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Shopping Online – Worth the Savings?

Yesterday, my roommate came home from Cole Haan, happy about his purchase. He told me all about his great shoes (and new flip flops) and the great deal that he got thanks to a promotion.

“Sweet, let’s see them.”

“Oh, I don’t have them yet.”

Wait, what??

It turns out that my roommate is quite money-savvy. Just like you, he doesn’t like wasting money if he doesn’t have to. And just like me, he prefers shopping online.

Instead of buying the shoes in the store and walking out with them, he decided that the extra week was worth and that by buying it online and getting free shipping, he’d be able to save the 5% or so in tax. He didn’t need the shoes soon for a special occasion, so waiting was barely an issue.

So he got the best of both worlds. He was able to try on the shoes and find out if they would be a good fit for him. He also received the customer service many claim is a reason to buy from brick-and-mortar stores. And he got the savings by buying online, where there is no sales tax.

There’s no problem with going to the store, then purchasing online. The store gets the money either way. The employee may not receive commission for the sale, but I believe that should not impact his decision of how to pay. While it would be nice, I don’t think it’s something he should have to take into consideration each time he makes a purchase.

Readers, do you shop online or in-store? Is it worth it to save a few dollars in tax or do you want your goodies fast and hate waiting?



  1. Not only can you save the tax, you can also often find a much better deal online. Once you know the model number of the product you want to buy, google it and you will frequently find the exact same model for sale, somewhere in the U.S., at considerably less you would have paid at your local retailer.

    • @Doug Warshauer, Very true, I almost never shop in-store because of it. Amazon usually has great places, plus if you buy through them and it’s over $25, you get free shipping!

      In this specific case, he had a credit from a previously returned purchase, so he had to buy there instead of online.

  2. I use brick and mortar stores for groceries, staples, and clothes. Everything else is bought online because I hate driving around looking for a good deal.

    My husband has bought from Barnes & Noble a few times since Half Price didn’t have what he wanted, the library had a waiting list, and he didn’t want to wait the 5 days for Amazon. In general, neither one of us is very patient, I’m just an even bigger money hoarder so I suck it up, lol.

  3. For Christmas this year, The Wife wanted one of those hardcore DSLR cameras (side note: she still doesn’t know how to use it) so I went to a local shop. The guy taught me all about it, but I didn’t pull the trigger until I checked online. I made a mental note that if the camera was within 35 bucks I would buy it from the local guy. There was over $100 differece, and I even told the guy the price, and he said he couldn’t come close.

    For me it has to do with the service and how much I care about supporting the local guy. If it is a best buy then I have ZERO loyalty.

    • @Evan, Agreed. If it’s close, why not? But for such a huge difference, it’s hard to say no. Maybe we should institute a “give him the difference of what you were willing to pay and what you got it for online” rule?

  4. I love to shop on-line when I have free shipping, discount codes, etc. Or if it is something I can’t get locally.

    My problem with your story is the fact that roommate went to the store, took the sale person’s time, and then that salesperson lost out on the commission. Since sales people make their money from commission, you basically wasted his/her time, which could have been spent on a customer that intended to buy from him.

    Now, if you go in the store, wave off the sales person, do as you please…then fine. Order wherever you want.

    But I don’t think it is cool to not even feel bad about taking away the salesperson’s livelihood.

    • @Mysti, There are a lot of people that browse, take up people’s time, and end up not buying anything. When I go into a store with no intention of buying anything (and sometimes when I do), I waive off the salesperson. But making the purchase in store vs. online shouldn’t be buyer’s responsibility. Good customer service shouldn’t only come when there’s a commission to be had. There are a lot of other benefits of providing quality customer service.

      • @Daniel, I am not talking about customer service in order to get a commission. Anyone in a customer service position should always give their best. But if you are taking the salespersons time, especially with the knowledge that you probably won’t be purchasing from them, you are taking time away from their ability to make money.

        Turn it back on you….if someone took your time, and you got nothing in return, you would be upset, wouldn’t you? Especially if you potentially lost money in the transaction.

        • @Mysti, No doubt, and that’s why I don’t think it’s ok to go into a store if you have no intention of purchasing from that store. But if you’re gonna buy, just online, is it really so terrible?

          Should I call up the store in advance and ask how they pay their employees before trying out a product? Should I stop using coupons because I’d also be taking 10% off of an employee’s earning for the sale?

          I think it’s nice, but I don’t think it’s his responsibility.

