amount of time spent optimizing is directly related to the impact.

I won’t spend 1 hr looking for a cheaper hotel if it’s a $10 difference. I will if it a $100 difference.


"Shopping" on Amazon.com is not a good strategy IMO. It's always best to find something you want on another, more specialized site (forum, review aggregator, specialized review site, etc.) and then look for the item you want somewhere online. Amazon, walmart, alibaba et al. are more like UI's for a warehouse for me at this point.


My issue with Amazon recently is that their search is so doctored now I literally can't find the product+brand combo I am looking for half the time.

Any sufficiently small brand is drowned out by knockoffs and other crap.

I can't recall a specific example right now, so this is a fictitious one:

- Search "Allen Edmonds belt"

- Results: belts by anyone but Allen Edmonds. "Brand" filter doesn't appear on the left for some reason.

- Search "Allen Edmonds"

- Go to Allen Edmonds seller page.

- Click through a page with every one of their products and find the belts.

WTF.

edit: I remember the last time this happened was with phone cases.


“New version available.” Sizes: m, medium, MEDIUM, med. Colors: black, BLK.

Amazon is worthless.


"Price: from $2.07." Options:

- $299.99 - Medium (Brown)

- $299.99 - Small (Black),

- $2.07 - XXXXXXXL (Purple/Green/Orange) (SOLD OUT)


The perfect knowledge she claims to be burdened by is anything but. The actual problem here is imperfection of knowledge. What do you know, when someone tells you a glove is soft? What do you know, when they tell you it's waterproof? What do you know when they tell you it's leather? You know nothing for sure if all you've got to rely on is second-hand hearsay information. You're stuck in Plato's cave, chained to the wall.

Shopping online should be reserved for cases when either you already know most of what you need to know, through first-hand experience, or when you're willing to do the buy-and-return thing a couple times to find out.


Used to be brick an mortar stores had buyers. To get stuff on the shelf you needed to get past them. They were experts at evaluating products and would reject 'crap'.

Now we have corrupt and easily gamed review processes and a race to the bottom.


Retail stores have sold their shelf space to the highest bidder for decades.


You don't invest in buying shelf space for a product that is crap, so it works out. Being listed on Amazon costs nothing so you might as well list crap.


Bingo!


I was a Vegan for five years in my twenties ("London's only fat vegan"). And one of the things I liked was that I did not have to think hard about eating out at lunchtime. I could have a jacket potato with beans or I could get all sophisticated and have a jacket potato with hummus.

Lack of choice sucks. Limited sufficient choice makes a simple happy life.


I've started only buying things directly from brands that I trust and have legitimate warranties. I bought 5 pairs of swimming shorts on Amazon last year and all of them have completely fallen apart. I have a pair that I bought from Patagonia that look as good today as they did 6 years ago. I have a 10 year old puffer from them that has been so good to me. It's worth the extra money, if you can afford it, to just buy one nice thing and be done with it.


Imho, the problem is Amazon and how everybody is aping them. Every store is now also a bazaar with infinite combinations of functionally-anonymous brands hawking indistinguishable Chinese plastic.

I want a e-store where somebody has taken an editorial role in curating their crap. I used to be a habitual researcher and I'm completely burned out on the process.


Yep.... I remember how annoyed I was when NewEgg started this 'marketplace' crap. I think even Wal-mart does it now...

Oddly enough - DIY stores like Lowe's and Home Depot don't seem to suffer from the 'marketplace disease'.


I started riding a motorcycle two springs ago. In that short time I went though six pairs of gloves. Turns out, buying gloves online sucks. Sizing is terrible since the only size is the width of your palm. Fingers too long or too short or different lengths? You are out of luck. Thick fingers or thin fingers? Nope. Glove fits well but has an uncomfortable inner seam? Gotcha again. Love the glove but not the closure system? Oops. Glove fits but you hate the thickness of the material? Material breathes too much or not enough? Manufacturer put logos everywhere?

Yeah, I learned my lesson and buy gloves in person.


That has also been my experience (for motorcycling and bicycling). Gloves are the one item I have to buy in person.

REI stores are a great place for buying winter gloves and also bicycling gloves. Other than that: Costco, bicycle dealers, motorcycle dealers.


