This year, I will mostly be doing my Christmas shopping in shops. This is not because I am a Luddite who has never heard of internet shopping; but because I'm over it. I am living in a post-internet-shopping world. It saves time, stress and energy.
Some of you might think that internet shopping was invented to save time, stress and energy. That means either that you haven't done it very much, or that you work at home. Because it's not the shopping itself that causes all the trauma – the internet shops are quite able to accept your money, via credit card, debit card, Paypal … there are plenty of ways of taking your dosh. It's just that delivery companies are completely incapable of delivering. At least to the right place, on time, when you are there.
Already this year, I've had Christmas shopping delivered two days late, to the wrong city. (The shop has worked hard recently to improve its online shopping "experience". Its customer services department offered to refund the postage and give me a £10 voucher, but it couldn't refund my order: it was "policy".) I've had things that could easily slip through my letter box returned to a depot somewhere because nobody told me that I had to be in to sign for them. A friend ordered a wooden cheese board from a well-known online retailer and was sent a "revolving carousel" instead. She tried contacting the retailer to ask how to exchange it – and that was when she started crying.
I too have spent hours online searching for a "Contact us" button that actually tells me how to contact someone instead of taking me to a Frequently Asked Questions page that doesn't once feature the commonly asked question "Where is my bloody shopping?" And I have answered the dreaded question, "What, you go out to work… every weekday?" in the affirmative. Not once have I made an online purchase and had it delivered to my home at a time when I can actually be there to let it in. Perhaps I could, but I'd have to pay more for the "delivery slot" than for the shopping itself, and that would obviously be insane.
I am fortunate in that the place where I work has some shops. In these, I have the opposite problem. Last week, four staff chased me around a shop asking "Are you all right there? Do you need any help at all?", and plucking goods out of my hands to extol them as soon as I picked anything up to look at it. When I did manage to choose a purchase and take it to the till, there was a winding queue, with only one harassed staffer at the head of it. Shops, do you not want us to buy anything?
Here is the answer: of the four clueless do-you-need-any-helpers, take two and put them behind the till so that people can buy stuff. Sit one beside a telephone to answer questions, and publish the phone number on your website. Give the other one a van and an A to Z, and tell her to take your products to people who have bought them. In the right city. At weekends.
You're welcome. Happy Christmas!