Although some may think that Senior Citizens and buying Christmas gifts and toys online may not go together, I am here to tell this is rubbish. I won't hold it against the inexperienced younger folk who believe in such nonsense.
There are many very good reasons why Senior Citizens will be buying lots of Christmas toys and gifts online this year. The biggest reasons are convenience and getting more for less money.
(I apologize for the long article. I realize that some of the younger folks may lose interest and not make it all the way through. Well, that just made this article even longer.)
Okay, I'll be the first geezer, er, Senior Citizen, to admit that I find shopping for Christmas gifts and toys the tradition way is a bummer; it unmellows my mood.
Christmas Shopping Saga: Here is a Christmas hamper or gift shopping saga. It has all happened to me, but I admit, not all in one trip:
Traffic: I hate traffic. Like a black hole in space, time slows down the closer you get to the mall or the mega-box store. Cars are everywhere and parking spots seem to be nowhere. Wait! One just opened up! No! That little hybrid just zipped in and took the spot.
Parking: After an hour of fruitless hunting and stalking, I finally find a parking spot that's on the very far edge of the parking lot, so far away from the store that I need a GPS to find it and a GPS to find my way back hours later when I have forgotten where my car is.
Getting to the store:As I make my way to the store, I have to fight other drivers who are so intent on looking for phantom parking spots that they fail to notice me. I have never been a fan of the way parking lots mingle people and cars.
The crowd: I make it to the store. Behold the dreaded crowd! I see there must be a sale on pitch forks and torches this year. The mob's mood takes an ominous turn when a store opens its doors. Those who have camped out overnight wake up sleepily to find that a bunch of last minute folk have just beat them into the store and gobbled up the new shipment of Christmas toys they were waiting for.
Inside the packed store, there is straight-up bedlam served with a jigger of pandemonium. Everyone is looking for Christmas gifts or toys. I make my way through knots of people who are twice as wide as normal because of their shopping bags full of loot.
Leftovers: In the distance, I see the Christmas toy I want but the supply that is left is running dangerously low. As I get closer, I seen first one, then another, snatched up by closer hands than mine. By the time I fight my way through, there is one left, on the floor, half opened, with parts hanging out. Like 3AM at the bar, this one looks pretty good, so I grab it.
The line: Then it's more sniping, er, shopping for more Christmas toys and gifts. Hours later, with a weary sigh, I head for the checkout area with my Christmas gifts at hand. It doesn't look that bad at first, but, oh no, the line for the register looks like the line for housing vouchers in the Atlanta area a few weeks ago. Somber medics with bottled water and smelling salts stand by for those not up to the challenge (okay, there are no medics).
Checkout: Finally, feeling utterly spent, it's my turn at the cash register to pay for my Christmas gifts. Do I have a membership card? Do I want one? Do I want an extended warranty plan? Do I want batteries? The sign above says "NO RECEIPT-NO REFUNDS-30 DAYS". I offer my credit card. The clerk snarls that I am to swipe it in the card reader. Silly me. I forgot. The crowd glares at me because I am an obvious rookie and holding up the line. People start to point at me.
The Gate Keeper: I pocket my receipt mindful of the sign above. I get to the door but a burly guy bars my path. "Not so fast, old timer," he shouts. "Where's your receipt?" So, chagrined, I dig into my pocket and show the nice man my receipt. He looks at it with suspicion, checks it once, checks it twice. Will he find me naughty or nice? Grudgingly, he finds nothing wrong, blinks, and thrusts my receipt back into my hands. So much for the dignity of being an elder.
A breathe of fresh air: Finally, I am out the swooshing door. Cool air greets me. I didn't notice how hot and humid it was inside. And it smells better outside as well. Well, it smells better until I pass an idling Bronco full of Christmas toys, waiting for something. A gal in front of me lights up a cigarette and I get a lungful of second hand nicotine and exhaust fumes.
Donations: It's dark now. It was day when I came, wasn't it?. I swear it was. Several large fellows are asking for a donation to something. Whatever it is, they don't look like they belong to it. They ain't no Santy Clauses. I say no, and the biggest one argues with me, implying that I am guilty of something or another, or something.
Disorientation and danger: Where is my car? It looks different out here at night, and of course, everything is backwards now as I have to retrace my route. Where is my GPS? Wait, let me first get far enough away from those guys. That Bronco's headlights suddenly turn on, all brights, and it speeds away from the curb nearly hitting me.
