For those of you following the story, I’ve been given $1,000 by PayPal to do some Christmas shopping for charity. The catch was that I’ve been challenged to spend half of the money shopping online and the other half at the mall. If you haven’t read the full story, you might want to do that first. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Welcome back! So today was what I consider my official start to the “Escape the Mall” challenge. I partnered up with my colleagues Debbie Browning and Michael Goldstein who were on a similar adventure. Tucows staff had raised $5,000 for a local charity and they were on a mission to spend it at the local Toys R Us to help some ofToronto’s less fortunate children enjoy the holidays this year.
They say that to save money and time while Christmas shopping it’s important to have a list, so I spent some time on the Toys R Us website doing a bit of research on the most popular toys of the season.
Although I had my list and was pumped to get started, I was almost immediately overwhelmed when I walked in the store. Toys R us has a great selection of toys, but I had a very difficult time finding the things on my list. I wondered aimlessly down cramped aisles wishing I had printed pictures of the items so I might be able to spot on the shelves.
At one point, I had my iPhone out, searching for the item photos, but after much looking, I think many of the items weren’t carried by the store, or were sold out of the items. From my list of ten items, I was able to find two: The game of Operation, and a Zhu Zhu Hamster. They had a Crayola Magnetic Double Easel on display, but were sold out. No Justin Bieber dolls, no Crayola Crayon Makers. No Easy Bake Ovens. This was going to be harder than I thought.
Day 1 Recap
Although Michael (aka Ironman, pictured right) and Debbie spent nearly $3,000 of their funds, by running down the aisles and randomly grabbing toys, I had a difficult time finding the specific items on my list.
I thought today’s experience could have been better, but the crappy weather, combined with the cramped store aisles and the fact that I couldn’t find the things on my list had me a little irked. I’m glad we decided to visit in the early afternoon, I certainly would not want to go anywhere near this place on a weekend!
I found myself looking forward to the online shopping part of the task, but before I can do that, I promised myself another trip to the mall and see if some other stores have the items I’m looking for. I’ll give the mall a second shot tomorrow.
Escape the Mall Challenge: Part II
This is the online portion, aka Part 2 of my PayPal Escape the Mall Challenge.
In less than one hour I had finished my Christmas shopping online. That’s a record for me.
It’s hard to imagine that many Internet users have never purchased an item online, so as part of this post, I thought I’d take some time to put together a video that shows how easy it was for me to purchase a product online at Lululemon.ca using my PayPal account.
The video assumes that you already have a PayPal account.
Here’s What I Purchased:
Below is my list of products I purchased, along with their cost before tax and any shipping.
My Overall Online Shopping Experience
Overall, I was very pleased with my online shopping experience from all of the mention e-tailers. I was able to find product I was interested in quickly and paying with PayPal was a snap. I think this challenge was just what I needed to knock some sense into me. Most of the hesitation I had about buying online (long shipping times, security, customer service, shipping fees) turned out to be informational relics stopping my brain from understanding that online shopping can be super easy, very secure and fun!
It was especially nice to see that some outfits, such as Lululemon and NewEgg both offered free shipping, although for the convenience (and what I save in parking), shipping fees for these items wasn’t a big concern for me.
In 2011, I plan on making an effort to deal with stores online. The retailers pictured right have done an excellent job impressing me with their selection and overall shopping experience.
Coming Up in my next post… my visit to the Mall.
My Final Day of Shopping…
This is my final entry on the PayPal Escape the Mall Challenge. Documenting this experience was a lot more work than I expected, but it was a lot of fun too. It was also for a great cause as all of my purchases were donated to local charities, the largest recipient being the Child Development Institute.
All For a Great Cause…
My donation, made possible by PayPal, was part of a larger offering from my company and colleagues to the Child Development Institute. In total, more than $5000 in toys were provided to children from underprivileged families, so they might also have a holiday season to remember.
Now, on to the challenge at hand…
I visited two malls, on two separate days. The first was Dufferin Mall near my office in Liberty Village and yesterday I was at the Eaton Centre.
The night before my visit, I went to the Toys “R” Us website and printed out a selection of about ten toys from their list of the 50 most popular Christmas gift ideas.
My shopping list turned out to be pretty much useless at the mall. The first half of my visit was spent searching for toys I wanted based on the name and I was cursing myself for not printing out a photo of the toy packaging. I found myself looking up photos of the products on my iPhone so I could identify them on the shelves. That’s when I learned that many of the items I was looking for weren’t in stock.
Sigh. This challenge was becoming a bit of a pain. But I pressed on.
