Changes in our shopping habits


It seems to me that the coronavirus has turned lot of our normal activities upside down, that is changed them in ways that may well have a long term effect on our lives.

Oh sure, our society is gradually “opening up” by resuming some of our previous activities that were suspended — I recently had my first swim in months. Some athletic team endeavors are commencing — although they may be in a somewhat reduced or otherwise altered manner. Bars and restaurants are operating in atypical fashion to conform to restrictions generated by the virus crisis. Yep, our world is sure different than a few months ago, but for the most part we are adapting.

One activity, however, not only has been immediately affected by consequences of the virus’s emergence but may be permanently changed — shopping. Yep, our society had very robust and diversified customs about shopping. In general, we had developed two categories of shopping. One consisted of what amounted to a social activity wherein individuals or groups proceeded to enter shops or stores and examine the merchandise but with little intention or expectation of making a purchase. This could be characterized as “recreational” shopping.

Back in the days when my Sweetheart-for-Life was still mobile, I would sometimes accompany her as she happily wandered through store after store pausing to inspect items she would likely never consider actually buying. Not my cup of tea, but she can be very persuasive. Recreational shopping was very popular — until the virus hit. The shutdown of malls and stand-alone stores that were venues for recreational shopping along with the “stay home” orders essentially put a halt to this pastime.

As these locations are gradually reopening, indications are that the “gotta wear a mask in our store” requirement along with the constant sanitizing by store employees is resulting in little appetite for recreational shopping — and the future doesn’t look bright for those who have enjoyed this diversion in the past.

OK moving on.

A second general type of shopping has been what I would designate as “acquisition” — that is, going to a store with the specific purpose of buying merchandise — and I must admit to being such an “acquisition” shopper. Some of the venues for this type of shopping might well be the same as those of recreational shopping but the objective is different. In addition, other settings such as grocery, appliance, hardware, shoe, “big box” varied-merchandise, and similar stores are added to the mix.

One characteristic of us acquisition shoppers is that we prospective buyers carefully examine candidate merchandise to ensure it satisfies our requirements, that is meeting our needs. To this end, we have historically appraised the prospective purchase in person, whether it be an automobile at a car dealer or zucchini at grocery store. Yep, from A to Z we have liked to evaluate candidate acquisitions personally.

The virus crisis, along with its “stay home,” “social distancing,” “sanitizing,” and designation of some businesses as “essential” while others had to be shut down has most certainly had an effect on us acquisition shoppers. We have had to adapt to these restrictions as well as to shortages, but our basic principle of in-person evaluation and acquisition continues to serve well despite virus-caused problems.

However, a rapidly expanding shopping experience has arisen — likely fueled in part by the restrictions and fears associated with the virus. It’s “remote” or “distant” shopping where the buyers order merchandise from A to Z — automobiles to zucchini — without ever personally seeing what they are purchasing. Yep, they rely on the car dealer or a youngster with a roll-around cart to ensure the automobile or beef roast meets their needs.

Lotsa changes in our shopping habits, huh.

Well, our lives are constantly changing, including how we shop, but as for me, I think I’ll continue with my old-fashioned approach of visiting stores where I can evaluate its offerings and compare them with what I figure are my needs. I still intend to look over the zucchini for size, shape, and color. As for purchasing a car sight unseen without having a test ride to see how it handles, if I can read the instrument panel, or whether it can accommodate my Sweetheart-for-Life’s wheelchair — well, that’s something I simply can’t imagine.

You know, the folks I kinda feel sorry for are those whose recreational shopping habits have been so disrupted. But come to think about it, maybe they have redirected their energies and been demonstrating for opening all venues without restrictions thus restoring their beloved recreational shopping. It’s something to think about.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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