Saturday, January 01, 2011

Is online shopping risky?

This is a little late but better late than never...sometimes...right? Anyway...

This holiday season and the previous few I have turned to online shopping for a lot of my gifts for the family and a few of the friends. It's convenient, time-saving and I get to avoid all the asshole drivers and dickhead holiday shoppers. How's that for Christmas spirit?

Anyway, I ordered my Alienware m11x from and this is the box that they shipped it in. No outside box. No identity-covering brown paper. Nothing. It's not extremely obviously identifiable as a laptop but still.

I bought a very discounted HP all-in-one printer for the wife from I figured that $20 was a decent investment for an all-in-one. It was shipped in the box in the following picture. It's obvious. It's extremely easily identifiable. It delivered exactly as shown.

I ordered two Sony Vaios for my children from It sounds extravagant but they are teens and they will need to stop using my computers for their school work. Also, I got regularly-priced Vaios at $799 for $599. I could not pass up the deal and it worked out that they both wanted (and needed) their own PCs. The Vaios were shipped in their respective laptop boxes and then they were both packed inside this plain, brown cardboard box. Hiding what they were AND adding extra protection.

In my non-strategic analysis, has the most favorable packing and shipping of their products customers have purchased online. The box was indistinguishable as to what it contained and it was shipped UPS. I doubt that the shipping provider has much to do with the way the product was initially packaged but maybe it does. Maybe UPS requires the extra layer of boxing for their protection as well as the end customer. Again, I don't know.

What I do know is that the products from Dell and Walmart were both shipped via FedEx.

FedEx made not extra effort to hide my packages but instead left them in plain view on my porch in front of my door. UPS dropped my box off but made a point to put it as out of view as possible from easy viewing from the street while at the same time I was able to know something was delivered (of course, the box was much bigger and it would ben damn difficult to miss for anyone walking to my porch. It probably also helps that UPS delivers regularly in my area and specifically on my street to multiple residences. It probably is also helpful that because UPS is a regular on the street that they tend to delivery later in the day usually after 5 p.m. because there are more businesses nearby that they have to hit before the 9-5 workday ends. FedEx dropped off the two packages at different times of the day. Maybe they just don't visit the area as much and don't have the need to deliver businesses first and then residences. Again, I'm just making assumptions here.

Overall, this won't affect my future online purchases but it does make one wonder if it would make a difference to ask an online store to make sure the product is delivered in a discreet, non-descript box. It may be asking too much but at the same time when FedEx and even UPS drops off a box on the porch and the delivery status changes to "DELIVERED," how is a problem of "a missing package" dealt with if it was stolen from a porch?

So, there are my random thoughts for online shopping. I think it's great and convenient. I don't just shop online to avoid the assholes. If I can get a better deal by braving the ignorant drivers and shoppers, then I will drive to the store to get the product. But I just usually happen to get a damn good deal online. Oh yeah, site-to-store is a good bargain too if you have the time for the "delivery" because sometimes the site-to-store delivery is like 3-5 days or more whereas having it shipped to the house takes 1-3 days or more and sometimes free shipping is offered.

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