At Walmart, I ditched the shopping list and with the help of my colleague Debbie, I started firing toys in the shopping cart based on whether or not I would have really wanted them when I was age 9. Probably not the best strategy… but I bet not far off from the methods used by other shoppers buying for children.
I spent just over $300 on children’s toys at Walmart and with a full cart, I headed for the exit, leaving Debbie with the cashier as they very slowly loaded $1,000 on gift cards in $25 increments.
After leaving Walmart , I realized they have security bollards surrounding the exits to prevent you from taking your shopping cart more than 30 feet from the store. I stood silently for a while and I took a deep breath. This was annoying. I could wait for Debbie to come out and help me, but we were hurried for time. So I threw my backpack over my shoulder, grabbed the handles of all my bags in each hand, and headed toward my car on the other side of the packed parking lot.
It was only a 5 minute walk, but by the time I got there, I couldn’t feel my arms. They were cold and the weight of the toys was too much. I dropped one of the bags on the cement as I tried to fumble for my keys. Deep breath.
Note: I trimmed seven paragraphs of this post that described a parking lot experience that included a Beck Taxi driver honking and yelling at me to move my car, along with a Dufferin Mall security guard arguing with me that I couldn’t park outside the Mall doors for three minutes as we loaded my truck with other presents we purchased the day before from Toys R Us. A written letter has been sent to the property management company and I’m waiting for their response before I comment further.
The Eaton Centre Mall
I don’t have much excitement to report about my Eaton Centre experience. The mall was extremely busy, the parking lot was nearly full (I parked on the roof) and it cost me almost $20.
With the scowls on shoppers’ faces you wouldn’t know Christmas was around the corner.
The Yogi Tote bag from Lululemon was the same price at the store and online, which I expected. The 16 people waiting to pay for their purchases was a chore.
At Lush, there wasn’t much room to move and the line-up at checkout was pretty long too.
I looked at a few other random stores for headphones, but it seemed like a pointless endeavor. How can you buy a pair of headphones with no reviews to look at? In the absence of intelligence, I found myself evaluating the design of the headphones and the packaging instead. In the end, I’m sure I overpayed for a pair of Klipsch headphones at the Apple store.
One of the highlights of my Eaton Centre visit was the really, really tall Christmas tree. Lots of people were taking pictures in front of it and at one point, they dimmed the lights and fake snow fell from the ceiling and was illuminated by the bright spotlights aimed at the tree.
It reminded me of my own childhood and visits to the mall where I would lie to fake mall Santa about what a good boy I was and tell him I really wanted an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle for Christmas.
Online Shopping with PayPal
When PayPal first asked me to do this, I was pretty upfront with them about my opinions regarding shopping online and that if I did participate, I couldn’t promise that I would have nice things to say about online shopping with PayPal. They said no problem, they were just looking for someone to take a crack at it and report on their experiences, good or bad.
I’ve been a PayPal customer almost since the beginning and I’ve done my fair share of buying and selling. But this challenge made me realize that a lot has changed in the online payment world.
For example, fulfillment and shipping seems much faster. Especially if you deal with Canadian online retailers, or at least retailers that ship within the country.
A couple of places, such as NewEgg and Lululemon offered free shipping. Honey-bunch.com and Lush.ca shipping fees were reasonable (about 6-8 bucks). Henry’s was the most expensive at $18, but I also had my purchase in less than 2 days.
In every instance, each retailer connected me with PayPal at the time of purchase, I logged in, provided a minimal amount of information (since PayPal already has it) and clicked order. Each retailer had an order summary and receipt in my e-mail inbox within 15 minutes.
And the Winner Is…
It took me less than an hour to do all of my shopping with PayPal online. I was informed about the purchases I was making because I could read product reviews before purchasing. In contrast, I made multiple trips to the malls, paid parking, and committed several hours to the process.
With the exception of NewEgg, the products I purchased online were from bricks and mortar retailers. This means product returns or exchanges shouldn’t be a problem.
I was surprised how quickly I received my purchases. All but one of my purchases arrived 3 days after I ordered them. That was a big surprise to me.
I’ve been a victim of identify theft in the past and I’m always hesitant when giving my credit card number to online retailers. PayPal provides an important layer of insulation that protects my credit card information from the retailer.
There won’t need to be any convincing for me to do my 2011 Christmas shopping online as long as the retailers I’m dealing with support PayPal.
As we get ready to celebrate the holiday season with our friends and family, I’d like to also thank PayPal for coming up with a creative challenge and for taking it that extra step further by letting me donate my purchases to charities in need.