We could not resist. I mean who drives more than 400 kilometres to purchase something unseen from a random online seller? For $25?
Well, I guess we know the answer to that one, since it was us and it was yesterday.
It’s amazing to me how addictive, compelling and occasionally disastrous online shopping can be. I’m not talking about buying all the Christmas, birthday and anniversary presents on Amazon, like I do.
I mean the thriving commerce between individual buyers and sellers that takes place within the digital world of whatever screen you happen to be browsing.
Whether it’s Ebay, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace, there is always, and I mean always, something that you want, just waiting there for you to click on it.
And often, you didn’t know that you wanted it until it pops up on your phone or iPad.
You want a brown kitchen chair with a green cushion? No problem. How about an electric lawn mower (“Like new, may need battery”)?
You got it.
A leather fringe jacket from 1969? What size do you need?
Whether it’s a bright pink Fender guitar, or a hub cap for a 1963 Pontiac Laurentian, somebody, somewhere, probably has it for sale online.
But just like anything else, the old warning “caveat emptor” applies in spades. That’s a fancy Latin or possibly Lithuanian phrase that lawyers like to use so they can confuse you and bill more hours explaining stuff.
I’m no lawyer, that’s for sure, but I am pretty sure that phrase means “buyer beware,” and that basically means – and here’s a good, old phrase in English this time (no lawyer required): “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Like the time I found a $200 attachment for my camera that I really wanted. It was listed for $55. I was super-pumped when I bought it, and immediately totally bummed when it didn’t work.
Oh, and here’s a bit of advice: don’t buy an old acoustic guitar based on photos, and have it sent from Toronto. (Those are called “firewood.”)
But since it was our anniversary yesterday (one of many) and the Better Half was getting cabin fever, and since I discovered a Disneyland Monorail Train Set online for only $25, we decided a little road trip to Spruce Grove wasn’t too much of a dumb thing to do in order to get ourselves a nice little anniversary gift.
Never mind that it would take basically the entire day and about $8,000 in gas. We were caught up with a magical reminder of our favourite place (Disneyland, not Spruce Grove), and besides, I personally have always wanted the Disney mini monorail that moves forwards and backwards by remote control around a nine-foot oval track and has lights and actual authentic audio announcements, and would be perfect around the Christmas tree. Or permanently around the coffee table?
Thing is, it’s hard to get one of them, and they are, like $200 on Ebay. So after a bit of back and forth with the seller, a nice lady from west of Edmonton, the Better Half and I yelled “road trip” in unison and took off with joy in our hearts and $25 in her pocket.
“It worked fine, but our son outgrew it,” the nice lady says. “It’s been in the box for a long time.”
“You don’t outgrow Disneyland,” I think to myself, and the Better Half and I are all smiles on the long road trip back. We even stop at a nice little restaurant.
“Even if it doesn’t work,” I say as we get home and immediately start to unbox the little train, “it’s still going to look good just sitting there.”
Next week: How to fix a dead monorail.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.