“It does seem really hard to get consumers to do the right thing. It is stupid that we use two tons of steel, glass, and plastic to haul our sorry selves to the shopping mall. It's stupid that we put water in plastic bottles in Fiji and ship it here.”
- John Doer
Me vs Street Shopping - The Battle Begins
I like to think that I am in touch with my so-called feminine side, but even I struggle to meet the metrosexual fashion of loving the shopping experience. The street shopping experience for me, which hasn't happened properly in a long time, is typically faced with "weekend eyes". I am tired and unenthusiastic. Arguments with partners nearly always inevitably arose from shopping excursions. It is a constant theme with me, so the blame probably rests squarely on my shoulders and I acknowledge it. I clearly do not want to be there and my every action is a move to get to the checkout and away from the place. When it comes to most types of street shopping I want to go in and get what I came for.
The Shopping Community
Next to tourists, protesters, religious fanatics and people with contagious diseases, the community I feel least comfortable around are "fellow shoppers". They can display some of the worst traits humanity has to offer. From nosey shop assistants and pushy salespeople to aggressive trolley rammers and bustling crowds, you sometimes feel that wearing a suit of spikey armour should be an essential requirement for a rush hour shopper. Supermarkets are probably the worst of places for… just about everything! A major pet hate are the aisle gossipers. These blockages on the artery of time management cluster together to block your progress with their inane chatter about their and just about everyone else’s lives – “Of course, our Martin is no longer with Marjorie… No, never did like her”. Then, when you have made it through there, often narrowly avoiding screaming children or ensuring your own hasn’t picked up items you don’t intend to pay for, you face the checkout. Here, if you are unlucky, you can be treated to the worst examples of equal opportunities serving you. People who you would think twice allowing access to a squared piece of paper will eat up more of your valuable time as yet another item does not appear on the system and they have to ask Craig – it is often a Craig, I don’t know why – to check for him. You will remember Craig. He is the individual you asked on isle four to look out the back to see if there were any packets of your favourite cereal left. Craig inevitably goes out the back to have a crafty smoke break, only to return empty handed. His equivalent in a convenience store is only marginally better. His favourite line is “If it isn’t on the shelf then we haven’t got it”. Then there are the petrol station cashiers who have interesting questions of their own. Like when you have asked to pay for your food and fuel separately, and they ask whether you want a VAT receipt? No, I clearly have a severe version of OCD and I get freaked out when my fuel and food are mixed!
So, if you are lucky you get to the checkout in reasonable time. Unfortunately this only happens at certain times of the day and inevitably they aren’t the times you can make it. This means you have to contend with Derek who insists on getting the right change out (actually I have been a bit of a Derek at times, so admitted hypocrisy there). Worse still is Mabel who wants to chat to the cashier she has known for years about her children who are now grown up and live in Australia!
Self-Checkout - The Answer to my Prayers?
When a system for scanning items yourself and paying was first introduced my heart leapt. At last I could avoid those issues I have with the normal check-out. Now we had a filter. No more would I have to deal with the frustration of people who treat the check-out as an essential part of their social life or want to fiddle with change. We busier people could just get going! That is until my daughter can be trained not to keep leaning on the checkout and ruining my order or Mabel decides to wants to take on the new technology! Oh man! This is not supposed to happen. We are clearly at a crossroads of evolutions here and surely, if we are to follow Darwin’s laws, the machine should terminate those who haven’t the foggiest how to use it and insist on calling an assistant.
Childhood is Over...
I guess my big problem with street shopping is that I never grew up. As a kid, shopping could be fun. Yes, I got bored, but between hanging off the back of trolleys and looking forward to eating chips at a café at the end of the shopping trip, I got to look at stuff I liked and wanted, and sometimes got. If someone told me a shopping trip would involve me looking around different bookshops and music/video stores with a realistic supply of money, then just call me the happy shopper! I can browse forever in a good bookstore. Hell, I can browse forever in a bad bookshop. When it comes to clothes shopping, food shopping or any other type of shopping, it’s a chore.
Christmas Shopping - Avoiding Armageddon
There are few things to dampen any concept of Christmas spirit than shopping during the festive time. Here that community I don’t really enjoy at any time of year turn into something I last saw trying to breach Helms Deep. All the traits that Christmas is supposed to represent are woefully forgotten as everyone scrambles and fights their way into the shops to pay extortionate prices for items that will never get used. Of course, intelligent and organized people will have already done their Christmas shopping well ahead of time. Their presents will already be sorted and wrapped by the time the first set of Christmas lights go up. Others will have bought carefully throughout the year, paying sensible prices and actually getting items that recipients will enjoy or find useful. However, for the rest of us great unwashed we will be panic buying at the last moment and just about holding onto our sanity at the endless and relentless stream of awful Christmas pop songs being played throughout the shops. Wizard’s “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day” seemed the most inappropriate tune for my mood and the damn track became the anthem to my annoyance and frustration.
Online – A Better Way
The online choice eliminates all that nonsense. It is not without its faults. These faults include broken connections and problems with delivery. However, the worst problem with online buying is that is perhaps even worse than street shopping in getting you to spend more than you had intended. For the first time, I could empathise with those shoppers who can’t resist all the “bargains”. With books and films going on Marketplace websites for 00.01p it is hard to resist. Plus Amazon has its suggested accompaniments and generates whole pages of delicious related material based on your purchases. It is like being tempted by the Devil! However, for the most part it cuts out the unpleasantness of street shopping. You have more time to play and educate your child rather than hauling them around the place. You don’t have to put up with the blatantly rude or the incurably dithery. And you don’t end up taking it out on your friends and those closest to you. I recall getting supermarket orders to my front door certainly cut out those rows on the way home. Furthermore, when it comes to presents you have a far wider scope to choose from. Although, as you might guess, I am still inclined to think of a film or book that the receiver of my present might want.
Don't forget to check out Jamie Clubb's main blog www.jamieclubb.blogspot.com