Online shopping killing retail stores and our families, too

Online shopping killing retail stores and our families, too

Online shopping killing retail stores and our families, too

The closings of Toys-R-Us, Carsons and other major retailers is a sign of weakness in our economy and the erosion of family life, shifting from personal family involvement to individual use of computers and technology. It’s not just about an economic problem. It’s about the weakening of our family structure and lives

By Ray Hanania

When my daughter Carolyn, and my son Aaron, were young, I enjoyed taking them to Toys-R-Us and other retail toy stores to watch them marvel at all of the toys in the store and enjoy the shopping experience.

It was an amazing experience, and so much fun. It was a personal experience and when they would pick out a toy they wanted, they learned to appreciate it and spend their time enjoying it. Toys-R-Us was a major part of our family life.

When Toys-R-Us announced it was closing, I wondered how parents spend time today with their young children. What exciting things do children look forward to? Sit at a computer and order online from a computer screen from

Rows and rows of gas grills at suburban stores. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Rows and rows of gas barbecue grills at local Lowes or Menards retail store are an enjoyment for families to browse and then buy together as a family. But family browsing in retail stores is being replaced by online computer buying, and it’s usually done individually, outside of the family activity, and alone. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Toys R Us is not the only major retailer closing that is destroying memories. Carson’s is also closing.



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I have great memories of Carson’s, too. In the summer of 1985, I remember going to an outlet store they organized on Cicero avenue near 76th Street where they offered the latest “gadget,” the personal computer. I owned a small computer called the Coleco Adam that I purchased from Montgomery Wards the year before but decided to upgrade to the IBM PC Jr., that Carson’s was touting.

Little did I know, though, that in buying that computer that day I was contributing to the demise of family enjoyment and the eventual closing of Monkey Wards, as it was called, Toys-R-Us and Carson’s.

Toys-R-Us front entrance from the Toys-R-Us website.

Toys-R-Us front entrance from the Toys-R-Us website.

Computers and technology have killed family fun. And they have failed to live up to their promises, such as reducing the amount of trees we cut down to avoid wasting paper. We print more paper now that we have computers than ever before. And computer technology is as bad as “plastic” in polluting the environment.

Computers have also destroyed the enjoyment of photography. Today’s digital photos have replaced the printed pictures we used to hold and enjoy.

Can you really enjoy 10,000 photos stored on your cell phone iCloud the way we would enjoy 100 photos in a family photo album. When I was young, we were selective in what we photographed, taking only the best pictures. Today, everything is photographed, because it is so easy.

The personal value of the photos has vanished.

Nowadays, we order everything online. Our online concern is that the packages we order are not stolen from the front “stoop” of our home, once it is delivered by UPS, Fed-Ex, the US Postal Service or Amazon itself.

Yes, I still call that cement step in front of my suburban home a “stoop.” It reminds me of the beauty of the old neighborhood in Chicago where we would trick-or-treat until late at night not worried about being raped, gunned down or robbed. I still call the space between mine and the neighbor’s homes the “gang way.” And I can’t break a lifetime habit of referring to the refrigerator as the “icebox.”

Those old words are all I have left that connects me to a great childhood and memories of great parents who made it their primary purpose to work hard, and care for their children.

But those memories are quickly vanishing into a silicon diode abyss, like a black hole were Toys-R-Us and Carson’s will very soon find their resting places.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email mail him through his personal website at or at

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at

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