Saturday, 20 August 2016

On line shopping: the antidote to a modern nightmare. But it needs skill

Isn’t a visit to the supermarket one of the more dismal experiences of life today?

They do try to make it less unpleasant. Wide aisles, plenty of light, background music (though I’m not convinced that tinny music, particularly the kind most supermarkets play, does much to enhance the experience rather than the reverse). However, no attempt to improve the feeling can disguise the fact that essentially it’ s just a long haul, up and down aisles, in an often forlorn search for the most essential items on your list.

Have you noticed that, if you’re after 25 products, you’ll find the first 20 in no time? Then comes you can’t remember whether the cat food is on aisle 16 or 52; by the time you’ve checked them both out, some kind person in a uniform jacket will tell you that it’s actually in aisle 2, back at the other side of the shop. Then you start the same process over again, looking for olive oil.

Having walked the equivalent of three miles up and down the aisles, you will now have 23 of the 25 things you wanted. That’s when another kind assistant will tell you that one is in aisle 4, the other in aisle 76, and even accompany you to both, to establish that both products are out of stock.

A joy of modern life
By this time, the tills that were all invitingly empty when you first arrived, have filled up neatly with six-deep queues, complete with squabbling kids and shoppers who’ve picked up the burst bag of flour or the wrong brand of peanut butter, and need to dash across the shop for a replacement.

You may choose the self-checkout instead. Thiss always a wonderful experience. 

“Using your own bag?” it asks you. 

You press “Yes”. 

Place your bag in the bagging area and press done.” 

You do that. It asks you to do it again. You do. It asks again. You call the assistant over. She turns up just as soon as she’s dealt with the five other people with queries; she swipes her card and taps in a code. The machine returns to normal, looking smugly satisfied, as though there was never a problem in the first place.

“They get a bit temperamental on a Friday,” she says.

“As well all do,” you reply, and then start scanning items again. Until the machine interrupts you once more.

“Using your own bag?” it innocently asks.

It’s the joy of that experience that has made me such a fan of on-line shopping. It’s brilliant. A few clicks and a whole supermarket trip is done. In fact, the really good thing is that it even keeps track of your favourites so that you can produce a whole new order just by whipping through a list of what you most frequently take, and deciding what to include it in this week’s shop.

Sadly, though, it’s not quite as simple as that. You do have to make sure you’re clicking on the right items and choosing the right amounts. I’m not always quite careful enough, as I discovered over the last couple of weeks. I seem to have fallen into the habit of ordering grated cheese all the time, leaving me this week without butter, on the brink of running out of coffee, but with a fridge that looks like a grated cheese repository.

Inside my fridge
It’s not like there’s a shortage of the stuff
The odd thing is that, though I like grated cheese, I’m not that wild about it. Then again, my subconscious may be telling me otherwise.

Or perhaps I just need to learn to handle a computer touchpad more skilfully.

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