If you own a brewery and are planning your work Christmas drinks, for Santa's sake don't let Yodel organise it. Yodel is, on paper at least, a parcel delivery company – only, just at the moment, it has suspended collections of parcels to deliver because there are just too many. "The recent, well-documented Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other retail promotions have resulted in unexpectedly high parcel volumes," it says. That'll be unexpected in the same way that call centres are always experiencing "an unexpectedly high volume of calls", I suppose. But, Yodel reassures customers, "Actually, the whole of the retail supply chain has felt the impact. Retailer websites have been crashing, there have been backlogs in distribution centres and all parcel delivery companies have felt the strain." It's exciting to learn that, where even Kim Kardashian's backside has failed, an entirely predictable annual event is what it really takes to break the internet, but it's not what Christmas shoppers want to hear.
Yodel says that it makes deliveries for 85 per cent of the UK's retailers (so bad luck everyone), but it's not the only so-called delivery company that can't be relied on to deliver things: see online forums and Twitter feeds for the likes of myHermes and City Link for anguished complaints about missing and broken parcels and wasted days off work. That's if your parcel even makes it into the hands of a delivery company. Last month, I received an email from a Major High Street Retailer with an order number and a phone number for queries. I phoned it and quoted the order number. "That's not one of our order numbers," they said. Surreal. Another company finally responded to several emails and calls to admit that the item I had ordered and paid for would not be in stock till 2015. I cancelled but, two weeks on, they still have my money and don't respond. Yet another well-known shop inexplicably delivered my order to Cardiff (I live in London), while another sent a packet of mulled-wine teabags instead of the goose I had ordered. So much internet shopping, and so little shopping to show for it!
People still try to convince me that internet shopping is cheaper and easier than going to the shops. It's not. It's often more expensive after postage is added, and, even if it isn't, my time is worth more than chasing my shopping around the internet for weeks.
Many people would be willing to pay more for online shopping if it meant that they received it intact, in time and in a place and time slot that's convenient, but online shops stick to piling 'em high, selling 'em cheap and washing their hands of the customer once they've got our money.
There is an obvious solution, as simple as it is radical: do all our shopping in shops. It's reliable, it supports the local economy and, if it's good enough for Father Christmas, it's good enough for me.