The Death of Shopping

Well, sort of.

My friend Chad recently invited me to join a service called Shop It To Me. The service is like a personal shopper, allowing you to select various brands of clothing and accessories you like. It generates a weekly (or biweekly) email that collects sale items at various retailers based on your preferences, turning them into clickable links in your email that take you right to the item’s page.

I don’t think it’s an overshare to tell you I’ve already purchase 2 pairs of Calvin Klein underwear because it came right into my inbox. (If you want an invitation to Shop It to Me, let me know, because I get special credit for that!)

In a related observation, iTunes has totally stripped me of my desire to enter a music store. Not only can I directly download about 99% of what I’d want to buy, iTunes will be kind enough to alert me when artists I like or have previously purchased release something new. I use that all the time. iTunes also lets me “pre-order” new albums coming out–in actuality this is a dubious service because I generally get no tangible benefit by doing so (occasionally a pre-order only track, but rarely), except that iTunes will automatically download that album on its day of release so I don’t have to try to remember to click it.

But I’m in the iTunes store every Tuesday anyway to flip through the new releases. To go a step further, the iTunes program itself now features the “Genius” app, which will generate playlists for me when I select just one song, picking and choosing other tracks that are “compatible” with my selection. It’s a neat trick. Genius will also tell me (surprise, surprise) what other tracks I can buy by that artist in the iTunes store or (again) identify music I might like based on liking that one track or artist.

Amazon’s been doing this with books for a long time, which I’m sure you all know. It’s seeping into our culture all over the place–providing the highest levels of service that most retail workers are loathe to provide on a person-to-person basis. And let’s face it: I’m a service-oriented person. I drive 6 miles out of my way to go to a grocery store where the employees look me in the eye and say hello, or answer my questions with words instead of gestures.

Shopping as we know it will radically change. I don’t think this will ever replace the mall, but it will change how we think about the mall. As an oddly-shaped person (I prefer to think of myself a “unconventional”: my lower chest is “medium” in width and “large” in length, while my shoulders, arms, and neck are “extra-large,”–or “unbelievably huge,” as one of my friends called my neck recently), I’ll always have to try things on before I buy. My waist is “medium” but my butt is “large.” I’m also too cheap to tailor, so I grin and bear, or buy a whole bunch of stuff in every color when it fits.

All of this serves me, though, since I’m not a huge fan of leaving my house. Unless I’m pointed at the mall. In which case, heaven.

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