“The fridge had been emptied of all Dudley’s favorite things — fizzy drinks and cakes, chocolate bars and burgers — and filled instead with fruit and vegetables and the sorts of things that Uncle Vernon called “rabbit food.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

We have had “Doris” the fridge freezer, in our lives for eighteen years. We bought her just after the renovations to the house we were living in at the time. She moved in, bright and shiney grey upright box and has been silently working in the corner of the kitchen ever since. We moved house 5 years ago and she was moved out to the utility room. Still she sat there working away without complaint, until the other day. One of the offsprings went to the fridge freezer to find that the top bit, the fridge was happily cooking the food inside at 20 degrees! The freezer below was still working away at minus 20 degrees. Panic, panic. The food that could be saved was moved into the micro fridges in the kitchen. The rest was thrown away.

We had a brief family discussion on the merits of replacing Doris and all agreed that it was time for a replacement. Eighteen years is a good run for a fridge freezer, but we did not think it was worth trying to get her fixed.

So how do you go about buying a fridge these days?

The local town used to have a white goods shop – somewhere where you could go and browse fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, chest freezers, dishwashers and the like. That closed down and has been replaced by a toy shop. Large supermarkets in the UK, sell some of the white goods, but not necessarily a fridge freezer. There are probably only two major outlets in the UK any more that sell a complete range of white goods. So choice, as they say has got less.

However, we now have the power of the internet don’t we. We can browse and shop on line 24*7. We can see virtual pictures of goods; are given dimensions and specifications; and have the ability to compare products online. We can also see what is the cheapest deal online. Lets go for that then. We looked at a couple of web sites and saw some models that we liked. The choice was then either to buy online without seeing the physical product or follow the current practice that some people browse online and then go to one of the physical outlets to see the product in reality. That was our approach.

One of the websites we looked is the virtual offshoot of a major department chain that has a branch at High Wycombe. So Saturday morning comes around and off we whiz to the store. We had decided before going that there were two models in the price range that we liked, we were going to confirm that they looked as good in reality as they did online and to buy there and then.

When we got there, only one of the two models that were shown online was physically there – what a disappointment. Why is it always the case that when you look online and then compare in store, that not all of the models are available to view? I know that normally the choice online is so much more than can be physically shown in a store, but if you are doing a promo as a company on a particular set of products, it does pay to make sure that the physical and virtual line up of products match.

Anyway, we started to go down the line of freestanding tall fridge freezers. Different heights, different fridge and freezer capacities. Different prices. In effect we were doing the comparison in reality, that you do online.

But, and here is where the difference between the physical and virtual internet worlds differ. We suddenly realised; as we were standing there with the freezer door open on a particular product, talking about the capacity of the freezer; that our purchasing criteria that we had thought of before; used to compare products online and thought was correct; was in fact wrong.

Why wrong? Well we had thought of a direct replacement for Doris – similar fridge and freezer layout, even a similar dark grey colour. However, our requirements were completely different. What we really needed was bigger freezer capacity and smaller fridge capacity. Would we have realised that if we had purchased online without ever seeing and comparing products in reality. No, I don’t think so.

With that realisation, we reviewed the available products and chose a completely different product and model. We asked the shop assistant if it was available, and guess what, back to the online store to check for availability! Yes it was. So, we went through the purchase process and she kindly logged our details on the system. We even paid £9 to get Doris taken away, there was no way I was going to try to hump shift a fridge freezer into the back of my car and take it to the dump. Delivery date set and agreed; product paid for; we left.

My reflection on the experience was mixed. I love the power, ease and availability of the internet shopping world and for most products and goods, it is fine. But sometimes, it does pay, to see the product in physical reality. Until the day that the internet can project a virtual reality product into your home and you can virtually “touch, move and interact with it”, I think that the high street shopping world will still exist.

I leave you with this quote….

“I loathe people who say, ‘I always read the ending of the book first.’ That really irritates me, It’s like someone coming to dinner, just opening the fridge and eating pudding, while you’re standing there still working on the starter. It’s not on.” ― J.K. Rowling

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