The ability to purchase goods online may be the single most important technological advancement of the 20th century as far as people like me are concerned—that is people who suffer from social anxiety. This anxiety frequently (if not always) extends to the telephone, and for me is further complicated by misophonia. I have recently run into impasses with two online orders that required me to contact a sales representative by telephone to proceed with my order. In both cases, I abandoned the order.
Yes, I have problems. And yes, I can suck it up and (usually) force myself to endure these extreme discomforts when it comes to providing for my family, but we all weigh situations by how much effort the expected result is worth. For me, dealing with the stress of speaking to a stranger is frequently too great to warrant the effort, especially if the goal is self-serving.
I don’t know how many times I have approached a boutique shop trying to psyche myself up to go inside, only to walk by and think to myself, “I can just find that stuff online.” I do know roughly how many times I have actually psyched myself into it though, and that number isn’t much greater than zero.
I know this isn’t normal, but I also know dealing with strangers doesn’t get any easier no matter how often I force myself to do it. This is simply something that I and millions of others who suffer from social anxiety are going to have trouble with, and for many of us, doing without is simply much less trouble.
Last month, I ordered an adaptor for my telescope. The item was placed on back order, and during this time the expected delivery date was moved back a month. The seller’s policy in this case is to call the customer to get their approval to keep the order on hold. I had two days to call their customer service back (no, I don’t answer telephone calls) to keep them from canceling my order. I was given no option to email, or to re-approve the order on their website. Needless to say, my order was canceled. I had a similar issue with an online music store about a week later.
What is it about backordered products that completely breaks the anonymity of the web? While courtesy calls may be an easy customer service win for most shoppers, relying on them will result in abandoned orders, disappointment and anxiety for people like me. Online retailers, please, please don’t require human interaction. Make it optional. Online purchasing is the only option many of us have.