Comparison Shopping

This week was very unusual for me. While plenty was happening around the world and across our land, within our family, nothing out of the ordinary happened. No holidays, celebrations or guests; no illness or crises. While time often seemed to drag when I was a child, as an adult the weeks usually speed by as if on a dizzying roller coaster. Next week, a crowded calendar beckons once more, but this week was blissfully clear.

I actually managed to look at my non-urgent-to-do list and methodically worked my way through parts of it. I trashed a pair of hole-ridden slippers and a three-decade-old pot that desperately needed to retire and replaced them. I added cuffs to a dress and replaced the battery in my phone. I organized photos for a Grandma Camp project, exercised, and, to my husband’s delight, made supper every night.

This unusual spurt of activity led me to drop in at stores I don’t often frequent and also to spend time browsing online. I found myself caught in a shopping conundrum that is new for our time. I went to a craft store hoping that browsing the aisles might stoke my creative juices as well as to get advice on the best adhesive to use for a particular undertaking.  I was confronted by a befuddling array of glues. Asking the young salesgirl to explain the difference between two products resulted in her shrugging her shoulders and telling me that she had no idea. She was probably a summer hire and could just as easily have been selling hammers or ice cream. I went home, did some online research reading buyers’ reviews of the various products and ordered.

With very different results, I visited a small, locally owned sewing store seeking a backing fabric for some embroidery. The saleslady there directed me to choices and joined in the hunt, getting excited with me when we found something that made the design pop. Being out and around provided a stimulation of its own and while I wouldn’t want to be at the mall regularly, physically walking into stores reminded me of the diverse population that lives around me.

College professors decry the tendency of students to watch class lectures online while mental health professionals on campus warn of depression accentuated by spending little time with fellow students. Brick and mortar businesses are closing, unable to compete with their own on-line platforms as well as those of competitors. Online options are often cheaper, more numerous and don’t need you to find a parking place. You can order at any time you have available even if briefly sandwiched between other obligations.

Yet, we lose something when our lives revolve around a computer rather than around each other. French schools are outlawing phones in elementary schools, deciding that playing at recess should involve something other than each student staring at his or her individual screen. I don’t think we can regulate adults in the same way, but I, for one, would be sorry to see commerce move entirely online. This relaxed and laid back week reminded me of the balancing act we tread as technology affords us unprecedented options that easily fool us into thinking that we are surrounded by people, even as we, alone, sink more deeply into our couches. 

I am looking forward to next week with its frenetic schedule and a full house.  As exhausting as it all can sometimes be, God created us for interpersonal connection and I well know that a quiet week is only enjoyable because it is unusual.

P.S. If you are interested in children, education or homeschooling, I hope you’ll check out my new Practical Parenting section. This week’s latest posts are: Why Did You Pick Sonlight?, What Are You Really Teaching?, and Should I or Shouldn’t I?


17 thoughts on “Comparison Shopping”

  1. Thank you for another thought provoking musing! My son is autitic with limited vernal skills and a strong food obsession. To encourage him to speak, I read the weekly grocery ads with him while making our shopping list. Then we interacted with the employees at the store. With that face-to-face experience,he has opened his awareness more than I had prayed for! People make a difference!

    1. What a wonderful realization on your part, Lori, that you can use supermarket shopping to expand your son’s life.

  2. Was glad to hear you are multi faceted when it comes to projects. I’m like that too. Was curious about your gluing project. There’s a good website called thistothat or this2that that advises the best adhesives for particular materials. I agree I like to have face to face experiences and also see what I’m buying. I used to have a store in Big Bear and now do art/craft shows and really enjoy the interaction with people even if they just came in to browse or chat. I also would like to see others, especially youth, enjoy doing projects and learning how to use their minds and hands for other things besides their devices.

    1. Thank you for the tip. The gluing is for Grandma Camp. I pulled out childhood pictures of the girls’ mothers and will have each one make a photo book. I don’t want to spend a lot as in serious scrapbooking, but just want them to be able to paste pictures on paper and form into a book. I was looking for something that won’t harm the pictures and will also be moveable if they put it down and don’t like the way it looks. I found what I needed!

  3. I agree. I personally support by going to Best Buy to buy my cords and power supplies and such for my communication needs when posssable. I always remember while talking with the sales clerk (even though they say they don’t make a commission) your husbands teachings of not getting information from one source then finding a better deal on the same thing somewhere else.
    Also, They will match online sales for me

    1. Yes, Lee. It is wrong to use up a salesperson’s time if you are then planning to go online and order the item. I appreciate online convenience, but I like having both options. I’m glad that I am not forced to make a dictatorial decision that we can have only online or only brick and mortar.

