I’m introducing a new series called Ask the Readers. Essentially these articles will be open-ended and EG welcomes all discussion, stories, experiences, etc. that relate to the topic at hand. Hopefully you shy readers will chime in with any related stories you may have. Of course there aren’t any wrong answers, we just want to hear about your experiences.

My collaborator on this article will be Matt Ruggieri. You may remember Matt from the series he did with us on skin care, hair care, and shaving several months ago. He owns an online shop called The Motley, and I’ve asked him to contribute his perspective as a small business owner. His response will be featured in an upcoming post.


LLBean Signature’s online store


As dudes, I think we’re hardwired to detest shopping. Not sure what it is; maybe it’s our lack of patience for such seemingly unimportant things. Perhaps it’s the fact that caring about one’s appearance has been considered less-than-manly for many years, and we grew up watching our dads react to the idea of shopping with the same disdain. Naturally, it’s a learned response.

If you’ve been following this site for any amount of time, then you most likely are not part of the aforementioned group. Congratulations! You’re one step ahead of the majority of your male peers. And if you’re like me, you tend to do a lot of your shopping (or at least your window shopping) online, in the comfort of your own home. I mean, why not, right? It’s comfy, you don’t have to move much, you can view hundreds of products without lifting a leg.

I’ve been on plenty of shopping sites, both as a shopper and as a web designer (what I do when I’m not talking about all this style stuff). What I’m most curious about is how YOU view the online shopping experience? Namely:

  1. What do you look for in a shopping experience?
  2. What makes an experience great?
  3. Are there any online stores you frequent not only because of their selection, but also because you’ve had a good experience?

Assuming it’s a store that I already frequent in real life, I evaluate sites based on these criteria:

  1. ease of use (usability is very important to me)
  2. a vast selection of products, or at least more than what’s available in the store
  3. smooth transition through each step, from selection all the way to payment confirmation
  4. a clearly-defined process, with indicators telling me what part of the process I’m on
  5. competitive shipping (!!!)

Let’s address the one thing I detest the most

Speaking of shipping, I don’t understand why it would take over 10 days to get a product I ordered. Why the high expectations? One word: Amazon. I know not everyone has their leverage or turnover, but I feel that shipping rates and speed haven’t improved at all in the past several years.

Here’s an example. I recently bought a pair of sand-colored Clarks Desert Boots from Nordstrom. They were on the clearance rack for $46 (!!!), and naturally, the only available sizes were one too big, and one too small. I spoke to the sales dude and he checked the inventory. Even though they didn’t have any in stock, he offered to order a pair for me from another location and have it shipped to my place for free, and for the same price I would’ve paid in-store ($46!!!)

Superb! An unbeatable deal that I couldn’t pass up.

Let me preface this next part by saying I hardly ever complain about anything. The sales dude told me it would take about 5 days to ship to my house. Okay, that’s fine. What he DIDN’T tell me is that it would take 6 days for the order to go through. So I waited that long just for a confirmation email saying my order was processed, and that I should receive it in 5 days.

Seriously? How could it possibly take that long to process an order? Another thing, he told me the shoes would be coming from Sacramento (1.25 hours away.) When I checked my tracking number online, the package was leaving from Pentagon City Mall, in VIRGINIA. Sacramento is nowhere near Virginia. It’s pretty much the most opposite you can get in terms of location. I don’t blame the sales dude for the slow ass processing of my order (unless he just forgot to place it until 5 days later), but I do blame him for not telling me my order is shipping from Virginia.

What’s the name of the game?

Customer service. Where’s the love? Could he not have sent me an email telling me my order is going to take a little longer than expected? That it’s actually coming from the opposite side of the country? How about a call? He has all my information.

Perhaps this is all out his control; after all, he may just be following protocol and he’s but a cog in the large corporation that is Nordstrom. But this is the exact reason why I love small businesses. You may be paying a premium when you buy goods from your local small business, but you’re supporting your community, and at the same time you’re probably getting better customer service than you’ll ever find at a big box store.

Let’s discuss

  1. What do you think? Have you had similar shopping and shipping experiences?
  2. Do you think huge companies can still justify these high shipping prices?
  3. What about online shopping do you like / dislike?
  4. What would you change if you could?

