The addictive allure of online shopping

Courier services all over the country deliver thousands of parcels every day coming from all over the world.
“I can’t speak for other delivery men but from my experience, the majority had been coming from China, the UK and the US,” shared Adil Iqbal, a delivery man working for one of the country’s top courier services.
“Majority of these items are bought online. Things that you usually can’t find in Oman like a specific brand of makeup or sneakers, supplemental medicines etc,” he shared.

“My route everyday changes. There are times that I deliver to as far as Adam, sometimes in Suhar and the surrounding areas but mostly, I provide courier services from Muscat to Jabal Akhdhar. I even had several weekends in Khasab to deliver certain packages,” he said.
“We are talking about 200 to 300 delivery items per day which belong to different people. Online shopping has made it easy for people to buy what they like and then wait for 3 to 7 days for shipping. It has simplified people’s way of life. They don’t have to drive all the way to Muscat or to Dubai to buy item’s they are looking for,” he said.
Mohammed al Matrooshi is a self-claim prolific online shopper. He said there are lots of items that usually take months before they are made available in stores within Oman.
“On the digital media front, you are bombarded with recommendations from influencers. When you trust a particular social media influencer, it creates this yearning to try what he or she is demonstrating. I am an avid user of Instagram and Snapchat and there are lots of influencers who use this channel to sell different products,” he said.
“I have bought so many items using an online platform. The reason why I like online shopping is that when you know where to look or who to follow, you usually will get discount codes, so some items can become 30 or even 50 per cent lower than the original price. It can get addicting,” he said.
“The most amazing thing about purchasing something online is that you can buy items with a few clicks. It’s a very simple process anyone who has a phone can literally have something on his hand from as far as the US in three to five days,” he added.
“But I usually go for cash on delivery option. I have had a problem in the past when I change my mind. The cash option makes it easier to just send back the product,” he said.

Not much of a difference
Common notion amongst people is that women shops more even online compared to men.
This is not necessarily true. According to Iqbal, while he doesn’t have detailed records, his delivery experience is usually 50-50.
“There are days that more parcel comes for women but there are days too that it’s mostly men on the receiving end of a product,” he said
A group of women interviewed by student journalist Iman al Abri shared that “there is this perception because women usually buy more for the family.”
As one respondent said, “We buy for our children and our husbands. It’s a wifely duty to make sure that the needs of the family are looked after. On this case, of course, you would definitely notice that women are buying more.”
“Since the first product I bought online, it has become an addictive process,” shared Asma al Rubaie.
“I usually order from Shein, Namshi and Jollychic. They have great offers and their delivery time is reliable you will definitely have the items you ordered within seven days or less. And it’s delivered right at your doorsteps,” she said.
“There are products that do not get to the stores like makeup until a few months later. Ordering them online make sense as you can have the product faster,” she said.
For Al Matrooshi, he said that he and his friends usually order electronic products like headphones and mobile phone accessories.
“There are also bodybuilding supplements you cannot get here. So those are definitely hot items for men working out at the gym. I avoid buying clothes online as the sizes are usually hard. East Asians have a different measurement from the Gulf or the UK,” he said.
“For me, here in Oman, the Shein application is the go-to of many girls I know. They have a good way of showcasing the products and you can really tell from the visuals the details you are looking for. Some online shopping apps are very specific about sizing. This is why it continues to lure women to trust online purchasing apps,” said Shaima al Aufi, another online shopping enthusiast.

Experiences getting better
“There are definitely reasons to be worried about online shopping. But over the years, the services have gotten better. Purchasing online, as long as you know what you are doing or what you are looking for outweighs the disadvantages,” Al Rubaie said.
“Of course you have to be a smart online shopper. Many apps today had already upgraded their system that it’s protected against cyberattacks or hacks. Online feedback is also fast and there are forums that warn you about bad services. It’s why more and more people are leaning towards online purchases,” she added.
“The future is definitely about seamless services. Online shopping is going to get even bigger. In Oman today, we already have food delivery online and you can even shop through apps online. Convenience can be addicting so this trend for sure will continue to explode,” she said.
Sondos al Mu’ali, an entrepreneur who runs one of the online purchasing site warned that people should keep in mind that there are also danger in these kinds of transactions.
Her five years of experience had led her to believe that the risk does not lie in the online shopping application itself but the provider.
“As an online shopper, you should always make sure that the items are real. You have to compare the items from the original site to those on the apps. Always verify the website, the organisation who runs it, as well as the kind of information they are asking for. A smart shopper must make sure that they don’t become victims of money laundering activities,” Al Mu’ali said.
“Always check out the recommendations or comments section. Some items can really be fake and it’s hard to get you money if you also paid online. Remember to not rush into making purchases. Do proper searches first. Stick with reliable websites and applications. Research and double-check items and know your purchasing rights. The first person to protect your data and information and even your purchases is you,” she added.

BY YERU EBUEN & ANGHAM AL MATRUSHI