Good Friday Shopping

This morning, I felt that my knee was doing well enough for me to try some DIY. Like, all the tasks that had been put off because my knee wasn’t well enough. So I packed the kids into the car and headed for Builder’s Warehouse: our local DIY behemoth.

Of course, today is a public holiday, and they’re open from 0900-1700 on public holidays. It says so on their website and on the big sign next to their… very closed doors.

They’re not open. At all. Not even a little bit.

So you can’t buy bricks, but you can pop across the road to Toys R Us: a store which is in dire financial straits and closing stores worldwide, but which is ironically open in Tokai right now.

Many malls and shopping centres are operating an “Optional Trading” policy today, and as it’s a religious holiday, I guess it’s reasonable to assume that on this most holy of Christian days, it’s God who decides which stores get to open and which aren’t allowed to.

We went to Constantia Village to investigate and found that She’d made some interesting choices as to what was open and what was closed:

You can buy crystals (Spilhaus) but not trendy casserole dishes (Le Creuset).
Amazingly, you can buy gin (PnP Liquor), but not jewellery (Peter Gilder).
You can buy childrens clothes (Earthchild), but not adult clothes (Revenge).
You can buy water filter cartridges (H2O International), but you can’t pick up concert tickets (Computicket).
You can’t get your haircut at all (Edge, Partners).
Unless you are a lady (Carlton).
But your nails are going to have to wait (ManiPedi).
Absolutely no sunglasses (The Village Eyewear).
But coffee gets the nod (Seattle Coffee Company).
Not leather goods though, for they are the Devil’s work (Tsonga).
Oh, and you can’t buy perfume (My Perfume Shop), but also, you can (Red Square by Edgars).

The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways…

Indian

What a day.
We’ve been shopping all day.

All. Day.

I mean, I like shopping as much as the next man, so you can imagine what sort of day I’ve had. I did manage to avoid visiting the new Ikea here in Sheffield though, and it’s those sort of small victories you need to cherish. Especially when you’ve been shopping All. Day.

So tonight is date night and I’ve chosen a local Indian restaurant. It’s this one in a local suburb, and things were going fine until someone rhymed the two words by saying Ranmoori Tandoori. And now I can’t stop saying it. And when I do, one of the kids says it again (because it’s hilarious) and then I start saying it again.

We’re basically about an hour away from me being a total buffoon and insulting them to their faces.

What a day.

UK retail innovation

…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.

_20150818_094824Now, 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.

Better Sheffield

Sheffield looks different today. Better.
I was here on a Monday a couple of months ago and I was distressed by when I saw. It was grey and empty, sad and miserable. Killed by Meadowhall (the local huge shopping mall) and the online revolution.

image

Today though, it’s like I remember it. Mood and numbers artificially swelled by the approaching festivities, I know, but still – it could have been empty and horrible.

As it is, today is bringing back many happy memories for me.