Online Purchasing


I’m feeling grumpy about on-line booking and purchasing systems. It seems almost every time I go to buy something—a ticket, a reservation, a service or any product—I have to give multiple personal details for a ‘membership’, or get the app, then take time to get past my reluctance to say my age, my gender, my address, even when nothing is being delivered. Cursing at the ‘confirm your email’ and the home/office telephone numbers when the mobile is sufficient. Peering at the phone with furrowed brow and glum face, trying not to type the wrong letters or numbers, swearing under my breath.

Ok, I know this all takes about five minutes, which is way less than visiting an office or a store, or waiting on a telephone queue. Which is why I do it so often. But the naked lust for a new customer’s details, which will then result in a deluge of special offers, often from sellers several degrees of separation from the first who are now sharing my data, gives me anxieties the way Dave Eggers’ book ‘The Circle’ did. At least if I go to the shop, all I have to do is tap my credit card and politely decline to become a member. Of course, then I am often offered a discount for membership, which is seductive, and I may go for it anyway.

So now like the rest of us, my phone pings and dings away merrily, with emails and text messages urging me to act now and buy whatever. And as they well know, for every fifty I delete, I pause on one or two, and might just buy one. Thereby joining the monthly report stats for the company that shows online marketing strategies like loyalty programs and ‘one chance’ offers do work well enough to justify their investment.

For now I can’t think of a way to opt out of all this, because, I have admit, I buy a lot of stuff. I’m a reasonably well-off retired person with time on my hands, part of a desirable demographic I’m sure. But today, I registered for a seminar which is free, and still had to all of the above. I want to go to this event, and they won’t let me in without a ticket, so now another ticketing agency has my date of birth, my address, my phone numbers and so on. No doubt they will pass them on to third parties for a consideration, along with the type of event, helping to narrow the focus on my preferences for the next purchase.

And it’s global. I’ve just returned from Indonesia, where I’ve been for a year, and my phone is full of blandishments from there, offering deals I’m in no position to accept even if I wanted to.

For now I guess, I’m unlikely to become an old eccentric withdrawing from all this, using cash only, refusing to give my details unless I’m forced to, getting cranky with junior staff just doing what they’re told to. So, regrettably, my advice to me is stop complaining. I will for now.

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