Online purchases have continuously increased every year during the Holiday Season. I have heard people say that it is due to a number of factors – an increased number of people online, more user-friendly purchasing experiences, dependable and affordable delivery and fulfillment, better transaction security, etc. Those are all fine explanations, but I think we all know the real reason – the decline of sanity in traditional Holiday shopping.

This moment of clarity came to me as I sat in gridlock trying to drive past one of the local malls. A trip that would normally take me 10 minutes or less turned into an hour-long odyssey. As I sat at the same light for four rounds, I took the opportunity to observe my fellow adventurers. To my left, a harried mother, staring straight ahead with laser focus as her minivan rocked in place as untold hordes of children raged within. To my right, an elderly woman with a compact car overfilled with shopping bags and an unnatural gleam in her eye. Much to my surprise, being that I live in the city known as “America’s Friendliest,” as a car cut off the poor old woman for the third time, I saw a hand fly up, with a single digit protruding with immense vehemence. For the first time, I began to see the wisdom of purchasing the H2 Hummer.

Exhausted from the strain of trying to cut our way through this morass, my wife and I decided to stop for lunch at one of the many national chain restaurants that line the roads encircling the mall. Much to our chagrin, we were told that there would be at least an hour wait. Risking it all, we eventually merged back into the pulsing sea of SUVs, minivans, and wagons. Less than a quarter mile down the road, and 20 minutes later, we arrived at another restaurant. We were greeted by the hostess, who, with her brightest smile, informed us of the 70-minute wait. To make a long story short, almost two hours past from the time we had decided to stop for lunch until we finally decided to go to our favorite local diner that was just far enough away from the shopping frenzy to allow us to be seated within 10 minutes.

This experience has already been repeated several times this shopping season, and in all likelihood I will continue to accumulate stories like this until December 25th. I am sure that all of you could contribute your own Holiday shopping tales of drama, tragedy, and woe, and that across America, wherever there is a shopping mall, people are struggling at this vary moment to fulfill the dreams of their family and friends amidst the chaos.

Faced with such adversity, is it any wonder that every year more people discover the convenience of online shopping? No traffic, no angry mobs, and all your shopping needs sitting right on the desk in front of you – how can you resist?

Advocates of traditional retail have argued that online shopping will never be able to truly threaten retail stores because shopping is experiential. We as humans love to touch, smell, and listen to the goods that we purchase. Psychologically, we have a hard time committing our hard earned money to something that we cannot pick up and play with first. This is undoubtedly true – in most cases.

We all intuitively examine the cost-benefit ratio of our various options, and at some point, the hassle of dealing with the Holiday crowds begins to outweigh the desire for the “total shopping experience.” For most of us, overly busy throughout the year, and impossibly taxed during the Holiday season, we simple need to get our gift shopping done, and done as quickly and pain-free as possible. Forget the experience – just give us the goods.

Online Holiday shopping will never replace retail shopping, but eventually an equilibrium will be established. Enough shopping will migrate to the Internet to ease the offline Holiday crunch to the point where the experience of shopping is not obliterated by the inconvenience of overcrowding and hyper-demand. Until that point is reached, I am not sure that it will really be the season to be jolly – at least not without a few glasses of your favorite hi-test beverage.