Lost and no island: I cross lanes, and search for my car. My GPS goes dead. I should've recharged it longer. Where did I park? Was it Z7 or 7YY? Why didn't I write it down? The peach color parking lot lighting make car colors impossible to read. After about an hour, I recognize my license plate and breath a sigh of relief.
Surprise: I notice that the glass on my driver's side door is frosted. Funny. It's not that cold. As I unlock the car, the glass shatters into pieces and falls into the car. Someone has smashed my window. Ah yes, I had forgotten to take a few small Christmas gifts from the back seat and hide them in my trunk. They are gone now, and my car window is open to the night chill.
Finding the exit: After putting my hard-won Christmas toys and gifts in my trunk, I am off. I wander around a bit, looking for signs to the exit. Like Vegas, their priority is to get you in; you're on your own to get out.
Chance encounter: As I get to an intersection, a car neglects to stop and nearly hits my left front fender. The driver yells and shows me his IQ with his middle finger and drives off, cursing me (I suppose) as I see his mouth working. I don't take it personally.
The crunch at the exit: I reach the last turn into the last lane out of the parking lot. It is jammed. People are supposed to take turns but the cars already in the exit lane seem to not be letting anyone new turn into it. I wait for a timid one to come along so I can sneak in.
The lane change: Finally, I am in and ready to leave the lot once and for all. Now I need to get into the left lane for my final turn home. Easier said than done. I have to wait a bit and cars behind me honk furiously at me for holding them up.
The final traffic light: Finally again, I make it and get to the light. The light takes forever. There is no left arrow here (the city did away with them for some reason; I'm sure it was a good reason). Straight-through traffic coming towards me seems to have no end. It is lucky if one car can make a left turn per green light.
Crossing traffic: Finally, for a third time, it is my turn. I have to inch out part-way into the main cross traffic lanes to claim my right to turn. I dart behind the last car through the light. Of course, the last car went through on a yellow that turned red, and so now I am turning on red. The cross traffic takes no notice of me and is raring to go. I am in danger of being caught in a half turn sideways as cars in both directions bear down on me. Those nice people who started as the red was changing don't help.
The way home: Well, I make it. I fight more traffic but traffic is getting a bit lighter as I get away from the black hole that is the mall. Time seems to return to normal. I begin to breathe easier. I get home. I was going to say "finally" but I will skip it.
Final insult: Under the street lights on my street, a pinkish light here, I now see fresh scratches on my driver's side door from the mall that I missed. And so, I conclude my Christmas gift shopping.
Doh! And then it hits me. I forgot a Christmas toy! And, what about the Christmas gifts that were stolen? I'll have to do it all over again tomorrow.
Buying Online with Auctions
If this sounds like your experience Christmas gift and toy shopping, then consider buying online this year. You can stay home. You don't have to fight traffic or crowds. You don't have to trek there and back again. And, you don't have to find your car and get home safely.
Of course, online Christmas gift shopping is not without its perils and pot holes. I know a friend who wants to buy a Christmas toy in high demand and thinks he can save a bundle on an online auction. There are auctions there and there are fixed price items.
Auction prices: My friend goes for the auctions because he sees that this item has sold in the pass for less than the fixed price. He thinks he is smart. What he fails to understand is the price that his toy sold for was in an auction that he was not in. If he had bid, he would have had to have a bid higher than what it sold for. His presence in the auction would have altered it.
He might have gotten the Christmas toy for one bid increment higher, or maybe many increments higher. My friend will never know how high the winning bidder was willing to go, just how far he had to go to win. But he has it in his head that he could have had his toy for what it sold for last.
Auction risks: So, my friend bids on the item. It is a ten day auction. Bidding for a $200 item starts at a dollar. As the days roll by, the bids rise. By day nine, bids are close to what my friends thinks he can steal this toy for. In fear, he enters a bid higher than he wants "just to be sure". In the end, it goes higher than he thought and now he has ten fewer days until Christmas. There is time risk and risk of loss in auctions.
My friend was smart, though, because he left a bid. Had he been there at the end bidding, he could have gotten into a bidding war and ended up paying too much. It's easy to become emotionally involved and to believe that this one time is the only chance you will have. That my be true for some one-of-a-kind items, but not usually for electronics.
