Confessions of an online shopaholic

And we can’t stop, and we won’t stop…

Once upon a time, addiction to shopping used to be a problem of the affluent West. But India seems to have caught the bug with the arrival of online shopping, which makes everything available with just a few clicks.

This morning, Amazon launched its ‘Great Indian Shopping Festival,’ and its rival Flipkart will go online tonight with its ‘Big Billion Days.’ It’s time for shopaholics all over India to go nuts and indulge in a binge of compulsive buying of things that we don’t need.

Take the fitness band, for instance. I have been eyeing the Mi Band 2, a fitness tracker from Xiaomi, the Chinese electronics giant.

The Hunter

Now, being a shopaholic is in many ways like being a hunter. You spot a prey, stalk it patiently (maybe for months), see through any smokescreens your prey puts up, and when the moment is right, you pounce.

You see a true shopaholic get his kicks from outsmarting the system and getting what he wants at rock bottom prices, and not by buying random stuff without any discrimination.

I had known when the Mi Band 2 was released in China some months ago, and found it a month ago on eBay going for 3–4 times its actual price. I waited patiently, and I noticed it show up on flash sale at the mi.com/in site with a sale price of ₹1999. That was the best price I would get, and I just had to keep my eyes open to catch it when it became available. The moment, I heard that Amazon and Flipkart were having sales, I knew that I had a good chance of cornering my prey. And sure enough, it popped up on Amazon.

But wait a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The thing is I don’t really need a fitness tracker. Why? Because I already have one. In fact, I have the original Mi Band, and it’s in perfect working condition. It tracks my steps and my sleep, vibrates silently to wake me in the morning or alert me to incoming calls, unlocks my Android phone, runs on a single charge for a month, and can even track me while I’m swimming.

But we shopaholics are masters of finding reasons to justify our need to buy.

Small potatoes

Let’s starts with the price. I paid ₹800 ($12) for the Mi band, so it’s not such a big deal, is it? I can always pass it on to my kid who wouldn’t mind tracking her steps. The Mi Band 2 is a bit more expensive at ₹1999 ($30). However it’s being sold at a discount of ₹500 ($7). And hey, the cheapest Fitbit tracker would cost five times as much, while the lowest priced Apple watch would be an eyewatering ₹30000 as Apple goodies are prohibitively expensive in India. Besides the Mi Band 2 has one killer feature that the original Mi doesn’t have.

It can tell the time.

That’s right, the Mi Band 2 has a dial so that makes it a must-have product. At this point, you must be thinking what good is a watch without a dial. Well, my Mi Band wasn’t a watch. It didn’t matter if it had no dial as I could check the time on my phone like any watchless human does. Besides the Mi Fit app on my phone does a fine job of all tracking with great looking graphs.

Hey, I’d appreciate if you would stop looking at me in that pitying way!

Alright, alright, I admit I did keep repeatedly checking my wrist to see the time out of habit. Only to find no time. Can you imagine how frustrating that is? Now you see why I had to have the Mi Band 2. Oh, it also has a pulse tracker. So I get to know if I’m about to have a heart attack, before I have it.

As you can see, I’m pretty persuasive when I get bitten by the shopping bug. And that’s a common trait among the world’s best shopaholics. By the way, does anyone know what a pulse tracker does?

Never mind, I’ll figure that out later. I get on to the Amazon app and place the order. At this point, fate takes pity on me and tries to abort the sale by causing the Amazon payment server to crash. My credit card transaction fails, and Amazon politely informs me that a payment revision is needed.

The Bloodhound

I sense blood and will not stop. Fate be damned; a shopaholic writes his own destiny. I fish out my debit card, and push the transaction through. The bank notifies me that my payment is through, and I hold my breath as I await the email confirmation from Amazon. And wait, and wait, till I start turning blue.

But a shopaholic will not be denied. I call Amazon on the helpline and ask for my email confirmation. The customer rep confirms the transaction is through, and says he’s sending the email confirmation. I relax, and get on with my life.

