To buy to not to buy? The pitfalls of online shopping when at work

 
Benedict Spence
BRITAIN-RETAIL-FASHION-INTERNET-RECALL
We see beautiful things, photographed and photoshopped, and they sear into our retinas (Source: Getty)

A furtive glance to the side, to gauge your neighbour’s gaze. A quick dart over the shoulder, perhaps a slight bob upwards in the chair above the rim of the screen, to check if the coast is clear.


And then, the adrenaline building, comes the lightning-quick rattle of the keyboard, the double click and, yes, there you are again, the entirety of Max Mara’s wares stretching out in a great mirage of pixels and colour before of you, your dopamine sensors sighing contentedly.

What did we do before internet shopping at in the office? Surely not actual work?

It makes no sense: productivity is up, yet more of our time is wasted online. And there are few online displacement activities as vacuous, yet as compelling. We know we shouldn’t, that our line manager can see us, and yet we do it anyway.

Men now spend more time ogling Mr Porter than they do their wives, and certainly seem to engage with him on a deeper level.


How many wasted work hours has Cos caused? Zara has much to answer for, giving us both snazzy clothes and its nation’s work ethic. Just think how much of her youth the average PR now spends on Yoox?

There are two modes of online shopping: the active and the passive.

The latter is born of indolence and a lack of inspiration, mindless scrolling without ever really registering. The former, though, can either be positive or very destructive.

You can home in with laser-guided efficiency on the thing you want, and you’re then faced with a choice: to buy, or not to buy.

Buying is empowering, and leaves you poorer but satisfied. To not buy, though, induces a Gollum-esque mania, drawn to the siren call of the precious beyond your clutches.

I’m as guilty as you – without fail, every season there will be one Oliver Spencer suit that I can’t afford on a journalist’s salary, but that I desire so deeply I can’t bare to be without it.

I’ll keep its tab open on my laptop for weeks, possibly even months at a time, refusing to let it out of my sight until the mad dash when the

sales come.

I become increasingly possessive over Stone Island sweaters which I’ll never get to touch. And I will look on, spitefully, at the beautiful ties at Drake’s that other bloody people, I just know, are going to get before me.

Books are even worse. I have over a thousand, I get anxious about not having read certain books, despite not owning them yet; I just gaze sadly at my Amazon wishlist, ignoring the pile beside my desk.

Window shopping online is escapism from our jobs and our lives.

We see beautiful things, photographed and photoshopped, and they sear into our retinas. We imagine what it would be like to have these items, to be the person laughing, pouting, or reclining in the dress, the shirt, or the shoes.

Fantasies can be healthy; hell, I’m still maintaining mine of writing for a living. But to realise them, you need cold hard cash.

You’ll never get to feel the embrace of the cashmere sweater unless you own it. It’s better to get on and work for it than waste away staring at it on a screen.