Shenanigans: Now my friend tries a fixed price item. What he doesn't realize is that some sellers are really good and some, not so much. For example, selling refurbished items without disclosing it, or selling "grey" items for international use with a invalid US warranty, unbundling packages and selling the parts separately for more money, or selling counterfeits and rip offs. With gizmos, especially electronic gizmos, you have to really do your homework on the seller.
"Free shipping": My friend thinks he got a deal because he got free shipping. He didn't notice that the price he paid was higher to include the "free" shipping. Hey. It floats his boat.
Shipping time: My friend has to wait several weeks for his Christmas toy to arrive. The seller neglected to say, and my friend neglected to ask, if the seller had the toy actually in stock. In fact, the seller did not. The seller was using a drop shipper in China, and it takes about five weeks to fulfill the order.
Know the seller: Now, I am not saying all auction experiences are negative. Far from it. Deals and good merchandise can be had. But there are shenanigans to guard against. You really have to do your homework on the seller. Most people don't. They don't know what to ask and what to look for. It all boils down to how trustworthy the seller is.
Buying Online at Amazon
I used to just buy books and DVDs from Amazon, and I still do. I find that Amazon is a seller that I can trust. It has distribution points located across the country and usually can ship quickly. Amazon tells you its usual shipping time and whether your chosen Christmas gift or toy is available. You get good email updates from them so you know where your order is. You can always login to your account and see where your order is.
The anti-Amazons: As an aside, I hate online places that treat your order like it dropped in a black hole (there's that black hole analogy again). I place an order, and I hear nothing. No one tells me that they are out of stock, so I sit there, waiting. Maybe it will never come. Maybe it will come in a few months where new supplies arrive.
Amazon is not like that. They are good at fulfilling your order and shipping quickly.
Two day shipping: I buy the Amazon Super Saver shipping and pay once each year. Then I get free two-day shipping on my Amazon orders. Because of Amazon's service, I sometimes get an in-stock item the next day, in one day, if I order before the closing time for a day's ordering. Even if it takes the regular two days, it's still very, very fast shipping.
Lots of stuff: Did I mention that Amazon sells a lot more than books and videos? They sell electronic gifts, toys, and a huge variety of cool products.
Trust: I trust Amazon. Bottom line. Its products are fresh, unspoiled, and legal. For Christmas toys and gifts, they are hard to beat.
I don't know for sure, but it appears Amazon has better control over third-party suppliers compared to fixed price sellers on auction sites. (Your super saver shipping does not apply to these folks.)
True story: I've switched to buying my Christmas gifts and toys from Amazon. I got a Garmin GPS navigator and some accessories for a travel Christmas gift. To be fair, Amazon said one of the accessories would ship from a third-party supplier with a small shipping charge, so I knew that going in. I got the GPS itself in two days, and some of the accessories the next day and the day or so after that.
Value: So, as a senior citizen I am convinced there are good reasons to buy Christmas gifts from Amazon. I find that Amazon prices are very good, maybe not the lowest every time, but since the items are new and not pawed through like at your local drug store or mass-market big-box-mart store, I think they are a better value. For an important Christmas gift or toy for a loved one, I would not take on the risk just to possibly save a few bucks. I usually knock out the highest and lowest offers, and take one in the low middle range.
Good deals in tough times: Times are tough and very uncertain. The economy has been down the tubes since 2008 and there is no sign that it is getting better. It's wise to get good value when you do want to buy a nice Christmas toy or gift today more than ever. Even in hard times, we want to get Christmas toys, especially for our grand-kids. We can go for a lot of cheap Christmas gifts or a few good ones. Whichever way you go, it's important to get a good deal.
Hits: And, what a waste it would be to buy someone a Christmas gift and have it turn out to be a dud. Below I post a link to a Christmas gift web site that features best-selling and most wished-for Christmas gifts from Amazon. Buying best sellers greatly increase your odds of getting a Christmas toy or gift that will be a hit and that you will be appreciated for getting it.
Wrapping it up: So, seniors, you have discovered the benefits of email and online news. I urge you to do your Christmas gifts online shopping this year at a store you can trust, and get through your shopping in a breeze with none of the hassles of traditional shopping. You deserve it.