Why You Should Be Happy Online Shopping Checkout Is Such a Hassle

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According to the findings of a new survey, one of the biggest complaints among online shoppers regards the checkout procedure. Specifically: Having to enter payment and shipping information before finalizing a purchase. But is this annoyance really a blessing in disguise?

In the survey, sponsored by MasterCard, the need to enter billing and shipping details was the No. 2 gripe for online shoppers. (The mystery about how an item fits or looks in person was the biggest “pain point” for the online shopping experience.)

“The research shows that consumers want a simpler, faster way to enter account information, so they can spend more time searching for exactly what they want and less time filling out forms at checkout,” said Geoff Iddison, Group Executive e-Commerce and Mobile, MasterCard Worldwide.

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Let’s take a step back here. How much time does it really take to enter out one’s address and credit card info? Perhaps 30 seconds? A minute?

Nearly 1 in 4 survey respondents reported “abandoning their shopping carts at least once a month before completing their purchase,” and the implication is that many aren’t completing their orders because the checkout process is such an ordeal. A checkout process that, remember, takes maybe a single minute to complete.

Perhaps, though, it’s worth pondering the possibility that if you can’t be troubled to spare a few seconds and fill out some forms to make a purchase, the purchase isn’t really all that essential.

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Retailers, credit card companies, and online-payment systems have an obvious interest in speeding up and smoothing out Internet purchase procedures. The faster and more hassle-free the process is, the less likely the shopper is to pause and rethink an impulsive purchase. In the MasterCard survey, the majority of consumers (58%) also say that they’d like the option of keeping their billing and shipping info in one safe place so that it can be automatically entered no matter where they are shopping.

The current system, in which info must be entered and reentered, may seem like a nuisance. But what we have in this dysfunctional system is actually a miniature variation of practices preached by personal finance experts the world over. The “30-day rule,” for instance, is often suggested as a way to control impulse spending. How it works is simple: Whenever you feel the urge to make a non-essential purchase, get out of the store (or leave the website) and make a note to yourself on a calendar, including the item, price, and date. Think about how much you really want the item in question over the next 30 days; if, at the end of the allotted wait period, you still think it’s a worthwhile purchase, go for it (provided you have the money). Oftentimes, though, the infatuation wears off after a few weeks, by which time you may be tempted to make other impulse purchases—requiring a new set of 30-day rules to be put into effect.

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TheSimpleDollar has an even quicker recommendation to ward off impulsive purchases, via the “10-second rule”:

Any time you are about to spend any money at all, count to ten slowly and spend that time considering whether or not you should actually spend the money.

It’s hard to say how many impulse purchases have been avoided because the 10-second or 30-day rules were invoked, or how many were skipped because shoppers were too annoyed by the need to fill in details at a website to complete purchases. We have a pretty good idea of what happens, though, when the online checkout procedure is speeded up and hurdles are removed: Amazon Prime members, who enjoy one-click ordering and free two-day shipping, report vastly increasing their spending on the site after signing up for the program.

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At some point in the near future, it’s all but inevitable that all barriers and steps that slow down the checkout procedure are likely to be removed. Startups such as Dashlane (currently in beta) promise to allow shoppers to keep their billing and shipping info in one secure spot, so that the info can be entered automatically no matter which site or whether or not the consumer already has an account.

Yet in the same way that speed bumps keep neighborhoods and parking lots safer, it’s probably best for your finances if there are minor hassles slowing down the online checkout procedure. No one likes hassles, but if they decrease the likelihood you’ll make a regretful impulse purchase, they’re actually a blessing. “Enjoy” the annoyances while they last.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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