Nothing says Christmas to me like the words free shipping.
The last hurdle on my way to full-online shopping has been cleared by retailers who got the message I sent last year: I am not paying for shipping.
I know, I know. I am paying for shipping.
Im sure the shipping costs have found their way into the price of that sweater, that DVD or that set of monogrammed beer mugs, but at least it isnt a nasty surprise waiting with my shopping cart.
Retailers surveyed shoppers and found that they were very happy with their online shopping experiences until it was time to check out. Then many of them, like me, bailed when they saw what the convenience was costing.
Online shopping is expected to total $96 billion this holiday season, and I know I am doing my part.
According to the National Retail Federation, that will be a 12 percent increase over last year, when overall Christmas spending might only increase a pallid 4 percent this season.
And online shopping represents a big chunk of holiday sales, expected to total about $586 billion this season.
Even before the holidays made the mall parking lot impenetrable, I had been a convert to online shopping. I bought a refrigerator and a bathing suit online this year, and if that range of purchases isnt a ringing endorsement, I dont know what is.
I do most of my online shopping at home in the evening, and retailers know it. Some have started to send out email blasts announcing sales and promotions that will only last until the cock crows because theyve followed the habits of people like me, and they know we are out there trolling for bargains.
And what mom hasnt felt she deserved a little me time after the homework is done and the kids are in bed? Apparently, thats when most of the makeup and accessories are sold online.
I like the ease of comparison shopping online. I like the ease of delivery, the option of gift wrap, the quick way to include a little note. None of these requires a car or patience.
The next step, of course, is free shipping on returns. Thats out there, too. But if you buy something from the online arm of a brick-and-mortar store, you can return it there quicker and easier.
UPS and Fed Ex have realized that we not necessarily the retailers are the customers they need to please, and they are competing to serve us better. Now you can customize your deliveries. So it is clear my habits are driving the industry in all sorts of new directions.
As is the case for many women, I make the holidays happen for my family and online shopping has made it that much easier for me.
I should probably confess, in the interest of full disclosure, that I finished the last of it while researching this column. And it is all being shipped to me for free.