Sunday, November 06, 2005

Shopping Online: A Crip's Dream Come True

Ho Ho Ho

We are approaching the worst time of year to cruise through a store if you use a wheelchair, or even a cane or a walker.

Even stores that are usually very accessible (Crate and Barrel comes to mind) put as much stock as possible out at the end of aisles and you can end up getting stuck or having to back up. Sometimes you just have to avoid whole areas of a store.

Depending on the day and the store, it might be full of shoppers milling around. Many times, these shoppers will, without warning, come to a complete standstill -- in an aisle, in a main store pathway. If you use a wheelchair, you often can't get around them. If you're like me, your cloak of invisibility clicks on about then, and amazingly, they don't see you.

Nor do the people who almost impale themselves on your footrests or push handles.

It's a hassle and I hate it. The only kind of shopping I can really get into, even during the holidays, is in a bookstore, and those also become pretty impassable.

Cyber Shopping

For the last 4 or 5 years, I have done almost all of my holiday shopping online. If you're judicious, you can usually avoid sales tax, and shipping. Sometimes, even gift wrapping is free -- other times, it is a couple of bucks a present, which may be worth it, if you hate wrapping stuff as much as I do. (Gift bags are another great way to avoid the wrapping hassle.)

My Christmas Eve tradition is going to my parents' house with friends and family. We have a nice dinner and exchange presents. The last couple of years, I have had most of my gifts wrapped and shipped to their house so I don't have to haul them there. This has worked out GREAT! No shlepping, no shopping (except at home in the comfort of my recliner), no wrapping.


When I really started spending a lot of time on the internet about five years ago, there were a lot of companies that were trying to cash in on the geometric growth of internet shopping by opening "cyber malls", starting shopping clubs, you name it. I signed up with Ebates in December of 2000, but didn't really start using them until Spring of 2004. Since then, I've received $133 in rebate checks, and will be getting about $55 this quarter.

You can join at (Yes, I will get a one-time $5 referral bonus if you use me, Teri Adams, as your referrer, if and when you spend money through their site. You will also get a $5 signing bonus, once you've used them.)

You just have to remember to go to their website (aka as the portal) to start with, and then click through to the merchant you want. They are up to over 800 merchants. You can even get rebates from Expedia, rental cars, hotels, eyeglasses, and wheelchairs through the Ebates merchants.

Some merchants don't do rebates but have coupons through the Expedia site for discounted shipping or special sales.

Groceries, Too

I have kitties, and carrying litter or bags of dry food is really hard for me. This applies to cases of soda, bottled water and a lot of stuff most people buy at the grocery store.

I still get a little choked up at the memory of Webvan, still the best grocery delivery service I ever used. When Webvan died, I switched to They have various prices for delivery, depending on the time window you choose, and how much your total comes to. You can use your discount card, just like you would in the store, and their site has a feature where you can search for sale items.

I end up spending ten bucks a shop at Safeway, and do it about twice a month. When my brand of soda goes on sale, I can stock up; ditto cat food and litter. They even carry in the case of Duraflame logs I buy with glee.

The downside of doing your grocery shopping this way is that you don't get to pick your veggies yourself. The upside is that it dramatically reduces the impulse buy of candy, chips and cookies. You can even go back and revise your order up to about 24 hours before delivery.

I think that home delivery of my groceries has been one of the most important elements of living alone with a disability. Even if your home cooking is largely Stouffers and microwave popcorn (I often resemble that remark), it is still cheaper than eating all of your meals out. And it is way cheaper than getting someone to come and cook for you, if you can do the basics yourself; microwaving and loading the dishwasher.

Balancing Your Choices

Older people especially (I am guessing here, but feel it to be true) balk at paying ten dollars "extra" to get their groceries delivered. But you gotta look at the big picture. What you're buying with that ten dollars is independence, freedom from having to get someone to go with you and help you do your shopping, or depending on the kindness of strangers.

I order twice a month partly because I can keep myself in 1% milk by shopping that often, without running out, wasting it, or having it go sour.

If you stock up when your favorites go on sale, you can save enough to make up for the delivery fees. On the order that I had delivered on Friday, I saved 14%, and got up to 20% savings on the order before that.

Another Form of Assistive Technology

I don't think it is hyperbole to say that using computers and internet shopping intelligently is another form of assistive technology for people with disabilities that hamper tasks like shopping and shlepping. At least try it a few times, before drawing conclusions.

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