October 7, 2022

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This is a shirt Daniel Neman bought online. Photo by Daniel Neman.
A UPS employee takes packages from a conveyor belt for loading onto a truck at a UPS facility in New York in 2017.
An Amazon package sits by the mailbox at an apartment, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Chicago.
Daniel Neman is a retail business writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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I bought a shirt online.
It’s gorgeous, and it matches my eyes (they’re my best feature, by which I mean “they’re my only good feature”).
It also fits me oddly, as if it were designed to be worn by a hanger instead of an actual human with shoulders. It addition, it is a little thinner than the paper you are holding. If you are reading this online, it is about as thick as the text on your screen.
It is a cool shirt. I am not cool. I am wearing a tie as I write this, and khaki pants. I don’t even have to wear a tie; I wear them because I think men should wear ties if they want to be taken seriously as a professional, or even as a reporter.
Besides, cool people need us squares. There has to be a contrast. Cool people couldn’t be cool if there were nothing to compare them to.
Night would be nothing if it weren’t for daytime.
But the shirt I bought is a cool shirt from a cool company. I don’t know how I know this, but I know it. Maybe it’s cool because they sell clothes that look wonderful but I would not feel comfortable wearing.
I bought it anyway. It looked gorgeous — and cool — in the catalogue.
I bought it even though I had not had the chance to try it on. Neither had I had the chance to see it or, as it turns out, to practically see through it. How could I? I am in St. Louis and the company that sells it is in California.
But that is the problem when you buy online. That is the risk you take.
I fully realize that I am an old man yelling at the clouds. I’m an old man yelling at the clouds in my khakis and my tie, and I’m not even all that old. I know that life has passed me by.
I know that all the cool kids buy everything online.
Let them, I say.
Let them buy cool shirts that match their eyes but hang wrong on their bodies.
Let them buy jackets with uneven stitching.
Let them buy shoes that almost fit.
Let them buy pants that are flimsy and socks so thin that they already come with holes in the heels.
He who lives by online shopping dies by online shopping. People buy things without seeing them, without taking them in their hands and holding them. Without even trying them on.
When I buy a book, I have to hold it in my hands first, just to get the tactile sense of it. I flip through the pages to see how they feel. These days, I’m sorry to say, I check the print to make sure it’s not too small for my aging eyes.
But most importantly, I turn to a couple of random pages and read a few lines. I want to know if it interests me, if the style in which it is written is likely to engage me. A few lines is all it takes, but that’s a few lines more than you usually get when you buy a book online.
I know. Amazon sometimes lets you see several pages. I’m ignoring that for now.
Fans of online shopping say if they get something they don’t like, they simply return it. But surely that is ineffective, massively ineffective.
And the company I happened to buy my weird shirt from charges $7.95 for returns. So you’re paying eight bucks for the privilege of buying something you don’t like after not having seen it in person.
So I’m keeping the shirt. It looks gorgeous.
When I wear it, I’ll proudly tuck it into my pants. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.
Get the latest local business news delivered FREE to your inbox weekly.
Daniel Neman is a retail business writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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This is a shirt Daniel Neman bought online. Photo by Daniel Neman.
A UPS employee takes packages from a conveyor belt for loading onto a truck at a UPS facility in New York in 2017.
An Amazon package sits by the mailbox at an apartment, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Chicago.
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