Monday, 1 August 2011

Beware the temptations of the internet

Ah, the internet. You have to love it, don’t you? How did we ever live without it? Communicate with our friends? Find out the name of that actor in that obscure film on the telly last night? Find a recipe that includes the random contents of our fridge at one in the morning? It doesn’t bear thinking about. I mean, you wouldn’t be able to read this when you’re supposed to be writing that important report or sorting out that account for your boss, would you? You might actually be doing some work. Perish the thought!

Having said that, the internet is not all good. Oh, no. It is a dangerous place indeed. And no, I am not talking about online stalkers, viruses and scams. I’m talking about its convenience. It makes life easy. Too easy. Especially when it comes to spending money. Let’s be honest here. Paypal is the shopping equivalent to the atomic bomb: just press one little button and the result can be catastrophic. It is even easier than a debit card. When you use that in a shop you have to physically hand over your form of payment to another person before you part with your hard earned cash.

And, of course, you can find anything on the internet. That randon 60’s sci-fi book for your fella? No problem. Daffy Duck tie? Done. Size nine shoes that do not resemble a pair of Dutch clogs and cost less than a week’s rent? Amazingly, it is possible. All just one click away, 24/7.

But it doesn’t stop there. Take booking tickets for a gig, for example. Not a thrifty activity at the best of times. Add a humongous booking fee, delivery and handling charge and a reasonably priced night out can make your bank manager weep. Sure enough, the booking agent will proceed to email you every week with a list of shows that you “might” be interested in.

Mention you went to Yoga on Facebook? Miraculously an advert for a Yoga retreat in India for £3,000 pops onto your screen. Buy a crate of wine from Oddbins for your summer barbeque? A voucher offering you 10% off your next purchase lands in your inbox. As long as you spend over £50, that is.

Everywhere you look is temptation. Voucher Codes offering you 50% off at Gap. Groupon promising you a Hot Stone Massage for only £23. Living Social enticing you with a meal out at that new Gastropub for half price, with a free dessert, cocktail and coffee thrown in for good measure. Oh, go on then. Before you know it, your diary is full of nights out, pedicures and trips to the theatre which, quite frankly, you’re not even all that bothered about.

And finally, there is the added problem of what to do if something does wrong. Beautiful vintage dress doesn’t fit? That will be £5 return delivery. New mobile phone doesn’t work? You have to stay in for 12 hours on a Saturday to wait for a courier to collect it. Asda forget to deliver the chicken you need for this evenings dinner party? Well, you could have nipped down to the local butchers but they closed down last month along with the local bookshop and green grocers. Apparently no-one was shopping there anymore. Bummer.

The list of pitfalls goes on. But I shall stop here. Why? Well, I don’t want to bore you. Besides I have to call the bank and ask them to increase my overdraft limit and train for that charity run I just signed up for... on the internet. It seemed like a good idea at the time...Read more by Shelly.