…and why it might or might not work in SA.
Recent visits to the UK have left me irritated that my homeland has chosen to move on and develop – especially in the technology arena – since I’ve been away. How very dare they?
Trains, buses, pubs and restaurants all have free wifi. You can use NFC to find your way around shopping centres, or log in to your local bus stop to get a live map of where your bus is and when it’s going to arrive.
Google Now works! (well, sometimes)
And then there’s the shopping stuff.
First up, the online ordering stuff. It just makes sense. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work here either, and I don’t quite understand why more stores don’t offer it. If Takealot can manage, why can’t other places? Maybe it’s a critical mass thing, because the shops in the UK have had to adapt or die, so they’ve all pushed their online option hard. When you order online from your supermarket, you get what you asked for, and you get it when you asked for it. If you’ve ever used our local system, you’re probably not using it any more, because those two things don’t happen and it’s a disaster.
But if you’re missing the opportunity to impulse buy, then there’s always ‘click and collect’ – the hybrid of traditional and online shopping – whereby you order on the net and then go and pick up your shopping at the local store. This saves you the delivery fee and means you don’t have to be at home to receive your goods. You can also decide if you need another 4 pack of Murphy’s when you go to collect your groceries (spoiler: you do).
All of this means that fewer people are actually in the supermarkets, and it’s so actually a much less stressful experience when you do go along.
It’s not just food and drink, either. All the major clothing stores offer the same services, so you can shop online and either get it delivered or pick it up at your local store. And if stuff doesn’t fit, you stick a big returns label (supplied) on the bag and drop it off at your local post office. Simples. It’s no fuss, because if it was fuss, people wouldn’t do it, just like you’re not doing it with PicknPay right now.
If you actually want to go to the supermarket and walk around the aisles, in some stores, you can wander round with a barcode scanner and Scan As You Shop. This means that you can pretend to have a raygun and shoot aliens (although you may be charged for items you didn’t actually get if you hit them inadvertently while pretending to be Flash Gordon).
And then there’s the option to scan your own stuff at the end of the shop. Apparently, the phrase “Unexpected item in the bagging area” has been voted one of the most irritating things in the UK, and is being phased out. And it’s not always straightforward either:
Shoppers are stealing more than £1.6 billion worth of items from supermarkets every year as frustration with self service tills leads to theft, a survey found. One in five people admit pilfering items at the checkout, but the results suggest people steal regularly once they realise they can get away with it – the majority admitting they first took goods because they couldn’t work the machines.
But for foreign visitors (especially those with kids), scanning your own shopping is actually quite fun. And if you don’t have kids, it can actually be quite quick as well.
Sadly, it would never work in SA though, as passing zebras would constantly trigger the barcode readers.
And finally, contactless payment. Like us here in SA, the UK has long had chip and PIN payment, but there, you do everything yourself. (To explain to anyone not in SA, generally, we hand our cards to the cashier and they put it in the machine for us.) (We also have attendants who fill up our cars with petrol, and fairly regularly, someone at the entrance barrier to car parks to press the button and hand us the ticket.) (Yes, I know.) But contactless payment is the one where you just wave your card over the machine and it takes the money off your account.
Now, my SA card (it’s the exciting accountant coloured one on the right) has this facility too, but I’ve yet to find anywhere to use it here. Whereas in the UK, it’s everywhere and it’s all too easy to wave and spend without even thinking about it. And yes, I suppose that there are some security worries with this system, but wow, it’s so damn quick and you suddenly realise just how much impact having to enter your PIN has on making you understand that you are spending money.
This certainly isn’t a OMG – Look How Much Better The UK Is Than SA post, but the integration of technology into the retail process has definitely made it better for the consumers over there and they are way ahead of us in this area. The good news is that hopefully, the best bits of these advances will trickle down to South Africa – there’s actually no reason why these ideas wouldn’t work here – and we can all live happily in the future together.