  4. I actually prefer to browse and shop in real, brick and mortar stores whenever possible, and for many reasons. However, I find myself buying more things online than I even want to because I have been running into a new problem: various products, which I used to buy in stores, in person, are no longer being carried in the stores. I say to an employee, “Why don’t you have it? You used to have it. I used to buy it!” Often I am told, “Well, it didn’t sell enough.” Exasperated, I reply, “What are you talking about? You had it for years!” Apparently some stores now have a strategy of carrying only their biggest selling products, or constantly bringing in new products, no matter what else gets the old heave-ho, which strikes me as rather short term thinking. So they lose me as a customer! I go home, look online, and of course find the thing I wanted (and often at a better price), and buy it. While I’m at the website I likely as not buy one or more other things that the brick and mortar store still does carry—a store which, unfortunately, is now training me to go to them less frequently, and to instead purchase more items from a different business which is on the Internet. Kind of sad. I don’t know what the answer is. As I mentioned earlier, I like to go to stores in person, partly for the same reasons you mentioned, Mrs. Lapin, but some stores seem to be almost determined to discourage my business. By the way, I really enjoy what you write.

    1. I agree, Mark. It’s a chicken-egg cycle. I understand the stores cutting back inventory as well as hiring less expensive help, but it makes the shopping much less satisfactory and we often end up online. Business owners deserve so much credit for trying to compete in this new environment.

  5. Hello Susan,
    I am not sure you are involved with handycrafts, knitting or embroidery. If you are you might want to visit the shop of our good friends Bert and Linda Zaacks in Sidney BC the next time you visit our part of the world. I am sure our dear friends Bert and Linda would love to meet you.
    Warm wishes,
    mark in Victoria, BC

    1. Mark, we are terribly disappointed not to be going to Sidney this summer. It is one of our favorite cities. Bookstores, anyone? But I don’t know that store and will look out for it next time I’m there. Thanks.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mark–
      We’d love to stop by Bert and Linda’s store there on Fifth Street in Sidney. Susan and I have spent many jubilant hours just walking the streets of Sidney, stopping in to browse at every single bookstore and stopping by the candy (sweet) shoppe. We also provision there at the market and usually get some fresh fish down near the pier before catching a bus back down the Saanich Peninsula to where we would be docked at Brentwood Bay.It’s high up on the list of our favorite places.
      Warmest wishes,

  6. Indeed. Probably you as well as I grew up in an environment of mom-and-pop small businesses. In fact I worked for my Dad during high school. I miss those days, when one could walk into a store and purchase small items at sight and go home. Small business was endangered even in those days. Yet since then, each decade has progressively shrunk the domain of the small business, to the point that one must purchase increasingly from online mega-retail monsters. This saves time and gasoline, for one can run around town all day and not find the item one is seeking. What makes this trend extra-insidious is the radical globalist politics of some of the magnates who own these giants. I still struggle with what this means for our Brave New World, as the world economics winds up increasingly in their Globalist Progressive hands to knead and mold.

  7. For me, the most eye opening lesson I received from Rabbi and Susan Lapin is the importance of humans connecting. Modern prosperity, health, knowledge, comfort, entertainment, etc. wouldn’t be possible without humans interacting. Now, when I walk into a store, especially a huge store like a Home Depot, I marvel at all the products, big and small, that are available. I marvel at the thought of even the little nuts and bolts, how they cost relatively little yet enhance life, because how would life be if I weren’t able to cost/time effectively repair my light switch, for example? What would I do if the little screw I need wasn’t made? The cost in time to fashion something to perform its function would be quite high and wouldn’t look or perform as well. All these life enhancing products are made because of human interaction and people coming to understand the needs of others and how to fill them.

    While there is the temptation for a person to make their world be those little devices with video screens, I can’t get over the miracle that they are. Not only are they convenient, but they enable cheap and convenient communications. With them, I have been able to talk or have video communications regularly with friends in Asia that would have been cost prohibitive a decade, or so, ago. My mother actually forgot her first language after not having had a chance to speak it with anyone for several decades since calling home used to be prohibitively expensive. It was only a few that my wife spent $200/month on odd phone call services to the old country that were not only expensive, but unreliable. With how much she talks with people in the old country now, a few years ago probably would have cost $1000/month. Technology can be life enhancing, including human connection, if used properly.

    1. You’re making an excellent point, David. It is so easy to stay in touch now in a way that my grandparents and parents would have found miraculous. Yet, it’s a double-edged sword. Because we can so easily keep in touch, it makes us move away from family that much more easily. The life decisions never stop.

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