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I purchase a lot of clothing and shoes online. And then return most of it. And I don’t just mean during the holiday season; I mean all year long.  I know, I should support small businesses and buy local, which is why I frequent a great bakery in my small town (and keep all of those purchases). But when it comes to shoes and clothing, an annoying thing happens: my kids keep growing. Their feet, in particular. They need new shoes, like, yesterday. I could take them to a brick-and-mortar store, but here’s how that conversation would go.

Teenaged son: Do we really have to go somewhere? I have homework. Tons of homework. Plus, I’m exhausted from all this growing. I’d really like to sit here on the couch with these sour cream and onion chips and just be.

Me: I thought you said you finished all your work.

Teenaged son: The work of being me is never really done. You do want me to get into a good college, don’t you?

Me: Ok, fine. Let’s get the laptop and browse Zappos.

Preteen daughter: Mom, what about me? I want to go to the mall!

Me: If you and I go shopping, we’re only looking for party shoes to go with that new dress. Narrow focus. That’s it. Promise?

Preteen daughter (hesitating): But what if I see something else that’s cute? What if they don’t have the party shoes in my size but there’s other stuff I want to try on? Who knows what I’ll find, Mom?

Me: Exactly what I fear most in this world. Come here and sit next to your brother on the couch.

Twenty minutes later, I have spent hundreds of dollars on half a dozen or more sneakers, boots, and dress shoes that will arrive in two days or less, thanks to my VIP status at Zappos.

I am not fooled, by the way. I do know that everyone has VIP status at Zappos.

There is a delicate art to shopping like this. First, I have to ignore the total amount of the purchase. Just completely put that daunting figure out of my head. The $386 spent today on both wide and medium varieties of size 9, 9.5 and 10 men’s leather loafers in black and brown is strictly theoretical at this point in time. Most of it is going right back to the warehouse within the week. In fact, no one even has to know about it except for me and some distant friend of mine named PayPal.

Secondly, once the bounty arrives, I want my daughter to love one of the three pairs of patent leather heels, but not all of them. Further, I want her to select the ones that I like the most. Invariably, she will select the ugliest/most garish/most expensive/highest heel, the pair that I added to my cart at the last second just to make her feel invested in the process of being my daughter.

With my son, I pray something – anything, really – fits his gigantic feet, which will certainly have grown in the 24-hour period between final click and expedited shipping.

Once the items have been purchased, delivered and tried on, and the winners selected, my work really begins. I head to the computer, bring up the order, click “return items” and sigh when faced with the Reason for Return.

You see, my Reason for Return – always quite valid – is never listed as an actual reason. Here are some common options:

  1. Found better price elsewhere. Not true, because there is no “elsewhere” thanks to you, Mega Online Retailer, and me, Enabler Of Your Eventual World Domination.
  2. Did not want. Um, I ordered it. I obviously wanted it. Right? Why are you even asking me that? Who mistakenly orders ripped, white skinny jeans in June priced at 30% off? There’s careful premeditation in that.
  3. Did not arrive in time. Although I am not always a patient person, I do understand that there’s nothing I really need from the World Wide Web right. This. Second. Or even in 2 days.

No. What I’m looking for in the drop down menu includes the following:

  1. Ordered enough options to simulate old-fashioned shoe store and pretended to be saleslady while my son ambled the length of our kitchen in each pair, turning his head this way and that, considering. “How is the width?” I asked, bending down. “Let me feel where your toes are.” Son decided toes were not where they should be.
  2. Son decided all shoes purchased would make him immediate target of bullying.
  3. Daughter wanted the cool Adidas that her friend Alexis has and these weren’t quite them. Requests “more shiny.”

I also have been known to dabble in Internet shopping from time to time for myself. This is almost always a cosmic mistake. Through my computer screen, I cannot discern the qualities that would be obvious if witnessed in person: that the wool is too itchy, the fabric too sheer, or the fetching pale neutral tone of the garment the exact shade of my eastern European flesh. But there’s just something about the way the garment looks on the tall, slim, smiling model in Cyberspace that makes me believe my life would be so much more satisfying, if only I too had that item.

Just the other day I was faced with such a conundrum when returning four cold-shoulder styled turtlenecks from a high-end online retailer. One navy, one grey, two in black, some in size small and some medium. And you know what? There is absolutely nothing pretty or sexy or fashionable about seeing only the chubby, fleshy rounded top part of my shoulders peeking out of a turtleneck sweater. It’s a major Don’t. But how to explain that to the Internet?

Which is why, when presented with Reason for Return, I usually just go with “changed mind.”

Then I head straight to Amazon Prime and buy more rolls of deluxe packing tape.