This is what branding is all about: you can't really tell but you know brand 'B' hasn't let you down so just choose that again.

Of course then the tail began to wag the cow* and the brand became the point; product value became irrelevant. Still it's probably the least terrible way to choose. I want a USB power brick but brand 'N' doesn't sell something that meets my desires: I'll wait.

* chose cow rather than dog because I doubt farmers used to actually brand (German for "burn") their symbol on their dog.


I know where this article is trying to go, but as someone who rarely shops .. damn is it nice.

I went to Uniqlo in Faneuil Hall here in Boston yesterday. Simply walking into the store is an _experience_. It's in a historic district, surrounded by quick bites and other fun knick knacks, and the store itself is beautiful laid out.

This is where the physical store absolutely destroys the abysmal online experience. Curation and the human experience.


Physical in-store shopping has always been a nightmare for me. Too many people moving in too many random directions, most of them oblivious or actively hostile to those around them. I can feel the waves of frustration and anxiety of everyone around me. I'm one of those people that goes to a store only when they really need something, and I plan it out like a bank heist. Park here, away from everyone else, keep my head down, go this route to get to thing X, see if there is anything there that would remotely work for me, grab it if there is, head directly to the checkout farthest away from the mass of humanity jockeying for position, pay quickly, exit quickly, start to breathe a sigh of relief as I head for the car. I don't know how I got this way, I'm not antisocial in most other contexts, but for me shopping has been a terrible experience and online shopping has been a blessing.

Probably because of my "smash-and-grab" shopping routine, I don't spend much time searching for that Perfect Item. I just buy something that looks reasonable and hope for the best. If I have bought enough of that kind of item to have a brand preference or non-preference, I would take that into account. If I were wanting to buy some gloves, I'd first go to Amazon (sorry) and search for leather gloves or whatever. I'd maybe use the checkboxes on the left to narrow it down. I'd look at maybe four different choices, and pick one. Sometime a day or two later I'd wonder what was in the box, because I would have forgotten about the whole experience already.

My shopping-phobia or whatever it is has conditioned me to not buy too many things, even now where online shopping makes it stress-free. Which is probably a good thing, because I'm always trying to downsize anyway thinking I have too much crap.


And the music. So many places are trying to be hip with their music choices and it makes me more impatient than having to pee. I've walked out of so many restaurants because of the loud, obnoxious music. I can't even pump gas at my local gas station without having to hear their garbage pop music. It really makes me miss muzak or I don't know . . . peace and quiet?


> I’d love to only spend $17 except there is no way 17-dollar leather gloves won’t be fake and off color and smell of gasoline when they arrive, and after only a few wears the lining will pill or develop holes. I’d love to just buy the $60 gloves except that seems like a pretty large amount of money to spend on non-weatherproof gloves, and how can I, when there are identical $17 gloves right there.

17, which is too risky, and 60, which isn't 17, which is too risky...

There are probably hundreds of salespeople inside small business abodes in a 20 mile radius who are trained in the diplomacy of breaking out of that loop without making the author feel like a complete idiot.

Not saying a brick-and-mortar is a utopia, but at least the problem of ending up with a 5-star pair of "glarves" goes away.


I do really feel badly for (mostly) young people who have no frame of reference for things other than Amazon and comparison websites. I would probably never go to Amazon for something like gloves (or most other things) because you have no idea what you are going to get. When I do know what I want, the first place I try to buy it from is the company that makes it. If they don't sell it direct, then they will probably tell you who does. If they have their own store on Amazon, I will use that, even if other providers on Amazon are selling it for less.


Amazon was the only place I could find XXL leather work gloves. All the big box stores have XL at most, which shrink down to an L. That saves me money as I don’t have to throw them out when they shrink.


The silly thing about all of this is when you are buying physical products, they actually exist somewhere.

You can (or at least should be able to) go to a store look at the product, try it on, look at the quality first hand and then buy them.

But we've accepted that it's better to save 25% or 50% so that we can avoid the inconvenience of actual shopping.

Furthermore, there are brands that make good stuff and have good customer service, stick to those brands until they prove to be untrustworthy.

Don't reward Amazon just for building a nice website.


