Life is so complicated these days. Many years ago, a friend, rather more more politically aware than me, took several minutes deciding not to buy apples (it was early summer) from either South Africa or Chile. I’m pretty sure that for me this was the first time (never having had the need or desire for a fur coat) that shopping had taken on a moral dimension. Now, of course, it’s multi-dimensional with ecology, animal welfare and the ethics of global branding all becoming new twists in the moral maze alongside politics and human rights. Just deciding on veg for the Sunday roast involves balancing air-miles against the deserving poor of far-flung places: sending a greeetings card wastes trees and damages the planet. But what about those purveyors of cards (not mention postmen, stamp gummers and writers of congratulatory verse) ? They need me too!
Now there’s another problem. I’m all for buying online, in fact I love it. Click, pay, deliver. And it’s usually cheaper. Of course there’s a snag. If I’m not in, the delivery bit doesn’t work. I then have to visit a neighbour/ local postage centre/remote delivery depot. If it’s the last, I would have done better to visit a shop.
And what about those shops? Trekking around the local mall may not be something I want to do every day, but would I want them to disappear completely? Definitely not. Nothing quite like a browse around shops when I’m in the mood, and online retail therapy is not in the same league. And if rumours of the death of shopping are premature, I had time a few weeks ago to see just how many empty units there are in Bristol’s central shopping area.
So, I have one or two ground rules of my own. I do buy online when I don’t need much in the way of service. This means items I don’t need help in choosing (e.g. book requested as a gift) or if a local outlet is out of stock (size, colour, whatever). What I don’t usually do is go to a local store, try stuff out (or on), make a choice, then go home and shop around on the net. This seems to me inherently unfair and means that the retaileer is subsidising the online business.
So far so good, but now I need new glasses. Major expense. Coupon from t’internet grants me a cheap eye test at local Boots. But can I afford their lenses and frames? Just as I am weighing up my options and coming down on delivering a body blow to a Great British Insitution by going elsewhere , the kindly optician says my eyesightis not much worse. I don’t actually need new glasses.
Result! In my head I am suddenly £300 better off . So far I have splashed out on a new lipstick, from Boots of course.