Whether alone in their rooms, lounging with friends, or just procrastinating on the Internet, many at the College spend their free time online-shopping.

But for some it may be, too consuming: the results of an online survey of 100 random upperclassmen reveal that a significant percentage of the campus is highly active on online retail sites. 

The survey’s first question asked: “When was the last time you online-shopped (meaning you made an actual purchase)?” Only 11 respondents had not online-shopped in the past month. 

Of those who had made online purchases, six percent bought something that day, 28 percent had made a purchase within the past week and another 28 percent had purchased items within the past two weeks.

The survey then asked, “When was the last time you online-window-shopped (meaning you spent time on an online retail site, but did not make any purchases)?”

Again, the majority of students reported frequent and recent activity: 29 percent online-window-shopped that day and 44 percent did so within a week. 

In addition, 62 percent said they spend up to three hours a week browsing online shopping sites.

Our surroundings may help explain why students spend so much time online-shopping. The survey asked, “Do you online-shop more often when living on campus than when living at home?” 65 percent said, “Yes.”

Could Bowdoin have an online shopping problem?
Nancy Walker ’15, confesses, “sometimes I get blue slips from the Mail Center and I don’t even remember what I ordered.”

Bordered by the idyllic Maine coast and surrounded by dense forest, Brunswick has much to offer in terms of natural beauty. However, for most busy students, Brunswick is a long haul from popular retail stores. 

Shopping at most national stores necessitates a trip to Portland. And when the snow starts falling, even the fifteen-minute drive to nearby Freeport can seem too daunting to consider. For first years who are not allowed to have cars on campus, coordinating trips off campus can be an ordeal. 

But for cheap books, dresses from Forever21, new video games, or a Patagonia fleece to get you through the winter, any computer will do. 

“Even though I only buy shoes and cleats, I buy them online because it’s so convenient,” said Tom Wells ’15.

For me, it’s all too easy to sit in class on a Tuesday morning, and, in just seconds, spend almost $100 at the online sweater sale at Urban Outfitters. Free refunds make it easy to rationalize multiple purchases.

Ultimately, more attention should be paid to the way that social media promotes online shopping. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google are full of advertisements and logos, and retailers aggressively advertise to college students via email. Student discounts and free shipping also attract student shoppers. 

“When you’re swamped with work, it’s easy to procrastinate with online-shopping,” said Isabelle Franks ’14. “Sales or coupons in emails and that pop up on the sidebar can really get you trapped.”

Online-shopping can be helpful or even necessary for students who do not have access to malls and retail centers, but the activity poses certain risks; innocent browsing can quickly turn into unintentional and sporadic splurges—which can be especially painful on a college student’s budget.

In the survey, students cited Amazon, Urban Outfitters, Forever21, Zappos and Gilt as the sites they frequented most. 

Other notable sites included Ebay, and Ruelala, and Nike. Students also mentioned L.L. Bean and Target, two retailers located minutes from campus.

When it comes down to it, Michael Hendrickson ’13 says, “Getting a blue slip is something exciting to look forward to.”

While picking up my own package from the Mail Center this week, I asked mail room clerk Alison Voner how often they receive packages from online retailers. 

“We expect retail packages every single day. And this year, we have already received more than ever before,” she said.