Looking forward to reading your responses. Stay tuned for Matt’s response in an upcoming post.

By the way, make sure you subscribe to Effortless Gent by email or RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Learn a few shortcuts to dressing well

Enter your first name and email, and I'll send you a free eGuide with quick and easy tips you can use today.

18 Responses

  1. Albert on

    The biggest problem I have with online shopping is SIZING!! I’ve learned through experience that I’ll only order online from a company that I’ve bought from in person, i.e. tried the clothes on.

    Online shopping could be much better by added what I think is simple information.
    1. How tall is the model wearing the clothes.
    2. What is the chest/waist/inseam size of the model.
    3. What are the sizes of the clothes the model is wearing.

    If this information was provided to me I would be much less hesitant to order cloths online.

    • John Fair on

      This is actually one of the features I like most about Gilt. They post the model’s measurements (shirt/pants/suit) as well as the size that the model is wearing. They also warn you if the sizing runs small and you should opt for a larger size. Very nice feature in my opinion.

      • Albert on

        I’ve seen this on Gilt, but sometimes I think their measurements aren’t correct. Sometimes I’ll see that the model is 6’2″ and wearing a 33″ sleeve. No WAY!! I’m 6’2″ and wear a 35″ sleeve, so unless that guy has extremely short arms something isn’t right.

        The prices on Gilt are great though.

        • Barron on

          Hey Albert,

          You’d be surprised. People’s measurements can be really deceiving. I see people all the time that look skinnier than me, for example, but their Levi’s say 34×30 and I wear a 31×30. Very odd.

          Then again, maybe the model has Matthew McConaughey / T-Rex arms.

      • Barron on

        I love that about Gilt too. The gf was shopping on Forever 21’s site once, and they do it as well. I’m surprised more don’t; it’s a nice little detail that goes a long way. I even wrote about it on the other site (http://bit.ly/g8z6a8).

    • Barron on

      I’m surprised more companies don’t do this, like I mentioned in my reply to John below. A couple companies do this that I’ve found, but very few. You’d think it would be a standard? Maybe in time, they’ll realize the importance of comparative information.

      At the very least, they should comp back and forth shipping for size exchanges.

  2. Adron Buske on

    I actually dislike shopping for clothes online. I’m a tactile person – I want to touch the fabrics, test the stitching, see how the color really looks. I’ve had notoriously bad luck buying clothes online – particularly with Banana Republic. I love BR’s clothes – the quality and fit generally works great for me. But when I order online – especially sport coats – I get products that don’t match up at all with my expectations. Waiting a week to get your order only to be highly disappointed, and then have to make a trip to the store anyway to return it? Waste of time (and potentially shipping cost). Now I just stick to online ordering other colors/patterns in styles I already own.

    While shopping definitely feels like a chore a lot of the time (particularly in big stores like Macys), I try to view it as an activity. I’m out of the house, moving, socializing, getting my hands on product. A well run, designed store (particularly small shops and boutiques) offer a pleasurable personal experience and sense of community you don’t get online.

    Plus – as a Digital professional, I spend all day on a computer, anyway. Unplug, gents – there’s a whole world out there. Also – when you step out of the dressing room in something legit, and get an “ooh, nice” reaction from your wife/girlfriend/partner, the store clerk, or other shoppers? You don’t get that kind of real-time feedback shopping online.

    • Barron on

      Haha, good point re: unplugging and actually going outside. I’m one of those people that actually prefer going to stores as well; I like browsing and buying the things I like, right then and there. I usually take advantage of online shopping if a site may have inventory the store doesn’t currently have, or maybe an online-only sale, etc.

      It really is tough nailing your size, especially with pieces you’ve never tried on before. Even when you’re expecting it to fit a certain way it doesn’t always work out. What would help aid the customer in this?

      • Adron Buske on

        I don’t know that the sizing thing has an easy fix. Perhaps a “fit for my type” feature where it shows the body types the outfit/piece is good for? I’m sure there’s a handful of classifications that most people fit into. Might be a fairly comprehensive and time-consuming feature to add to a site, but it would be worth it for the customers.

