Catalog and mail order shopping is a major component of the American consumer system. Thousands of companies put out catalogs specializing in anything you can imagine. If you subscribe to any major national magazine, your name and address will be sold to catalog houses and you’ll receive plenty of catalogs of all types. You can also request to be put on catalog mailing lists.
Catalog shopping is quiet and convenient. The best catalog companies allow you to return goods you don’t like and bend over backwards to give you good customer service. With catalogs, however, you will often pay more. The products advertised in the catalogs look wonderful and are beautifully described, but in general you should only use catalogs if you simply don’t have the time and energy to touch and feel the items in a real store, or if the item you want is hard to find.
Internet shopping (“e-tailing”) is becoming more prevalent daily in the United States. The big catalog companies are all flocking to the Internet, while other companies such as bookseller Amazon.com sell only on the Internet. This form of shopping is probably the most efficient ever invented. With no trees to cut down for paper, the Internet allows very detailed descriptions of products, with photographs, and even photos of clothing that can change color at the click of a mouse. Many Internet vendors also allow users to post reviews and ratings of the products, allowing potential buyers to better judge whether the product, and all its features, is worth the price.
Despite the many layers of security (for credit card numbers and personal information) provided by Internet vendors, occasionally “hackers” get access to privileged and supposedly “secure” information, leaving some American shoppers wary of ordering online. The online shopping wave, however, seems to be unstoppable.
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