She shops, she scores!

J0390552 The headlines a few weeks ago were all about how online shopping has broken through and become mainstream, not just for techies buying electronics gear, and wow isn’t this cool. I read that as I contemplated the pile of pants that had just arrived from Banana Republic online. Yeah, I thought, it’s normal all right, and I hate it!

I don’t buy my groceries from Safeway online; I used Peapod for a bit in its early days, but it took me just as long as a trip to the grocery store and left me cranky and eye-strained. I know shopping with little ones can be a struggle, but mine usually loved it, and were a lot easier to entertain in the seat of a shopping cart than at home. These days they help find items on the shelf and make me look not so crazy as I debate out loud whether to get the teriyaki or lemon rosemary pork loin. (“I like the teriyaki better, Mom!”) And it gives me some of that precious alone-time with a kid. Plus we get snacks along the way (love those demo ladies).

But now I’m buying pants online, because it’s the only place I can find my size. Brick-and-mortar stores have downsized me out of existence (not my fault–my measurements have stayed the same). Size four was fine, I liked when it turned into two; when it got one I felt a little marginalized, when one became zero I got seriously worried, and when zero became 00 and no longer carried in stores I stopped buying pants. For about six years.

But I really really needed a pair of khakis for summer business casual. (The last business-casual pants I bought were a winter grey, size 1, at a Gap in Boulder, Colo., circa 2001. And I’m sick of them.) So after several fruitless trips to Stanford Mall, an hour with a  personal shopper at Nordstrom’s, and way too much time in the dressing rooms of Ann Taylor and Banana Republic, I logged on to Banana Republic online and squinted at the screen for over an hour, trying to figure out the how wides, how longs, if midnight is blue or black, and if that fabric is as shiny as it seems onscreen.

Then I gave up trying to actually make a decision from those on-line photos and simply ordered every pair of cotton pants that came in a size 00, ranging in price from $20 on sale to about $100. I warned my husband not to panic when he sees the credit card bill; the charge from Banana Republic will only be temporary.

And bingo, she shops, she scores! Two—but only two–of the dozen or so pairs of pants fit; they were the same style, one in a brown, one in a sort of black. Neither in the light summer khaki I’d hoped for, but you can’t have everything. And they were the $20 sale pants, not the $100 new arrivals.

That weekend I took the rest of the pile back to the Banana Republic at Stanford. I went straight to the checkout; no need to shop around, while the clothes on display were cute, I knew not to bother, nothing fits. I felt a little weird dumping the pile on the counter; “I’m going to return this. All of this.” Salesfolks like you a lot better when you’re buying rather than returning; I found myself babbling excuses, “It’s that you don’t carry my size anymore.”`

So yeah, I’m one of those normal Americans shopping online instead of leaving the kids with my husband so I can spend a day at the mall, wander in and out of stores, take a break for a latte and croissant. But I’m still not getting why this is supposed to be a good thing.

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