        Maybe better – when you create a profile on a particular site, you build a physical profile as well, and the shopping experience highlights items better suited to you. (Like the way Amazon suggests items based on your previous purchase.)

        • Barron on

          Hey Adron,

          My hope is that once retailers realize not everyone fits nicely into a S, M, or L, they will start doing something like this. It’s only a matter of time. It’s really all about the best customer experience and I think giving the customer as much info as possible to make an educated purchasing decision will, in the long term, retain the most (happy) customers.

  3. Andrew @ Primer Magazine on

    Completely agree Barron!

    In this day, online retailers need to either provide free shipping, or do it like Amazon where it’s free over a reasonable price. These sites that do free shipping over $50 or $100 are ridiculous. Yeah, after I spent that much, that’s the LEAST they could do.

    I recently ordered some things from Lands’ End Canvas and was really, really impressed with the customer service. They sent me a hand written note afterward. And when I had to exchange some things for a different size, I called and got a sweet old lady somewhere in America.

    Why does it take so freakin long? I agree, no idea. It almost reminds me of infomercials, “will arrive in 6-8 weeks.” WHAT?

    Another question is: are people more spontaneous shoppers online or in stores? I think if the price is right, definitely online, and if that’s the case retailers need to have shorter turn arounds to really encourage sales. It’s easy for me to want to jump on something and then think, “well…it’s $9 for shipping on this one tie or shirt, and then I have to wait like 11 days until I get it…maybe I shouldn’t buy it.”

    • Barron on

      Man, I hate that. I’ve seen the bigger retailers offer me that, like free shipping for orders over $100. That alone makes me avoid shopping on their site unless I absolutely must.

      Great point about spontaneous shopping / quicker turnaround times. Makes me wish we could really fire up this conversation and send it to some companies… I wonder if they would listen.

      A personal, handwritten note, no way? Nice touch 🙂

  4. Jacob Cecil on

    I rarely shop online, if I do it is from some place where I know the measurements and cut of the clothes will work for me, like J. Crew. Zappos is by far the best online experience. I have ordered shoes at 10pm and gotten the next day. My wife has VIP status after ordering from them enough and we get free next-day shipping. There was a defect in one of her shoes, they sent out new ones (leaving a note with the warehouse to open the box and inspect them) allowing us to use the box to send the old ones back to them, and gave us a $20 credit for the hassle. They are the friendliest on the phone and have the best prices.

  5. Ace on

    Hey B. Thanks for the Clark’s DB help earlier today. Lol.

    I honestly hate shopping online for clothes. You don’t get a feel for what the product is actually like nor do you get that instant gratification after a purchase.

    I think alot of businesses would see more online revenue if they got rid of the shipping charges or at least lowered the minimum required for free shipping. I would also like to easily find out which carrier would be delivering the product.

    I know alot of sites allow you to return it to their store but it would be nice if the shipping charges were refunded as well. Buying online seems to be hit or miss and having to pay shipping charges each time is a big turnoff for me.

    I would definitely buy more online if I didn’t have to deal with the shipping and return headaches. Companies that believe and stand by their products should definitely see how beneficial their book of business would be by improving these areas.

    Just my worthless opinion.

    • Barron on

      Totally agree! You shouldn’t discount your opinion, especially when you consider that the majority of people probably feel the same way. I’ve always had issues with the delivery process and I think many big companies can improve on this. I’ve gotten better customer service from smaller businesses and boutiques, and I’d gladly pay them for shipping in exchange for that service.

  6. Anonymous on

    My issue is sizing. I wear Levi’s 34″ 32″. I know you want your khakis a little looser around the ankle, so I ordered 34″/34″ Dockers D1 pants. Waaay too tight, had to size up to 36″ waist. Hope they shrink with wash, ’cause they’re just a touch too long (but perfect at the waist).

    • Barron on

      Sizing really is a pain, especially because brands like the idea of vanity sizing, and depending on fit, a 34×32 in a Levis 569 Loose will fit totally differently from the 511 skinny, which is obvious, right? But it gets more complicated when you compare brands. The best defense is to know your favorite brands, and know your sizes in them.

      Hopefully the D1s work out for you in the end, size-wise. 🙂