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Opinion

Essay: Internet shopping doesn’t always click

Not all packages reach the doorstep. Do they

Not all packages reach the doorstep. Do they go to package heaven? Photo Credit: Getty Images / jahcottontail143

For some Long Islanders, the days of shopping adventures at the mall are gone. With the click of a button, one can buy anything that is coveted, and somehow it appears hours or days later on the doorstep. Great — when it works. But, this magical age of technology isn’t always perfect.

Take our ceiling fan. My husband and I saw a fan at Costco in Commack, and when we finally decided to buy it, the store no longer carried it. No problem, we would just order it online. It was simple to do, and the promised delivery date was well before when our contractor was coming.

Via a website, we tracked the fan’s steady journey across the country, looking forward to its appearance on our porch. Alas, on the day the computer told us the fan should arrive, our porch remained empty. Suddenly, the tracking information said it was on a truck in Tennessee. Many calls later, we had to conclude that our fan had disappeared. We got our money back and went to Home Depot.

Ever wonder where these packages go? Well, maybe something like this happened. A friend in Fort Salonga awoke one morning to find a 100-pound weight bench delivered to his door. No address on the package, no tracking number. After many calls to the delivery company, he found that nobody wanted it back. Had it been five pounds of chocolate, it might have not been so bad, but a weight bench? He had just gotten rid of his. Fortunately, a friend of a friend rescued it from going out with the garbage.

One friend ordered a book and the wrong title came. No problem, the online bookseller said, keep it and we will send you the right book. Another friend ordered eight polyester Thanksgiving napkins, and one had a flaw. No problem, another eight napkins are on the way. Yet another friend ordered perfume that was never received. No problem, another vial is being shipped.

Someone I know in Northport ordered a guitar from a third-party seller. Changing his mind, he canceled the order, only to find the seller had already shipped it with no return address. He got his money back, but isn’t sure where the instrument went — perhaps to package heaven, never to be seen again.

Or maybe it was sold at auction. My research shows that some undelivered or undeliverable items are auctioned off by delivery services or sent to “salvage vendors.”

No one among my friends really had an unhappy ending to his or her story, except maybe the one who had to get rid of that weight bench. But someone is paying for all these lost or stolen packages. I wonder whom that might be.

My vignettes are the tip of the iceberg. No matter whom I asked, everyone had a story. And as online shopping expands exponentially, this would seem to happen more and more.

As for me, I’m going to the Walt Whitman mall. I know that when I see what I want, and I buy it there, I will absolutely get what I purchased.

Reader Madeline Nelson lives in Northport.

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