A few hours later, the alarm bells go off in my wee shopaholic brain. Where are the pings of the messages from Amazon saying they have received my order? I check my email and there’s no email confirmation as yet. Instead there is an email asking me to again revise the payment.

I grimly face the fact that the transaction has not gone through. I know it, you know it, but Amazon doesn’t know it.

I reply to Amazon, giving details. They apologise, and say ‘I must have received the email confirmation by now.’ But I haven’t. After 4–5 rounds of emails with Amazon insisting that ‘I must have received the email confirmation by now,’ I get a bit snarky.

Amazon’s tubelight finally flickers on, and a lady writes to clarify that the transaction didn’t happen. She also admits it’s because their payment server had crashed. She says the refund will happen in a couple days, and politely requests me to pay again. It helps that the lady has the same name as my wife. I calm down and do as she says, and finally get the long awaited email confirmation.

The thing is when a shopaholic gets going, he’ll keep going till he gets his fix. But like all drugs, the pleasure of getting my shopping fix fades quickly.

The prey had been stalked, ambushed, brought down and my hunger assuaged. Now it’s time for the whole cycle to repeat itself.

I check my shopping wishlists. There’s a spin bike in there, and at ₹17k, it makes my fitness band look like small potatoes.

The big fish

As I look at it, my heart begin to race, and my nostrils flare. This one is the big fish, and my hunting intuition says it’s close. I’ve been trying to catch it for months, but it’s been stuck at ₹17k. I do a quick check and find it going nearly ₹3k less at Snapdeal, another of India’s big online markets.

But something tells me there’s some funny business going on. Sure enough, the weight of flywheel which is 18kg for the ₹17k model has been conveniently left out. It’s a dealer trying to pull a fast one by selling a lower spec model. I post a query asking for the weight but there is no reply.

I go back to my stalking. Amazon offers 15% off with a particular bank’s credit card. I don’t have that card. So I ignore it. Next the bike shows up on Flipkart with a discount of ₹1000, and a similar offer on the cards from another bank. I have the card from this bank, but for some unknown reason the card refuses to process the transaction. In a way, I’m relieved as it costs too much to be an impulse buy.

I moodily move on to the gadget pages. The nerd in me looks with dismay at the plethora of offers popping up in my shopping apps.

My mouth waters as I spot a Redmi Note 3, a budget Android phone with top notch features. My problem is I already have two and a half phones. Maybe I can exchange one of them. But I will lose a bit if I go that way.

When money talks, shopaholics listen. I reluctantly move on.

And stop at the next page where the Mi Power Bank pops up with a rare ₹200 discount. I look glumly at it. Just a couple of nights ago on a train trip, my Sony power bank had charged up my phone from 10% to fully charged, and was still raring to go. My shopaholic brain admits defeat.

A wave of despair threatens to engulf me. There must be something I can buy. Suddenly I recall that my Mom’s cordless phone’s batteries have died. I do a quick search, and find a pair of rechargeable AAAs going for ₹246. Oh good, it’s free delivery for Amazon Prime shopaholics. I close the deal.

Well, at least we shopaholics are not a selfish lot.

At this point, I stopped and published this post. But I’d forgotten something. To paraphrase a certain Miley, “And we can’t stop, and we won’t stop…”

As I wake up early the next morning to go for my tennis game, my shopaholic antenna begin to quiver. I pick up my phone, and check the shopping cart for Flipkart whose Big Billion Days sale would have gone online at midnight.

And there it is.

Over and above the discounted price of ₹16k for the bike, there is a promotion offer of 10% off, and a card offer for a further 10% off.

The big fish has taken the bait, and all I got to do is haul it in, taking care not to break the line. With adrenalin surging through my veins, I go for the kill click through carefully filling in the card codes, and this time it goes through. It’s going to take a couple of weeks to deliver, but I’m in no hurry!

A true shopaholic get his kicks by outsmarting the system

With a content heart, I rush off for my tennis game, win the first set, and lose the next two. My partner curses me good heartedly for missing a couple of crucial sitters but it’s a good battle. As I return home, a message pops up on my phone saying Amazon will deliver the Mi Band early, by this evening.

Wins some, lose some. Life is good.