Brick & Mortar or online: what’s your poison?

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Brick & Mortar store supporters advance five reasons in their support, still fountain pen lovers are increasingly buying online, why? Time, we went Click & Collect?


I am a compulsive pen, ink and stationery buyer. I buy fountain pens when I am happy. I buy fountain pens when I am down, to fight with depression. I buy fountain pens to gift myself on my birthday, on my wife’s birthday, to commemorate the end of the Korean War, to celebrate the National Pensioner’s Day – in short, all the time. All this, when I am not buying pens or ink impulsively, on a whim, for no reason at all.


Naturally, the question that arises is, where do I prefer buying my pens from? Especially after having spent the better part of the last two years locked inside, with nothing else to do, but … buy pens! Yes, I have bought all the pens that I have bought over the last two years online, through e-commerce stores, which makes me one who has felt the fountain pen buying sun from both sides. So, going back to the question – where do I prefer buying my pens from?

Brick & Mortar store of William Penn

There is no simple answer, but me thinks, that the traditional brick and mortar store has several advantages over the ecommerce platforms, at least on paper.


For one, a traditional store allows me to look at and feel the pen I may contemplate buying. The pleasure of carefully taking out a pen, out from the cellophane wrapping, to dip the nib ever so carefully in the bottle of ink that miraculously appear on the counter, to scratch a few lines on the paper provided, followed by the shape of an eight (or an infinity) …  is, I am sure all of you will agree, sheer delight. No, the digital world cannot match this ecstasy.

Brick & Mortar store of William Penn

The second reason that comes immediately to the mind is the quality of expert advice provided by the shopkeepers. In olden days, when the shops were stand-alone, the owners used to pamper the customers individually, regaling one with fountain pen and ink trivia, as he tried to close the sale. Often the owners were extremely opinionated, going to the extent of forcing one to change pre-set notions about buying a particular pen, but still, their very presence used to lull one into a strange kind of awe-inspired comfort. Try feeling that in a e-comm website? No way. Sadly, even the plush environs of the large format pen stores that have replaced the friendly neighbourhood pen seller, with their liveried, soft-spoken sales attendants, cannot match the sheer warmth (or the idiosyncrasies) of the pen sellers of yore.


The third reason has got to be WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). In a store, you test, select and buy. And even as they put the box and the bill in their store packet, you can slip the pen in your pocket, with all the pride of contentment, writ large in what my wife calls, “a stupid, childish smile”. Somehow, emptying your shopping cart by divulging your card details, only to wait indefinitely for the package to arrive, is not as Dopamine inducing. And horror of horrors, if the packet gets damaged, or lost in transit, or if the wrong product is mistakenly shipped!

Brick & Mortar store of William Penn

The fourth compelling argument in favour of brick and mortar has got to be the eclectic pleasure that runs through the veins as one walks through any decent pen shop. Imagine being alone in a room full of pens, inks and stationery accessories, each somehow vying for your attention, seeking to engage you in an intimate conversation, perhaps even hoping to be bonded to you for life. It is like going to a museum and standing for hours at an end in front of a piece of art that mesmerises – a grail pen, at least to me, is no less than a Mona Lisa or the Birth of Venus for that matter! Or, one could move through the galleries, one’s eyes feasting on some of the exhibits, ogling at the others – only the Pen Store making things even more exciting, as one’s subconscious tell one that unlike a museum, here one can also buy. There is something very physical about the experience of strolling aimlessly in a pen store – it is cathartic and erotic in the same breath – making one feel like a sailor in unchartered waters, even as the Siren songs tingle every pore, forcing one to reach for the wallet.


Finally, a practical reason. If things go wrong and one is forced to seek a replacement or a refund, I feel one would be much more comfortable walking into a store and explaining one’s predicament to a real person and resolve the issue. To email pictures of the defect, then to have the pen repacked and have it couriered, not to mention the endless hours wasted in trying to talk to a person as the toll-free number keeps giving one endless (and inane) instructions, just doesn’t work for me.


However, all this shenanigan does not mean that we can do away with the convenience of online stores. And like I said right in the beginning, in these days of pandemic induced forced lockdowns, the web offers the only solace to fountain pen and ink possessed anachronisms like me. The solution perhaps is Click & Collect – where you can do your choosing from the relative comfort of your home / office and then collect the stuff physically from your favourite Brick and mortar haunt, which is a kind of a mishmash of both worlds. Think about it.


Nikhil Ranjan, Managing Director of William Penn

And now that you are thinking, dare I drop the name William Penn? Smiles Nikhil Ranjan, the Managing Director of India’s go to pen, ink and accessories destination: William Penn, “you haven’t left much for me to add, have you? Suffice to say, whether you visit our online store or honour us with your footfall in one of our numerous physical stores, or even if you want to go click and collect – we will ensure that you have an unmatched, pleasurable experience.”


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6 Replies to “Brick & Mortar or online: what’s your poison?”

  1. Very well scripted, enjoyed reading it thoroughly, keep inspiring the new comers to the world of Fountain pens and inks,…. Impressed.

  2. Good Reading! Informative and thought-provoking in comparing the advantages/disadvantages of in-person vs online shopping for pens. Indeed, valid points! Thank You, Chawm!

  3. You have dropped in really practical as well as emotional points here Sir. What an article to read! The idea of Click and Collect will one day be the future of the world of Fountain Pens.

  4. Nothing can compare to the experience of entering a store and picking up pens analytically and then deciding which to take home.


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