I've only bought yarn online once. Generally I distrust images and descriptions of skeins and balls of yarn, because buying yarn is for me a sensory experience: I need to see the color in natural light (if I'm buying in a shop, I always step out into the daylight), to feel the texture, and to see close up the thread and how it's spun. None of which can be done online. And because I'm afraid of receiving something utterly unexpected, and having to go to the extra expense and hassle (ever been to a post office in this country?) of returning it, I resist online yarn purchases ... in principle.
But recently I made an exception to this rule, and bought yarn online to make Buttercup for my sister. It was a big occasion, and I felt fairly safe because it was exactly the same yarn and color that the pattern called for. And since I was paying for shipping, I also decided to buy some extra yarn for myself. Still, I agonized for days about this extra purchase. I reviewed over and over the tiny image of the colorway I intended to buy, and sieved through Ravelry's projects to check out what other knitters who'd used the same yarn had thought of it. Then I went ahead, and clicked "buy".
Imagine my shock and horror, when I opened the package, and instead of the color that I was expecting, I found some bright red yarn inside. Where did that come from? I pulled up my order, and ... well, I really can't explain how, but I had in fact selected the wrong colorway. Returning or exchanging would have been far too expensive so I was stuck with 3,328.5 meters of loud red yarn that wasn't suitable for anything any adult would want to wear. My immediate strategy was to go into denial, close the box, and not think about it anymore.
Except that brand new yarn has a particular way of making itself alluring, even irresistable. I couldn't forget it, no matter how hard I tried. Eventually I gave in, opened the box, held the delicately soft alpaca yarn in that bright, poppy-red color against my cheek. At which point I distinctly heard it say, "Knit me!!"
So I did.