This goes back to the days, when on-line shopping per se, in India was just starting. One had heard of Amazon and Ebay, Google was not yet born and a verb, unlimited storage happened only in your dreams, and the concept of strange people calling you to offer credit cards, personal loans and so on had not taken root.
They say, stuff is conceptualized, and realized , based on a perception of needs.
I was staying in another city, away from my parents, there was a significant landmark birthday coming up for my Mom, and since I wouldn't be able to travel on the actual date (I would go later), I was looking around for someone /something that could make the day special for my mother.
I chanced upon a portal called FloraFountain.com *** . I have no clue if it exists now, whether it has burgeoned into a mammoth set up, or whether it has been bought up by a conglomerate and so on.
These guys offered, for various prices, to deliver (in Pune) , a grand bouquet (you could choose the grandeur level), along with either a cake, or fresh fruits, or mithai, or dry fruits, to the person, at the address you specified, on a given date. This was started as a need that was felt, in the lives of NRI children abroad, who wished to send gifts to their folks on special occasions, specifically in Pune.
I was just so many hundred kilometres away, very much in the country, and the prices in Rs did not throw me into a dead faint.
Since as a rule, I assume everyone exaggerates, I called them up at their contact number , and spoke to someone, to get some stuff clarified . Having no credit card, I could pay on a local bank by cheque or by cash. Since the folks receiving the gift were senior citizens, and not unduly enthused about cakes, the folks at Flora Fountain offered to deliver Mango Barfi from Chitale Bandhu ! I entered all the details and addresses and contact numbers online, paid, got an acknowledgement by email in a few days.
My folks were active in all kinds of social service organizations through the day, climbing the Parvati Hill was a daily ritual early morning , and I specified a time window in which the delivery should happen.
A cool April morning in Pune. The bell rang at my parent's house, and they found a fellow at the door, carrying a huge bouquet and a package. At first they thought he had come to the wrong place. Then they thought he was a friend of mine. He politely explained and asked to come in.
Once in the living room, he presented the bouquet and the packet of Chitale Mango Barfi to my Mom, then bent down and touched their feet doing a namaskar , and explained from where the stuff had come !
My folks were terribly impressed, and this was followed by offering the fellow, a nice cup of tea, a sharing of breakfast, and a piece of the Mithai that they just received . Typical chitchat revealed that my mother knew an aunt-in-law of the guy, there was much nodding and smiling and the fellow left soon after.
I contacted these guys again years later when an aunt was celebrating her 75th birthday. Her kids had some religious stuff planned at a hall, and I again ordered for a big cake (many kids in the house on that day) and a bouquet, and specified that the stuff needed to reach around 7 am , since they would ll leave for the hall by 8 am.
These guys again delivered, again with the wishes and namaskars. My aunt was completely surprised, investigated who the guy was, and it turned out that he was at one time, in college with her youngest, my cousin, who was specially there now for the event, from her marital home.
There have been scores of online shopping places that have come up subsequently. They have specials and sales. Most specify a plethora of payment options. There are fine-print terms and conditions. Wish lists. Specials. Delivery details. Even reviews.
Belonging as I do to a generation where buying anything (except a house) on installments, was considered unwarranted and unrequired, shopping was an occasional need, conducted with a lot of advice and care, and tons of bargaining, if you know what I mean. There was always a big deal about getting value for money. Those were days, when being indulgent meant you went to great lengths to make things at home, so they were special.
I am completely in awe of folks who say they are compulsive shoppers or shopping addicts. On the Net. I am suspicious of credit cards, debit cards and the like, and when I rarely use one, I walk around with a load on my mind till I pay the bill at the end of the month . I'm even more wary of paying via cell phones.
Unlike, eating,singing,painting, exercising, to me , shopping and/or spending cannot be an addiction. Like my blogger friend R's Mom would say, "Boss, it needs money !".....:-)
But despite having dealt with many well known shopping portals, some of them very prompt , efficient, and polite, this experience with Flora Fountain has always remained my most memorable online shopping experience.
While the online buying today, is like getting a paid-for prize and going up to the podium to receive it when it is announced , my original online buying experience was like getting a prize, coming home, and having someone pat you on your back .......
*** More than 20 years later I tried to search for them . They exist, but as an entry on a larger portal here.