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Is There a Cure for Our Online Shopping Addiction?

Is There a Cure for Our Online Shopping Addiction?

A high-tech rendering of what a hyper-futuristic musical instrument shopping location could look like.

Photo by Jol Dantzig

While we’re all caught up in the online-gear-shopping rat race, our columnist wonders: Is there a better way?

Without a doubt, America’s greatest contribution to civilization is consumerism. It’s not only the “engine” of our economy, but I’ve read it’s the force behind everything good worldwide. (I know you come here for insight on how to make your guitar sound like Eric Johnson and Buddy Miller at the same time, but trust me, this is important.) Our obsession with guitar gear is outpacing our ability to shop, but I’ve got a next-level solution. With my track record of predicting the future, I’m betting on this, so buckle up, people.

How many times have you wanted immediate satisfaction? You think you know what you want, and maybe even where to find it. Or, maybe you are just bored with those endless hours of fruitless noodling, and need a brand new muse to break the cycle. First stop? The internet, where everything is at your fingertips. It’s a vast ocean of options where you can get lost in the undertow of specifications, features, and demo videos. Before you know it, you’ve grown a (longer) beard, and your path to the bathroom is blocked by pizza boxes and empty bottles of Pedialyte.

I know what it’s like on multiple fronts. In my shop, I have a 1946 Northfield bandsaw that weighs 950 pounds, and is one of the few things that’s not on wheels. Generally, that’s not a problem, but if I want to move it for any reason, I have to break out the 6' Johnson bar and crab the damn thing around a few inches at a time. So, one evening, I got the idea to put “Old Northie” on a set of leveling casters. This would allow me to not only level the machine, but I could then move it when needed. I have a similar set on a 3' x 4' cast-iron-surface-plate table, and let me tell you, they work great.

“While an online purchase wouldn’t have even been boxed up yet, you’d be jamming hard on your brand new gear, happy as a clam.”

The problem was that the foot of the saw’s casting required a certain amount of clearance because the underside was slightly hollow. So, just like an online guitar safari, I began to search out specifications and, if possible, a technical drawing of potential purchases. Much like shopping for guitars, those specifications were harder to find than I would have liked. After more than an hour of poking around, I found some rudimentary dimensions and clicked “buy.” I figured the package would arrive in less than a week, and if they didn’t work, I could just send them back. It wasn’t instant gratification by a long shot.

While I waited, I started questioning how thorough my research had been, and began to second-guess my judgment in buying the items at all. It seemed like the problem wasn’t worth the cost of the solution. This wasn’t the first time I’d gone through this exact scenario, and I wondered if there was a better method. What if there was a way to determine if products were going to work without all the hassle and stress that online shopping creates? Then it hit me. I could see the future of commerce, when decisions can be made on purchases with almost 100-percent certainty; a future where you could be sure that the hype of ad copy was true to the product, and you could get it right away!

I thought, “What if there was a place I could drive to in under an hour and actually put my hands on the product?” I’d be able to measure the levelers, feel the quality, and check for any unanticipated hangups that might scuttle the job. Then I thought, “What if you and I could handle a guitar or an amp, to feel the quality, playability, and even hear what they sounded like, all before putting down any cash? What if there was a specialist at this place who could give you some real-world tips on how the gear worked, and other options you might consider?” I’m not talking about some hack “influencer” who is shilling for the manufacturers, but a real, live person who you could vet in real time.

This could be a total game-changer—you could be back at home that same afternoon or evening with the product, without the worry that you’d made a mistake. While an online purchase wouldn’t have even been boxed up yet, you’d be jamming hard on your brand new gear, happy as a clam. Like I said, I’ve had a pretty good run as a predictor of trends, so stay tuned, and watch out for the launch of some new startups called “Store Places.” It’s gonna be epic. Oh yeah, and I’m still waiting for those levelers.