The Right to Free Shipping

29 01 2009

The other day I found myself buying a $23 cookbook in order to get free shipping on a DVD that costs $4.99, and it got me thinking about the absolute brilliance of Amazon’s business model.  Let’s consider:

  1. Lots of stuff, relatively cheap.  When I started using Amazon, they were only selling books, music, and DVDs.  Now, of course, they have everything under the sun, and though about 70% of what I buy is books, their prices (and their free shipping – we’ll get to that, it’s a devious little cycle) make me check Amazon first for almost anything before I consider comparison shopping.  I’ve purchased tea, cooking supplies, DVDs, and even the plastic wrap to weatherproof my windows from Amazon.  
  2. The free shipping model.  Okay, so once you have a shitload of stuff that people will want to buy, at reasonable prices for the most part, you start offering free shipping on orders over $25.  We don’t really think about this, because it’s so ingrained now, but it’s freaking brilliant.  With other stores, I’ll see a free shipping deal for orders over $40 or $50 and think it’s silly, too much money, and not buy anything at all (partly because of what I’ve come to expect from Amazon). But $25 isn’t bad.  What’s more, for a lot of books, it’s more than the price of a book, but not much more, so you think “hey, if I buy just one more book, I’ll get free shipping!”  Over time, you get hooked on this system, and you come to expect free shipping.  So you do things like buy a $23 book to get free shipping on a $4.99 DVD.  And what’s more, you stop comparison shopping, because other stores don’t offer the free shipping.  
  3. Personalization.  This is the nail in the coffin, and I admit that it’s been killing me lately.  Amazon now has all these features – wishlists, listmania, personalized deals, recommendations, etc., that make you want more stuff, and then conveniently keep track of the stuff you want so that it’s available when you want to add an item to get that free shipping.  Whenever I’m shopping and come up short of the $25, I go immediately to my wishlist, and find something to add, which usually brings me up to $30 or $35.  Everybody wins.  On top of that, when I get bored in class I start playing with recommendations, and end up clicking the fatal deals link, which gives me not only gold box deals (the culprit that made me pay $115 for seven seasons of the West Wing – but so worth it), but also personalized deals.  I don’t think they actually cut much off the price, but they usually are pretty good, and I often find myself saying “ooh, 15% off?  Gimmee.”

So good job, Amazon.  You’ve converted a nice freebie into what’s practically an internationally recognized right.  (You have no idea how painful it was to live in Ireland and be ineligible for free shipping on Amazon.co.uk.)  I salute you.

Advertisements




Sometimes perhaps it’s best to keep my mouth shut

25 06 2008

I had an amusing encounter at the bookstore today.  I was perusing the LGBT section, which I tend to do frequently in June when they have 20% off everything for Pride.  I selected Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica 2008 and went to the counter to purchase it.

Me: The sale’s going on until the month of June, right?

Saleslady: Yep, till the end of the month.

Me: Awesome.  This is my third time buying books this month.  *laughs*

Saleslady: *smiles*

Me: I just had to get this one, you know, because my friend has a story in it.  I’d feel guilty otherwise!

Saleslady: *blank look*

I suppose when you buy lesbian bondage erotica, you’re not really supposed to chat about it.  Oops.  Failure at social graces #457.  Oh, well.





For those of you who *really* can’t do anything without your computer…

29 05 2008

There is apparently an application for Mac called “DressAssistant 2.2.”  As far as I can tell without downloading, it essentially tells you what to wear when you get up in the morning.

Joking aside, though, I am on the hunt for handy programs to organize my life (a never-ending struggle). I got Evernote, but I haven’t really tapped into its usefulness yet.  I’m trying out a new freeware recipe application, though I really want MacGourmet in all honesty.  I’m also really hoping to find some good foreign language notetaking software.  If anyone has a favourite free or very cheap Mac application to let me know about, by all means, leave a comment!

And speaking of things that aren’t very expensive, I’d like to come clean.  I have a magazine addiction.  I’m subscribed to the New Yorker for three years, I just renewed Gourmet for another two, and I got the Vegetarian Times and Bon Appetit.  I am not renewing Harpers or Vanity Fair, but I’d like to point out that I don’t actually read any of these magazines.  They sit on my coffee table, waiting patiently.  It’s a disease.





Fashion scares me

20 05 2008

Saturday I spent an exhausting mid-morning at the mall with my good friend Rita.  When I was a child, I used to think shopping was really cool, and that the image of being someone who shops was even cooler.  This was around the time I was worshipping the Spice Girls and thought that gay people were “gross.”  Ahem.  As I’ve come into myself, I’ve ditched a lot of the traditionally “girly” things I did just because you were supposed to, and the mall is one of those things.  I can’t stand malls.  They suck you in, they seem to be populated entirely by rude thirteen-year-olds, they’re impossible to get to using public transportation, and the smell of perfume irritates my sinuses.

That’s not to say I don’t like shopping entirely.  I love shopping for kitchen supplies at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I love grocery shopping.  I like shopping online from the comfort of my bed, and yes, I admit, I love Target.  I joke that I can’t walk out of that store without spending less than $100, but it’s actually true.  I have never walked out of Target with less than $100 worth of merchandise.  It’s an affliction.  Fortunately, I don’t go frequently, but when I do it’s always a bit overboard.  Last year, I spent several thousand hard-earned dollars on furniture (about 40% of it shipping charges) from Target online.  My dresser, nightstand, desk, end table, desk chair, hutch, and bookcase are all from Target, which means I put them all together myself in two painful, frustrating weeks.  My desk is beautiful, but both screws on one leg came out with the inside part as well, stripped clean off the wood, and had to be glued back in with apoxy.  I’m still a little frightened to get an iMac because I don’t want something worth more than a thousand dollars sitting on that thing.  

