Aspen Princess: My new shopping style is tap now, worry later
December 19, 2018
"Can I just Venmo you?" I asked Ambere.
She chuffed. "Yeah, right. You do that."
Ambere is one of my best friends and is also the best massage therapist. She's good like that, so she pretended that she didn't want to charge me.
Still, I had every intention of paying her. While I was at it, I bought a massage for a friend who has been going through a tough time lately. I pulled out my phone and sent a payment on my Venmo app.
I did the same thing when I got a facial. Got a gift certificate for another Christmas gift for another friend who is always complaining about her skin. There's this new store in Basalt called Fit, Fashion, Face (shameless plug) where Erika does skincare, pilates and sells Lululemon all in one shot. It's super fun to get a little pampering and then shop.
I was like, "I'll take that polka-dotted top for my niece, too. Oh! And I want that blue camo hoodie."
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Am I the only one whose Christmas shopping goes: one thing for them, one thing for me, one for thing for them? I mean, it's impossible to resist when you see things you like, and then you won't get disappointed when you don't get what you want from Santa. (Someone in our house is very much invested in Santa this year, and it's actually giving me a little bit of leverage over the 2-foot-tall tyrant, as in, "Santa knows if you're being naughty!" I'm going with it!)
Erika takes payment with Venmo. All I'd have to do to get all this awesome stuff was whip out my phone, open the app, touch the screen with a little tap-tap-tap, and I'm done! There's no inserting your card into a slot and waiting for your payment to process or signature required. There's no time to think, "Damn, should I be spending this money?" There's no foot tapping, no beads of sweat that form on your brow, no elevated heart rate.
I wonder if it has to do with having control over the transaction, doing it on your own time and in your own space, without an impatient sales person staring at you, and without the opportunity to imagine that they're probably judging you for how much money you spent, or that you spent more money on yourself than you did on actual gifts. Or maybe it's that your phone, your damn phone, is where all your gratification lives, your photos and your social media accounts and the pleasing little red dot that appears when people are paying attention to you. A little tap, tap, tap isn't just painless, it's kind of fun.
The last time I wrote about how easy it is to spend money shopping online, I got into a huge fight with my mom about spending money. She was right, of course, that it's not fair for me to spend money willy-nilly and then accept help from her for Levi's school. But she has to understand that I have to write a column once a week and need material. So that's all this is, mom. Just a little fodder — don't freak out.
What I'm getting at is there is a huge disconnect that happens when you can make purchases so easily from your smartphone, whether it's one-click on Amazon or the Venmo app.
When I was (ahem) younger, Christmas shopping used to entail a trip to West Farms Mall. Remember malls? Those windowless places with competing music coming from each store, the overwhelming stench of chemically fragranced perfumes at the department stores and soaps from the Body Shop (remember the Body Shop?). Then there were those little carts where they sell everything from sunglasses and cellphone covers to miracle skin care products and the sales people would intercept you as you walked by, trying to offer free samples.
Shopping in malls was a frenetic, exhausting and anxiety-provoking experience. At a certain point, between the sensory overload and panic that comes with spending too much money, things would start to get to you. You'd stumble to your car in some gigantic parking garage, fists full of bags, and try to remember the letter and number and which floor your car was parked on. God forbid, you'd forget and have to find mall security to drive you around in one of those golf carts with flashing lights on top until you found it.
Now it's so easy, it's almost too easy.
These gifts I've bought for my friends are admittedly on the extravagant side in terms of cost. Like, if I were in a mall, using an old-fashioned credit card, I'd be averting my eyes to the total as I signed my name on the dotted line and crumpling up the receipt before I tossed it in my purse.
Shopping now is somehow removed from that. There's a disconnect. Shopping online is one thing but now, with these apps that allow you to pay private individuals for anything at anytime, it's even easier to detach from the concept of actual money being drained from your bank account. It's like a clean cut — you don't even feel it bleed at first and then all of a sudden, there's throbbing and a big mess and you're about ready to faint.
Don't get me wrong — my wonderful friends deserve these gifts and more. Many of them have done more for me in the past year than I could ever put a value on. But I have to also remember I'm not a wealthy person — far from it.
Ryan would say, "We've spent a lot more on a lot dumber stuff than this," and I love him for that. Plus, I love getting into the spirit of giving — especially when all I have to do is tap a screen. Like most hard things in life, I'll deal with the fallout later.
The Princess can't wait to put on her Santa hat. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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