Does the author not have any friends? How hard is it to see a friend or acquaintance wearing gloves and ask them whether or not they like them and where they bought them?


This is a much of a style problem as a choice problem. As a guy in the suburbs I don't give a shit about style, but my hands are basically like ice cubes all winter. So I have two cheap non-matching hats that I shove into my coat pockets and then I put my hands into them inside the pockets. I benefit from the fact that style is irrelevant (for me) and any hat works way better than any glove for my particular case.


Shopping sucks less now. Wider selection and more transparent information means that you can make a better choice today. If the author stops looking for the absolute best item, they'll find that it's a great world for the satisficing consumer.

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/satisficing.asp


The wider selection is very often knockoff, quasi-fraudulent garbage dressed up in fake reviews that will drown out most of the transparent information you were hoping to find.


Overall, what you can buy with a little research is much better in 2019 than 1999, even with the lemons and fake reviews.


Not sure I agree with that... Seems like every year materials get thinner, workmanship gets worse, and the rush to the bottom get worse.


Shopping doesn't suck. Being picky sucks. If I want gloves I go to the discount store and buy a 5-pack of the nitrile dipped cotton, the half-leather or the insulated rubber ones depending on what I need them for, no existential crisis whatsoever. I suspect the endless options for comparable products that we can access on the internet has made us more picky than we otherwise would be.


Alright, startup idea:

A service that, for a subscription fee, provides product reviews/recommendation lists, plus a concierge "recommend a product for my requirements" service. Maybe throw in basic troubleshooting help as well.

All reviews and recommendations would come from staffers, so it can't be gamed with fake reviews short of bribing someone.


... then the subscription fee business model turns out to be unsustainable, so they add a few harmless affiliate links to pay staff. then ads. then sponsored content ...


Try thewirecutter.com. It doesn't have a 'recommend' feature but the top picks in each category are usually the best value without hunting around.


I don't think searching for higher quality longer-lasting products in a sea of disposable short-term-focused products is something we should be so eager to complain about. In other words, this is bad take.

The author comes so close to this realization near the end of the piece when he says: > But isn’t that terrible for the environment?

And never follows up on that statement.

We spend decades of consumerism buying whatever was available with little forethought because either we didn't have a choice, or we didn't really care because it was cheap and got the immediate job done. This resulted in single-use products littering the shelves of most retail outlets because of our focus on instant-gratification.

Wirecutter may make people overthink their purchase experience but at the very least educates people on the pros and cons of different products which is something the market has woefully failed at doing.


First world problem: we've chosen to let the second and third world make stuff for us because we had more important things to do, and then sell the stuff to us via Ali Baba or the 40 thieves, and there's no way to tell which is which.

"Back in the day", I didn't even have the option to buy a USB-chargable hand warmer to keep my cell phone's battery from dying in the cold so I could hike in the winter and be within contact for various reasons. But my options are to buy one USB-chargable hand warmer/charger that will probably work for part of a season before it stops working, and another hand warmer/charger that will probably work for part of a season before it sets my house on fire when I try to charge it, and there's no way to tell which is which.


Barry Schwartz, "The Paradox of Choice"

https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choi...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paradox_of_Choice

There are also:

1. The issues with online misrepresentation and fraud.

2. The limited amount of information (far from perfect as TFA asserts) of online shopping. Heck, half the time you cannot even limit a results set to the product you're interested in, rather than a slew of vaguely associated items). Fit, finish, and quality can often only be assessed directly in person.


I'd just like to add, since nobody else has mentioned -- Hestra. They make extremely high quality gloves that will last you well over a decade.

If you spend time "optimizing" your life according to the Diderot Effect, you'll find these brands that are sitting at the top of their industry, quietly producing excellent products used by people who know exactly what they want.

It can be a dangerous thing to start only using the "best products", but once you start knocking off the low hanging fruit, you can make a noticeable difference in the quality of your life by having products that excel at their job.


It'd be great to have an automated shopper that somehow correlates what you buy + like to what (you would buy + like) . In some regards this is what targeted advertising is supposed to do, but most of the time it's just showing me the things I've already bought.