Anyway, I digress.  The point is, when I want a lot of random things I go to Target.  I’d been meaning to take the bus out there forever, and I had plans to go after the Farmer’s Market Saturday, when Rita suggested we go together – in her car.  Clearly, a much better proposition.  The initial plan was to purchase comfortable shoes, along with a few other items.  I’ve been having a bit of a shoe quandry, because I own maybe twelve pairs and none of them are quite comfy enough.  Since I do a lot of my moving around the city on foot, a very slight discomfort can be a big pain.  What I really wanted was some plain, comfy, closed toed, closed heeled black loafers.  These apparently don’t exist.  I tried on about nine pairs at Target and gave up.  This meant that (after I spent $109 on other random crap, including six pairs of those new Hanes underwear that I really can’t praise enough, by the way) we had to venture into the mall.  Crap.

I did end up getting two pairs of shoes.  One is a pair of black loafers that aren’t perfect, but might be with the right socks.  The other is a pair of black crocs that look like Mary Janes but are super, super comfy.  I sort of hate crocs, but these aren’t brightly coloured and don’t have huge holes in them, so they’ll do.  The problem was that Rita wanted business clothes.  Specifically, she wanted dress-shirts.  Button-down dress shirts.  Shockingly enough, they no longer exist.  Okay, I exaggerate, but it took three hours roaming around the mall and we probably saw about ten button-ups total.  We looked at the men’s section, but nothing was small enough to be convincing.  We did, however, find more than our share of Disturbing Fashion Trends for this season.  Here are a few you should watch out for:

#1: The Shacket.  I don’t know what the designers were thinking when they came up with this, exactly.  It’s a shirt that looks, for all intents and purposes, like a business jacket.  A really tacky business jacket.  The fabric is thinner than a jacket, but it’s not at all soft.  

#2: The My Breasts Are Happy to See You Shirt.  This comes in two forms.  One is a shirt that looks deceptively conservative, even nice, until you hold it up off the rack and discover that it is translucent.  The other is a drapey thing, made of thin fabric, with a “V neck” that ends just above the belly button.  

#3: Picnic Blanket Wardrobe.  Sometimes shirts, or sometimes coordinates, this fabric is opaque at least, but it doesn’t help much.  The pattern is either plaid or checked, and you have your choice of yellow, bright green, or the ever popular orange-and-pink combination.  

#4: So-Short-They’re-Not-Even-There Shorts.  I know this isn’t a new phenomenon, but it really just hurts me.  That can’t be comfortable in the derrière.  

#5: Gone Fishin’.  This is a trend in both men’s and women’s apparel.  From your navy blue woman’s shirt with what looks like a shoelace hanging from the neckline to the horrible short sleeved double-pocket men’s button-down shirt, this style compliments #3 quite nicely.  Or, you know… not.





Trend-setter for fifteen seconds

14 05 2008

Every now and again, it’s bound to happen.  If you keep living your life more or the less the same way, the way you dress/what you eat/who you have sex with is bound to become trendy for a few minutes or so.  At various times in my life, my style of glasses, the men’s dress shirts I wear, and my haircut have been cool.  Wearing dark colours was actually cool for quite a while there.  Being a vegetarian?  That was cool at some point, I think.  Anyway, today I just realised that the tea I’ve been drinking for a year or two is suddenly trendy for the summer.

Sometimes, when I’m bored, I watch Danish talk shows on YouTube to keep up my Danish skills (which are severely lacking, really).  In one episode, a talk show host was interviewing Viggo Mortensen, an actor I happen to be a fan of (check out his performance in Eastern Promises if you haven’t yet; it’s stellar).  Mortensen spent some time in Venezuela and Argentina as a kid, and he apparently drinks a tea called maté, to which he introduced the host.  “Does it need sugar?” he host asked.  “No, no.”  Host takes a sip.  Nearly spits it out.  Mortensen adds sugar.  

I was intrigued by this clip, because I’m a huge fan of strong tea.  I got some yerba maté, as well as a blend called “rainforest” maté, from the online tea company I was using at the time, and I really liked it.  I was also thrilled to find that Red Poppy, the hookah bar slash tearoom in Iowa City, has a fantastic maté.  Searching around online, I found that the tea contains antioxidants that give an energy boost, much like caffeine.  Excellent!

Well, today I was riding my bike across the river for my Turkish exam, and because I’m lazy and didn’t want to ride up the hill to the building where the exam was, I “parked” at the student union.  And because the weather was nice and this was my last exam, I decided to celebrate with an icy beverage.  So, lo and behold, they have turned my nice hippie antioxidant tea into a latté.  Leave it to JavaHouse to latté-ize almost anything.  It’s good – basically a chai latté with maté instead of chai – and it costs $4.05 plus tax.  Ha!  Ha ha ha ha.  And of course, they have big posters advertising how it’s like caffeine but not, and organic and good for you and trendy. 

Oh, boy.