There's a good chance that ordering goods by mail, phone or email will always have drawbacks that are trumped by “in person” shopping. That's assuming we can get Mr. Whipple-types away from spying on “Charmin squeezers” long enough to take our cash or process our card.

There’s a good chance that ordering goods by mail, phone or email will always have drawbacks that are trumped by “in person” shopping. That’s assuming we can get Mr. Whipple-types away from spying on “Charmin squeezers” long enough to take our cash or process our card.

   My old momma--who rarely uttered epithets unless she banged her head--grimaced with mail orders. Often, something wasn’t right, and the transaction--expected to span a few days-- ballooned to a few weeks. (Most orders were placed with Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery Ward; she called them “Sears & Rareback” and “Monkey Ward.”)

   I think of her every time I take “one more chance” on placing on-line orders, not so much because of errors in placement or delivery, but because I know I’m being spied on….

*****

   Cited this day are two recent experiences. First was the need to purchase a refrigerator water filter. Though it’s replaced but twice yearly, it seems far more often that the warning light starts blinking.

   It grabs our attention each time we access ice or water. While we aren’t really sure if filter life can be stretched by a few months, we want the warning light to be OFF, so we decide to rely on Internet suppliers.

   And there are many….

*****

   On a recent order, I purchased three filters to avoid shipping charges. BUT, the filters I received were big enough for industrial-size refrigerators. Okay, no harm, no foul, and within a couple of weeks of the original order, I was stocked with enough filters to last until 2018--perhaps longer if I want to endure several thousand “change filter” blinks.

   Now, I am under assault from the “spies.” I learn that others purchasing filters also bought this and that.  My computer lights up with “pop-ups” offering cheaper prices, as well as filters with additional features. Before long, they’ll design filters that trigger alarms, walk the dog and wrestle trash to the curb.

   Same with air filters. Maybe a few dollars saved, but rest assured, the spies are at work to provide more information than one cares to know….

*****

   The probability is great that hitting the “more information” button is a grave mistake when visiting a site where goods or services are sold. For two successive months, I have dared to hit the button to learn more about reverse mortgages. I mistakenly thought info would be available, neatly presented on my computer screen.

   After all, my interest was casual--perhaps less than that--but I did NOT anticipate a flurry of both emails and phone calls--four in 15 hours--trumpeting the advantages of reverse mortgages.

   If I forget next month and once more seek LIMITED information, my wife may be on the receiving end of responses. And she may even sign up, just to get the mortgage people off our backs….

*****

   Finally, who among us has been spared annoying phone calls from the all-knowing woman at credit card services? She calls regularly, initially to say there is nothing wrong with our account.

   However, she continues her spiel that we MIGHT be eligible for lower interest rates, and by pressing a number, we can learn details. (Oh for a button on the phone to request deletion from calling lists, as if it would do any good.)

   The temptation is great to make our own recording: “I am now on the phone assisting other sellers. However, your call is very important to me, and your approximate waiting time is 35 minutes.”…

*****

   All the while, researchers are hard at work, refining delivery systems. Amazon promises upcoming deliveries utilizing drones. Wonder if the drones will take return items as well, and will the blamed things know whether the items are returned in original packaging?

   Ah, it makes one reflect warmly on the “good old days,” when we could see dust stirring a mile or two up the sandy lane leading to our home.

   Often, it would mean a salesman was taking the time to get off the highway and come to our house. We were so glad to have company, we were happy to look at his wares, whether or not we bought any….

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Columns archived at venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.