I was telling my boss the other day that I wished there was an AI that I could give a budget, say $100 a month, and it would automatically and incrementally purchase the items I do not have that I would be most likely to enjoy. Maybe it saves up for N months if it's more than my monthly budget etc... Could give manufacturer's a pipeline for stuff (eg, AI declares I'm going to buy item X at $Y in Z months, please make it) ...


There’s sites like this:

1. https://www.trunkclub.com/

2. https://www.stitchfix.com/

I gave them both a try and had some success but wasn’t that into it, but they’re supposed to kinda build price/style profiles over time. I just decided I wanted more control / I wanted to research things to death (this article hit home).


> and it would automatically and incrementally purchase the items I do not have that I would be most likely to enjoy.

And here I thought that consumerism couldn't get any worse ...


For that bot to have sufficient information, you're going to have to give up a lot of privacy...


I wonder if there is a market for a company that will shop for you, but at scale.

You go and say "I want a pair of black leather gloves, in this size." Check a box or two about your usecase, and give them your price range... and viola. A few minutes later you've got 2-3 to pick from. Even include a "I'm feeling lucky" option.

Though, I imagine even saving people time for things like "I need a hammer" would save people enough time comparison shopping that you could still take a cut and everyone would be happy.


> not being able to pick single objects that work for absolutely everyone (ironically, this criticism comes from outlets that each exist but for the grace of extremely wealthy Silicon Valley benefactors).

It's been a long time since a long-form vice article has really resonated with me. I am happy that we're clearly moving away from a world of a million variations of the same plastic crap to a place where consumers are demanding the right thing.


For finding what particular type or model of random good to buy I’ve become utterly dependent on just adding ‘reddit’ as a search term.

Living in Australia, adding ‘ozbargain’ and ‘whirlpool’ instead to another two searches to follow up completes the trifecta.

I just hope Google never optimises for that because then the content of bad reviews will shift to and overwhelm these sites instead. When a metric starts being the target it ceases to be a good metric.


Shopping online costs everything more except traveling and getting other customers’ opinions.

Amazon search result provides about 10 items per click to next page. In a traditional store you can see hundreds of goods at a glance, plus tons of rich info like smell, size, texture.

For products with standard specs like cable and socket, it’s pretty good to shop online. But for basically everything else, I prefer to travel downtown.


Shopping only sucks if you're in a hurry and even then it's hard to argue that it's gotten worse, just a different set of problems.


Maybe, but sometimes the more you research the harder it gets to decide.


Sometimes you research a lot only to end up buying the first option you saw.


The author could just buy whatever gloves are marked as "Amazon's Choice".

Of course, then she is assuming that Amazon has her best interests at heart, and hasn't just chosen whichever product makes them the most money.

But, by shopping at a store with a more limited product selection than Amazon, you are relying on the same assumption. Also, the assumption is almost certainly wrong in all cases.


Amazon’s choice is just an algorithmic label that sometimes gets applied to total crap, there’s no actual curation.


Online shopping is convenient at least. Why does it need to not suck? Has it ever not sucked?

Buying something without actually holding it in your hands and testing it out will never be an awesome experience. You can't really trust reviews and ratings. But you can usually return stuff and I don't see why the author made such a fuss about returning.


>I’d love to only spend $17 except there is no way 17-dollar leather gloves won’t be fake and off color and smell of gasoline

Being annoyed at my local shops wanting £100 for a wallet I went on ebay a ordered a leather one for £2.25 inc post in 2014 and still in daily use now. The internet is remarkable for shopping in some ways.


The best part about going to a speciality retail is getting expert advice (running shop and getting advice on the best running shoes from a runner or best bikes from a biker) wondering if that value add could be usuario to bring online. Open to feedback


JCPenny opened a test store in Hurst TX, and its everything I miss about department stores, its brightly lit, it has a salon and a barbershop, the goods are displayed attractively and in an easy to find way - if all stores were like this one, I'd go shipping more often.


This is the tomato sauce problem. There are too many tomato sauces on most store shelves to ever be satisfied with what you select. You would be happier given how unimportant tomato sauce is relatively in your life, to have but one choice. More choice is not always better.


It would be nice if we could get a catalog in SQLite or csv format and just search it ourselves then send a list of product numbers and addresses to ship them too.

Most people know excel and could probably prefer this.