        • @Daniel @Mysti, There is a deeper marketing issue companies are trying to address that have multiple channels for marketing and direct sales – how do you attribute the sales to each channel? Most marketing folks agree that attributing a sale just to the point of sale is inaccurate, but it’s a cloudy area when they try to give a specific answer.

          And the answer to that question affects all sorts of decisions from pricing strategies to compensation structures.

          The compensation of most store employees is not transparent to consumers in the way that, for example, it is at restaurants, so we can’t really be burdened with that responsibility. But there are more complex structures too, like how does a company sell something online for less than in the store without making an in-store customer (who finds out about it with their mobile device) feel like they aren’t being penalized? As markets continue to fracture and technology becomes more pervasive (guess what my major was), this will be an increasingly difficult problem.

  5. Coupon codes baby! If I don’t need it immediately, I’ll find it cheaper on line.

    …unless it’s alchohol and then i’ll drive to Delaware. PA has all these anitquated (sp) laws about beer and liquor.

  6. I hate shopping-so for me, either I buy online or I buy bricks and mortar-to do both for one item arghhhhhhh!

    Sales people love to see me coming-I have a list and I buy it all in one place at one time, if possible. Of course it is usually during the once a year mega-sale!

    My body will not allow much clothes purchases online-everything needs to be altered!

  7. I shop online every chance I get! Of course, I buy most clothes in stores because I hate finding out something doesn’t fit and then having to return it. I generally don’t enjoy shopping, and I like the convenience of shopping any time I want online. As others mentioned, promo codes rock.

    I recently bought a bakers rack for my kitchen online and it was great. It would have been a pain to lug that thing home. Delivery is fantastic!

  8. I typically shop online. It’s easier (I dont care about the tax much, I dont spend gobs of money when shopping) and I can usually get a better deal.
    I also have no problem with waiting. A little delayed gratification is good. I waited almost 4 months to buy a coat this year (but was rewarded with $40 in savings)

  9. If I consult a person at a brick and morter location, I’ll usually make the purchase there. But for other things that I know about I buy online.

    Remember, if everybody consumed a saleperson’s time and then bought online, there would only be online businesses. And personally, I’d rather try the shoes that I’m going to buy before purchasing them. Now if it was a watch or something electronic that I’m well versed in, then I buy online…

    So for me, it depends on the product :)

    • @Money Reasons, What about if you went to Best Buy, took a look at a computer, then found it online for $50 cheaper. Would you still buy it from the store? Would you pay the guy whatever his commission would be?

      • @Daniel
        Being a techie, I’d probably send the saleperson away. All I would do is look at the machine and see if I like the look and feel of it. I would have already read about the specs of the computer before I went if I was interest in one particlar model.

        If I had a couple of hundred thousand more dollars, I’d buy it on the spot, but since I don’t… I’d probably buy it online.

  10. My wife and I shop online a lot. Most online stores have good return policies, I don’t have to drive anywhere, the selection is great, and the price is competitive. We even buy groceries online especially gluten-free things like flour, pasta, etc.

    • @Money Obedience, I do most of my shopping online too. Especially for the cheap stuff. I risk the quality, but most of the time it turns out ok. I love coming home to a package rather than having to go out and buy it myself. Saves time and money!

  11. I like to shop online for the savings as well. I find however that typically I either need to buy a lot of stuff, or get free shipping to make it worthwhile. If you buy a $10 pair of shoes, but have to pay the shipping, it usually outweighs the benefits.

    Also, like Money Obedience mentioned, I need a store with a good return policy. Since you’re never %100 percent sure how things will fit/feel, I like to know I can return it if need be.

    • @Learn Save Invest, Definitely true, especially of Amazon. $25 is sometimes difficult to get to, and if you can’t reach it, it’s usually not worth it when you factor in shipping.

  12. You bypass one (or even more) parts of the distribution chain, so it’s common sense – online shopping is worth it. Add coupons, affiliate (you can buy stuff with your own affiliate codes via amazon for example), but also the hours and gas you save (postage is free in most cases). Yes, online shopping rules, what else to say!

  13. I hardly shop at all. When I do, it’s usually in a store. If it is something in particular that I could not find in a store, or that I want to purchase at that instant, I’ll go online. I like shopping in a store because you can pick the item up, look at it up close, etc. Online has the benefit of comparing multiple locations, more products, and more reviews all at once.

    A good combination between the two is idea. Just the other day I delayed a b=purchase at best buy because I wanted to look up some reviews of the product. Turns out, I ended up buying the product online and downloading it:)

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