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This Is How I Finally Got My Christmas Shopping Done

Christmas decorations, Ottawa, December 2017

Remember that week when I was too sick to go through the proper Santa letter-writing process?

Well, funny enough, when you have a fever and can barely function, you don’t really feel like scouring the mall for gift ideas and doing your Christmas shopping. And then, as I got better, I had to catch up on work (no sick days for freelancers!) and the rest of my routine tasks, so I had even less free time than usual.

Oh, and it got very cold, too. And snowy.

“I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping,” a close friend of mine confessed over the phone. “I mean, when am I supposed to go? Either I’m at work or with the kids, including one who is old enough to understand absolutely everything.”

“I know! And it’s not like we can just visit a few stores conveniently located on the main street, right?”

“Nope, ’cause we don’t have a motherfucking main street or a pedestrian shopping district but strip malls here and there. You have to drive all over the place because that store at the Rideau Centre is going to send you to the other store at Bayshore when they’re out of stock or something…”

“… and then at the end of the night, you spent two hours in traffic and thirty minutes driving around the parking lot just for three purchases.”

“The only gift I have ready so far is for my in-laws. I stayed up until 1 a.m. to make them a personalized calendar with pictures of the kids—”

“—I just did exactly the same thing!” I shouted.

If you’re a grandparent, if you’re reading this and if you’re not that into photo calendars, do speak up because I guarantee you this is the gift you’ll be getting for the years to come. I have data about this—I polled my friends.

“It takes forever to design!”

“I know!”

“I think this year I’m gonna shop online.”

“That’s usually what I do.”

I’m not a big online shopper, which may sound strange considering that like anyone with power and Internet access, I do so much with my laptop. But most of the time, inconsistent sizing, high shipping costs and the lack of Canada-friendly shipping sites in the U.S encourage me to go to brick-and-mortar stores. Plus, customer service is usually better.

And this year again, I did try to visit physical stores. I had a gift card from The Bay that I wanted to use for Christmas shopping, so naturally, I went to the closest location, at Rideau. “We’re out of stock, sorry. Try at St. Laurent, maybe?”

This is how I made my first online purchase of the season. Instead of driving all the way to St. Laurent, it made sense to order directly online from The Bay. Besides, I was getting free shipping.

Bad idea. First, the company’s website looks like it was designed when the store was founded, in 1670. Eventually, I placed an order for two items and waited. Four days later, I received a padded envelope—it was obvious it contained only one of the items. I tried to contact customer service by email but the link provided in the confirmation didn’t work. So I called the 1-800 number and I was put on hold for thirty minutes. When someone picked up, I was told I’d get the other item by the end of the week. Guess what? I didn’t. I fill out the contact form on the website, no reply. I called back customer service, waited on hold for another half hour and I was instructed to check my tracking number. “My tracking number says I received my package, which I did—except there was only half of my order in it!” I explained. Then customer service hung up on me. A week later, I did receive the missing item. Phew. That same day, The Bay emailed me a survey about my shopping experience. I gladly answered it (no follow up, obviously) and swore I’d never shop at The Bay again.

For the rest of my shopping, I turned to that convenient giant retailer—Amazon. This is one of these companies I love as a customer but hate as a person concerned with labour standards because of how it treats employees (I give you a clue—like shit). Ideally, I’d rather support employers who don’t base their business model on labour exploitation, but again, I just bought imported bananas at Walmart, another monolith that routinely stoops to dismal lows in its hunt for endless profit, so there is theory and practice.

Amazon charged my credit card, tried to get me to sign up for Prime, then delivered packages in a timely manner even though I declined the Amazon credit card and the free Prime offers.

Now I have a bunch of boxes in my walk-in closet. Mission accomplished, although I still have to wrap the gifts because I didn’t want to pay Amazon almost $5 per item to do it for me.

I’m still feeling a bit sad about this Christmas shopping. Sure, buying online is efficient, occasionally cheaper and saves me from carrying stuff back home. Yet I can’t help missing social interactions in stores. We live in a weird society where we seem dedicated to avoiding each other as much as we can…

How about you? Do you shop online or would you rather go to a physical store? And if you celebrate Christmas, are you ready for it?

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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