This evening has been all about internet failure. Every year I leave my Christmas shopping until the last minute, certain that I can buy things quickly online, and every year I am bewildered by how difficult it is to get places to ship to Ireland, to fight through hostile user interfaces, and to use websites without having Internet Explorer (this last one at least is getting much better).
Here's some things I've learned about trying to post things to Ireland.http://amazon.co.uk
might do, but don't count on it. The less mediaish it is, the more likely that they don't ship it. This even applies if you only select items shipped directly from amazon. Failure: nothing I selected could be shipped to Ireland, and I couldn't see how to refine my search to exclude products that didn't actually exist. I wasted forty five minutes or so before getting too pissed off to continue. No fuzzy slippers for my family. (They'll probably survive).http://buy4now.ie
don't sell a whole lot of stuff, but they include Arnotts and Eason, which are at least known quantities. Side note: I'm bemused by the site's "Gifts for mom" link. Are we saying "mom" now? Is that true? I missed that memo. Anyway. Success: plain white Hilfiger shirt for my brother who apparently likes such things.
about this one. I hope it can be done.
There are many online directories of shops which ship to Ireland, most of which contain a hundred or so broken links. They're like little sad graveyards of online businesses. http://shopping.blogs.ie
seems to be an exception, in that it links to shops that still exist. They must be making money off the six million amazon links, but there's other good stuff there too. They were by far the most helpful site today.
The indo have a shopping site too at http://www.independentshopping.ie/
. The site's rocking five years ago and the products are a bit unlikely, like a "Steam O Power Clothes Steamer" and a "Handheld Bridge Mate", where you'd expect to find Jamie Oliver cookware and an iPod. It's possible that they only sell Irish-made products, but it's depressing to think that this is the best we can do, so I prefer to believe that they're mentallers. The site's actually worth a look for the tragic late-night-infomercialness of it all.
Dorothy Perkins, French Connection, Coast and Miss Selfridge all deliver to Ireland. I don't know that I'd ever buy clothes online, but they're maybe useful if you already know what you're looking for. Coast also has a .ie site and prices in euro, so it wins at being online (though it still loses at sizing, and you can tell it I said so.) http://boden.co.uk
are also apparently quick and reliable and they ship to Ireland.http://www.urbanoutfitters.com
are good places to find neat junk and novelties. Success: Microwaveable bear and squishy brightly coloured pillows for very pregnant sister.
Smyth's Toys are at http://toys.ie
Woodies DIY are at http://www.woodiesdiy.com
, and they reckon they can deliver things up until December 21st. Apparently they're exactly the same people as Atlantic Homecare, so if you've already looked there, don't bother. http://www.handyhardware.ie
is another tooly place.
It seems really obvious that Argos and Ikea would have international online shops, seeing as they're already so catalogue-based, and yet it's entirely untrue. (Argos act like they do, but then you have to go collect the stuff from them.) Debenhams don't deliver to Ireland either. Space madness.
If you're shopping for people who aren't picky about things being new (environmentalists love secondhand stuff, or at least have to pretend that they do -- tip!), http://www.ebay.ie/
has way more stuff based in Ireland than it used to. http://www.pixmania.ie/ie/uk/home.html
seems to sell a bunch of different things, like digital cameras and baby car seats and diamonds and action figures. They don't supply any information about how, when or even whether they deliver to Ireland, but they have 'ie' twice in their url, and their prices are in euro, so presumably they do. The site feels a bit like it belongs to a shop called Valuworld! or Eurozone2, and my spidey sense tells me to get the hell out of there before someone activates a singing Christmas tree.
That's about as much as I have strength for tonight. Here are my conclusions:
Conclusion 1: online shopping in Ireland is not that much less stressful than offline shopping in Dublin ten days before Christmas, but at least you don't get stepped on by freaks.
Conclusion 2: a lot of companies haven't really made the connection between having a website and using it to sell their product to customers. Judging by how easy it is to buy anything online in New York -- I swear I could have a rhino delivered overnight to my desk if I was willing to pay -- this will change. Once lots of countries start being properly online, we'll also need a better way of searching for products to buy in a particular geographical region. "buy [thing] ireland" is just as likely to return a [thing] covered in appalling celtic knotwork and shipping from Iowa.
Conclusion 3: shopping in sterling when you earn dollars is still painful, but is much less bad than it was.
Conclusion 4: there are a lot of bad web designers out there and I suspect that most of them have never heard of usability or user interface design. I like to think that this will get better too. It's a new science. (it's not really that new, but let's be kind)
Conclusion 5: I go on a bit once I get started. Sorry.