Make the shopping centre scrums look a breeze

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NO MORE piling into the local shopping centre scrum. This Christmas, I initially decided to let my laptop do the walking.

Online shopping is quick, easy and convenient, or so we’re told.

Payments provider eWay reckons Australians’ collective online spend will top $1.5 billion this festive season; while the Adobe Digital Index Holiday Shopping Prediction 2014 noted our love of mobile phone technology would result in online sales growing by 15 per cent ahead of the holidays.

But, if that’s the case, then why do so many online retailers seem intent on inflicting upon customers the virtual equivalents of interminable queues, carpark snarl-ups, pushy sales staff, shipping stuff-ups and pricing snafus?

After logging on to an online pet store to purchase treats for the only family member likely to demonstrate any gratitude, I sought to login to my existing account, typing in what I hoped were the correct details.

“Username and password do not match or you do not have an account yet”, came the surly response.

So I punched the “lost password” button and received a further message: “An email has been sent to your email address. The email contains a verification token, please paste the token in the field below to prove that you are the owner of this account.”

An hour later, the email still hadn’t arrived, leading me to conclude that perhaps I hadn’t previously set up an account after all.

I tried creating a new one and hit the “submit” button.

Testily, I was told: “Please agree to our terms of service first” and, just in case I didn’t follow, the words “I agree to the Terms of Service” on the original form were now highlighted in angry red, and accompanied by an asterisk (“right here, dumb-ass”).

I ticked the box and hit the “submit” button again. Back came the following information: “This email is already registered. If you forgot your password, click on the ‘forgot your password link’ and a new password will be sent to you.”

It’s no wonder that online shoppers regular nominate complicated password rules as one of their top frustrations.

European research conducted by Opinion Way on behalf of Kaspersky Lab recently revealed that the impossibility of managing multiple passwords means 55 per cent of shoppers have to reset their passwords once a month; and 8 per cent every single time they splurge online.

But this irritation was secondary to that invoked by those wavy, blurry and often unreadable splodges known as CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) which 60 per cent of online shoppers in a survey considered dementing.

Other cyber shopping gripes? Slow-loading pages; stubborn pop-up ads that refuse to shut the hell down (given the thumbs-down by 52 per cent of online shoppers); paying extra for express shipping, only to have goods arrive late or not at all; endlessly rebuffing unrelated product offers; and being unable to redeem promo codes, gift cards, or promised discounts (46 per cent of shoppers hate this one).

Railing against them in Time magazine, Brad Tuttle demands to know: “Why force us to play this game?”

After all the frustrations, I abandoned my online shopping carts to battle the pre-Christmas crowds.