Lets see:

1. You have the choice of getting any of the options you want, that are not available in store near you in 2 days sitting at home. 2. You can compare prices on each of those items and choose the price point that best suits you. 3. You have an option to get information from people who have previously owned that item and read their thoughts and reviews. 4. You can order as any many you want, and spend 5 mins preparing a return and 10 - 15 mins returning the item (or, just pay a small fee to get it collected back from your house)

Yet, you choose to drive down to a store, a store which probably doesn't have an online inventory index. Try to find an option you want, don't find it, and now you're mad?

Do you see the hypocrisy?


I really love when writers wrongly mix up economic metaphors.


> what I want is for the world to be small again

In a nut shell, what modern age humanity will desperately wish.

I wonder how digital native kids handle this?


And (I'm looking at you Shopify), VR/AR is not going to solve this.


What’s the acronym for “too long, read it anyway, was terrible”?


Obligatory xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1036/

It is from 2012 by the way.


Oh my. I once tried buying a kettle on Amazon but the reviews convinced me that any purchase would be bad. In the end I deliberately went to my local supermarket and bought one from there simply because I couldn't see the reviews.


Runner's mittens

kneel 40 days ago [flagged]

first world problems


No doubt, but please don't post unsubstantive comments here.


Buying things sucks now. This drives me nuts all the time and is one of many reasons I want a democratically planned economy. In addition to too many choices to meaningfully use, the vast majority of them are trying to essentially trick you into buying them. The drive for each glove (or whatever) manufacturer to increase profits causes them all to buy fake reviews, use cheap materials, imitate the style of the authentic, high quality ones... There is a persistent problem in clothing where whenever a brand gets a reputation for being good and not over-expensive, it is quietly bought out or switches to lower quality material in a year or two to cash in on its reputation. The same thing, of course, happens to the review sites (like the wirecutter) over time... It's hard to imagine the waste of resources that goes into this insane battle over the same purchases.

By contrast, if all the designers, manufacturers, and sellers were working not individually for their own profit, but for a salary (and intrinsic motivation) along consciously, democratically planned lines, we could have a rational and sane number of good quality gloves (etc) to choose from.

As Marx said, "In bourgeois societies the economic fiction prevails, that every one, as a buyer, possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of commodities." What is funny is he said that in about 1850.


Hard pass. I admit the corruption (wasn't the FTC supposed to be about preventing false advertising?), but your alternative is worse.

It won't actually be "democratically planned". It will be as democratic as a "democratic republic". It will be bureaucratically planned (by your salaried people). Historically, that has worked out badly. It hasn't worked out with the consumers being happier. Yeah, I know, "this time will be different, because we'll hire the right people". I'm very skeptical.


Aren't big corps not hierarchical bureaucracies anyway? Historically there were centrally planned economies. Nothing to say we can't organize things differently with collectives and worker's self management. "Consumers" might not be happier, but working people just might live a more fulfilling life.


Big corps were hierarchical bureaucracies, but they were replaceable. Let's say that GM messed up, and didn't build cars that people wanted to buy. Well, you could buy a Ford or a Chrysler instead. You could even buy a VW or a Honda.

But if your central planning bureaucracy messes up, there's no way to bypass it to get what you want to buy.

Or was your point that workers' fulfillment is more important than consumers' satisfaction? That might be a workers' paradise, but it's a lot less nice for the consumers. But the problem is that workers and consumers are the same people. I'm not sure that it would be a net win...


Big corps are still hierarchical bureaucracies. They are replaceable in theory though not in practice. Funny that you mention car manufacturers which are consistently kept afloat by bailouts and subsidies in the current economy. VW can't go under, it would nosedive the economy of Germany and they would never let that happen. Workers without jobs aren't really good consumers.


Big corps get replaced all the time. It's a slow process, but it's effective. And even if they aren't replaced outright, the management can be replaced if the board so decides - the top layer is in fact "democratically managed" by their stakeholders, to the extent feasible. The problem is that even then they're still big, with no market discipline operating within.


this isn't a real distinction. people only displaced things like standard oil with a lot of outrage and after years.


the argument is actually "this time it will be different because without material deprivation people will participate fully and democracy is oxygen to a planned economy, in contrast to Russia which was desperately impoverished when it started this".




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