I’m very excited to feature my friend Lindsay Terrell as a guest blogger this week! When Lindsay responded to one of my posts with her own story about online shopping, I immediately asked her if she’d be willing to share it here. I will fully admit that while I spend much less time shopping in actual stores these days, I still do more than my fair share of online window shopping, that every now and then devolves into purchasing. And unlike shopping where you have to walk into a store, face another human being, pull money or credit cards out of your wallet, and then take the bag home and either hide it or admit to your partner that yes, you bought more stuff, online shopping can be done much more stealthily and feel much less real. Until, of course, you get your credit card bill. Read on to hear about Lindsay’s online shopping adventures…
Finding Lagom resonates soundly with me. It is a relief to know that someone else is ardently wrestling with the same demons as me, even while yearning to lead a simpler and more meaningful life. Unfortunately, this isn’t a story about a mostly sane woman who lost it for a few weeks. This is a cautionary tale about how I already have too much stuff, and how I managed to add to it with what I like to call “eBay Roulette”.
It actually began innocently enough. Since 2011, I have moved across the country twice, and that type of moving can really make a person pare down. I also became pregnant and gave birth. When I was pregnant and my body was getting bigger, shopping wasn’t any fun. And while I lost weight swiftly as my daughter grew, I knew many of my clothes would never fit again. I gave away scads of clothing over those two years and promised myself I would stop shopping in stores that produced clothes which lasted for two whole washes (like Forever 21). My pile of giveaways was about 3’ tall and was comprised of clothes that no longer fit, cast offs from my sister, and clothes I had found at Goodwill, “Naked Ladies” Parties and in Free boxes (each of which could spark their own blog post).
But I recently decided to leave my job and was feeling low. My favorite mom blog was encouraging me to treat myself to a new pair of boots. I thought back to the last time I had bought myself a pair of high-quality, long-lasting, fashionable boots that I knew I would love. It had been over five years! But the boots I really wanted cost nearly $300 new, which I knew I couldn’t justify if I wasn’t going to have a steady income in the near future.
I checked on Craigslist – none in my size. Then I ventured onto eBay for the first time in a long time. I was rewarded with pages and pages of beautifully crafted genuine leather boots in various shades and price levels. I set my sights on my favorite pair and typed in my maximum bid: $200. And then, heart rushing, I hit “Confirm Bid.”
I was suddenly filled with adrenaline and panic. I would be quitting my job in a matter of weeks, with no prospects in sight, and my husband was in between gigs as well. We were supposed to be budgeting, being tight and smart with money, and I had just blown between $150-200 on boots. I was too embarrassed to share my concern with my husband, but I was on pins and needles. Moments later I had texted my confession to my sister, my mom, and my college roommate.
My sister texted back that she had recently committed a shopping binge herself, my mom offered to buy me the same boots in black, and my girlfriend squeeeed and asked for a picture of the boots. Clearly I would not find penance or solace in my choices from these sources. Fortunately, two hours later, I received an email letting me off the hook: I had been outbid. I vowed not to go after them again.
But soon enough I was wallowing in the same self-pity that I had been feeling before the boots bid began. I opened eBay in my browser again just to surf–I call it “faux shopping”. This method has soothed my gimmies before–it’s like window-shopping, but since it’s online and you have to pay for shipping, it’s typically enough of a deterrent for me. But today, I really needed to know that something would be arriving in my mailbox soon to cheer me up. I needed something to look forward to.
So I started to make up rules. I wouldn’t buy any crap. It had to be something high-quality, well-made, long-lasting, and genuinely beautiful. And I wasn’t allowed to bid more than $10. I’d bid $10 and leave it alone, leaving the decision of whether or not I’d be awarded the beautiful thing to fate.
Thus, eBay roulette was born.
I began bidding on dozens of items. Drawing logic from my experience with the boots, I didn’t believe I would win many, if any, of the items, and the gambling was such a thrill. I come from a long line of people with very addictive personalities, but for the most part I’ve largely seemed to escape it. I’m the only one in my family who doesn’t smoke, and with the exception of a few wild nights in college, I don’t seem to be drawn in by booze. But I may have found my Achilles heel in gambling. I ended up “winning” dozens of times, and more than once I broke my $10 rule on items I really wanted.
This went on for weeks. At first I didn’t tell my husband. I was less concerned about the dollar amount I was spending than I was embarrassed about my behavior. I was still working – in fact I actually had to email the women who watched my daughter during the day to ask them to hide the packages, or I’d have them rerouted to my office. But my husband and I aren’t dishonest with each other, and I soon told him about my ridiculous behavior. He was entirely understanding and compassionate. Speaking with him about what I was doing and why I was doing it turned out to be the real salve to my pain, and I stopped bidding.
It was a relief to come down from this particular high. The bid, the win, the shipping notification, seeing the package arrive, opening it, and trying it on had all been a rush with several high points. But while I wish I could say that I fell in love with every piece, it’s so far from the truth.
At least half of what I’ve won in eBay Roulette I have been really disappointed with. The $10 rule seemed to release me, and I really didn’t pay much attention to the first rule – that I had to LOVE it. In fact, I even passed up one item I really did love, because it didn’t fit within the $10 price range.
My pile of giveaway items is now 4 – 4.5’ tall, about the height of my dresser. I know that I will get good resale value on many of the newer items that I won, but I still have to iron them, load ‘em into my car, schlep them around to resale, and wait for judgment. Are these treasures really worth that, or anything at all? I doubt it.