Last week, I decided I needed new pajama (er, “sleep”) pants — or rather it was decided for me when a rip emerged rather inconveniently along the left cheek. This sent me down a rabbit hole of searching and comparisons for an everyday item I might pick up in line at a department store on a whim. This is the reality of being slightly neurotic by nature paired with the fact that shopping sucks now.
These are cotton pants I sleep in, not exactly a lifesaving necessity. Apply these same dynamics to buying a protective mask during a pandemic, which is quite literally a necessity and lifesaving these days. Brian X. Chen decided to find out what happens when one sets out to buy an actual N95 mask online:
I recently spent hours comparing masks online and almost bought a pack of counterfeits on Amazon. Thankfully, I avoided falling into the trap and eventually found legitimate, high-quality masks from a trustworthy online retailer.
Along the way, I learned plenty about how to spot fraudulent mask listings and how to sidestep fake reviews.
It turns out a huge part of the problem is Amazon, which is still full of counterfeit masks being hawked by third parties gilded by fake reviews, a year into this. Amazon has obviously been a huge part of how people are coping right now but it’s completely shameful that they haven’t solved the problem of how to easily buy a mask that will work from a reputable source.
Of course it’s not just online retailers, as we’ve basically gotten zero guidance on what an effective mask even is — one of the many failures of a year of no real leadership.
If you want a mask, it seems like the solution is to buy direct from one of the manufacturers who spun up production at the beginning of the pandemic. I’m hopeful that the Biden administration will put the Defense Production Act into full force and send every American enough masks to get through the year.
As for my sleep pants, my wife finally got fed up with my dithering and ordered me a set from The Gap.