... because shoppers who bought those shoes also bought this ugly acrylic smock.

Online shopping from offshore providers can provide a good lesson in 'buyer beware'. In the past little while many cases have come to light of people buying fashion items online from overseas sellers, and receiving goods that didn't quite match the photos depicting them on the buying site.

What looked like it belonged on the Oscar's red carpet in the photo turned out to be a really cheap and nasty knock-off when it arrived in the mail.

Some might say it's not overly surprising that $45 doesn't buy an haute couture evening gown. I'd agree, but still there must be some degree of consumer protection.

I don't want to wade into an ACCC investigation so I won't show the actual garments, but to demonstrate the differences apparent, the photos of the display items and the photos of the actually received items show a level of similarity kind of like how closely this [1] mirrors the original. Behold the bargain.

(I will never get tired of looking at that restoration).

Usually, the costs involved in these transactions were so low that people just considered it a lesson learnt so it took quite a while for any complaints to be raised.

What this does show is the importance of a physical engagement in retail.

Emotional triggers to buy are effective online, and in fact can be interesting to observe as they are often exaggerated in this setting. The subsequent sensory factors are largely missing though. Generational differences in attitudes and social preferences can be used to explain how this has been of relatively low importance to date, but the cyclical nature of many social trends makes me wonder whether this might not continue forever.

Statistics usually show that online retail is surging. Sure. A little baby can zoom up and even double in size fairly quickly. Such increases to an adult's size are unlikely. If I'm twice my height or twice my weight next year please pray for me and my thyroid.

This is not to say that online channels aren't important. They are. But bricks and mortar retail volumes are far higher than online sales and I'm not convinced online will catch up.

A level of comfort is essential in any substantial transaction. In many retail settings buyers reach this level of comfort through actual interaction with the goods in question, as well as with the seller. This interaction, though still possible, is diminished when online.

In the near future a convergence of several factors may chip away at online sales volumes: a cyclical renewal of interest in lower-tech engagement by younger consumers, issues of online financial security, and the spread of internet connectivity in previously isolated regions and the subsequent increases in small-businesses and micro-businesses active in trading with customers around the world.

As global connectivity increases and the potential for low-level retail trade is opened up for millions of people, cultural differences will be seen in cross-border customer relations.

Surging online sales volumes will be accompanied by surging rip-offs.

Too many cases of girls buying dresses that turn out to be plastic drop-sheets with flowers printed on them may remind people that shopping used to always involve leaving the house, going to a shop and looking at what was on offer. Sometimes that isn't such a bad thing.


[1] Conservation-restoration of Ecce Homo by Elías García Martínez