Cyber-Shopping Menace


Arshid Malik

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Arshid-Malik1-265x300Another menace has joined hands with my ill-fate to rob my hard earned money – online ordering portals. This is only a few weeks from the last column I wrote about junk food which again is quite a money magnet. With these, all you need to do is open their home page, click on the kind of product you are looking for, make your choice and a few clicks and some personal and mailing information and you are good to go. Although such websites or ordering portals have been there for quite some time but the strategy they have utilized now is a disaster when it comes to spending money.

The procedure is called COD or Cash on Delivery. You choose a product and it is delivered at your doorstep within the shortest possible time. The problem is that children these days come wired with cyber-technology – you do not need to teach them anything. Just hand them a laptop with an internet connection and you are done for. My kid has found a few odd ordering portals which sell toys and stuff. He logs on into an internet portal, makes his pick of the choicest toy or gadget and fills in my name, mailing address and phone number. A few days pass by, while I am trying to balance my budget till the month end, a delivery boy knocks on my office door and delivers a surprise package. The surprise part is good but when you have to pay a four figure for the surprise, it turns into a nightmare.

God, a simple tin box was delivered to my office today and I had to pay Rs. 599 for it. When I opened it, I found a tin box with some action figures printed and nothing inside. The first time this sort of a thing happened I applauded my child for being so good at handling affairs over the internet and little did I know that I was in for a gala adventure of spending money on things I did not even know whether they existed or not. Yet, money is not the greater issue but safety, especially child safety, is.

Well, kids are kids and they will do what they secretively have planned to do. I guess there is no stopping them without spanking them which I am totally not in favour of. Yes, a mild arrangement of words framed into an argument of sorts against the trait of internet shopping, which to me is just another frivolity, is what I prefer, but it almost never works in my favour. But the matter that actually beseeches attention is that of the gaping commercial traps that lurk around in cyberspace. You are on the internet and there is no telling where you might land since cyber laws have been framed but do not stand fully implemented. A window that pops up, meant to be a stop-gate or a filter in cyber terms, asks you to fill in your age or asks you to click on “yes” if you are over 18 years of age. You click the “yes” button and windows of opportunities open up. You are all set to go wherever you want to go. For God’s sake, even toddlers today carry enough logic to click on the “yes” button. What kind of a policy is that? My kid is too young for Facebook, speaking technically, but he has a full-fledged Facebook account.

I get goose-bumps thinking up all night about the kind of travesties my child might land himself in and I pray to Almighty for his well being while he is on the internet which is almost all the time.

My exact opinion is that the internet is a facility which should not have ever been invented. What does it fetch us? Well, the arguments that people give me are multifarious. Some say they are in touch with the world because of the internet. Others say they are able to study better with the aid of the internet. Some get to market their products better on the internet and others get to make non-existent friends on the internet – yes you are never sure whether the person at the other end of the communication network is a human or a software program devised to extract very personal information about you and then use the same to give you a run for your money, or perhaps render you bankrupt.

The ostentatious argument that there is an ugly and a beautiful side to everything, I believe, does not apply to the internet for the whole conglomerate of meshes that land up on our computer screens, tablets, smart phones and now ultra books, are elementarily rootless and almost non-existent. How can you count on binary code while making your monetary transactions or expressing your deepest feelings you have for your sweetheart? It is a sham, rather a scam.

I have pinned my hopes, for now, on the factor that my wife does not somehow wander off on the internet and land up some exciting ordering portals that sell women’s stuff, you know, designer wear, jewellery and not to mention footwear, even though my wife is not fashion savvy but as you know, there is an evil side to everything (beware, I might be contradicting myself). If that happens, I might not be able to smoke my next cigarette which on the contrary is good for my blood pressure to go down a few degrees at least but only for sometime, the time till the delivery boy knocks on my door and hands me a surprise package and demands some five figure amount for it. That would sure leave me breathless; breathless as in the evil side.

Arshid Malik


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