About four dozen issues ago (where has the time gone, and how does it fly by so quickly when every day is eight years long?), I wrote about online shopping during the coronatimes. Back then, I naïvely kind of thought that things might go back to normal in a few months, but obviously that's not the case. Even as states start to relax or remove distancing guidelines, in-person shopping is about to change.
Case in point: Sephora testers are now "for display only."
If you're not a Sephora shopper, you might not realize how weird it is to think of going into a Sephora store and not being able to touch anything, but, as the kids say, #IYKYK.
Sephora's raison d'être is trying stuff on. When I was young and broke in New York, that was a whole Saturday afternoon's entertainment for me: Go to Sephora and touch makeup. I never put anything on my mouth because that's obviously a bad idea, except for the day Sephora opened in Anchorage and I waited with friends to be in the very first group of shoppers and none of the samples had ever been touched by human hands, which was one of the most exciting shopping experiences of my entire life. But now that we have this weird bat virus that can get in through your eyes and nose and who knows how else, I can't imagine I'll ever look at any makeup tester the same way again.
Sephora displays are literally built to accommodate a tester for every single product in the store, and that's part of the shopping experience. Or at least it has been up until now. The website announcement isn't specific about this, but this Washington Post article about how stores are changing as they reopen certainly seems to indicate that the kinds of changes that are being made — closing fitting rooms, remerchandising so that things are easier to find, removing testers — are here for the long term, if not for forever.
Basically, stores seem to be shifting from "shopping" to "buying."
As a person with a newfound healthy respect for virology, I totally get this. As a person who just really f**king loves to shop, I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT.
You know what I love? Browsing. Holy cow, do I love browsing. That's my favorite thing to be able to say when a sales associate asks if they can help me. "No thanks, just browsing!" Browsing is everything. Looking at stuff, picking it up, touching it, putting it down, thinking about buying it, changing my mind, putting it back, picking it up in a different color, holding it for a while, checking the price at another store, thinking about it some more, changing my mind, changing it back, buying things I didn't intend to buy or not buying anything at all? I love it so much.
You know what I did last year for Mother's Day? I got my hair blown out and then I just went to Target all by myself. It was amazing.
Stores are reopening here in the lawless land of Wisconsin, and I don't have any plans to be in them myself anytime soon, as much as I desperately would love to go hang out at The Container Store. (OH MY GOD The Container Store HANDS DOWN the most reassuring, soothing place to browse and imagine how stress-free life would be if only someone else would spend $50,000 of their money and hundreds of hours of their time making my house look like The Container Store.) While I trust stores to have good practices, I have zero faith in other shoppers to be safe, and I don't know if I'm psychologically ready for one-way aisles and plexiglas dividers. Ultimately, this is better for my bank account and, if we're being totally honest, the entire planet.
But what I would not give for one last day of carefree browsing. If I'd known that consignment sale in March was going to be the last browsing I'd do for maybe years, I would have browsed so much harder.
Also I wouldn't have spent so much money on bags. I'm not going anywhere.