Online Shopping

I suspect that most of us during recent months have become expert at shopping online, not necessarily by choice but by necessity. If all your local shops are shut and you desperately need very particular things like crimson candles, a carton of canned cuttlefish, a cauliflower or a ripe and runny camembert, you will find them online. The internet for all its faults has been a self-linking vital help line, keeping us all in touch with each other as well as essential shopping and services and endless streams of movies and entertainment. If the pandemic had happened in—say—the 1980s before the internet became a real thing, I don’t know how we would have coped.
Despite everything, we have survived without too many glitches owing to the constant (sometimes twice daily) deliveries of essential food and all sorts of other stuff delivered by real humans to our front doors. I suppose most of you would not consider things like canned cuttlefish to be ‘essential’, but to me it is. As too are kippers, garlic butter, King prawns, loo paper and coffee ice-cream—not in any particular order, but all readily available at the click of a mouse. And don’t forget the coffee ice cream. At home our continued domestic bliss now depends upon it! We’ve even had to divide our freezer into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sections to make sure we don’t conduct midnight raids on the other’s stocks of coffee ice-cream! And you know what’s weird? Before lockdown, I probably wouldn’t have even looked at canned cuttlefish or coffee ice-cream, let alone eaten them. It is internet shopping that has introduced me to new tastes and flavours that I would never have experienced ‘BTP’ (Before The Pandemic).
Our house is kept supplied by various online supermarkets as well as Amazon (of course) and an increasing army of independent suppliers who have surfaced out of the pandemic like bright bubbles on the froth of broadband. These include an online fishmonger in Newcastle, a reliable cheese supplier in a business park near Chester and a garden plant merchant in Nottingham. In the past I would have gone to my local fishmonger, delicatessen or garden centre, but they’ve all been either closed or else (when I looked at their websites) completely out of stock. It’s not as if I really prefer Cheshire cheese to Dorset Blue Vinny, it’s just that one’s available and the other one isn’t. Also, since I live by the sea, I’d much rather get my fish locally from Weymouth where I can see it and sniff it, rather than a Gateshead depot which (for all I know online) might be offloading my cuttlefish from the back of a North Korean nuclear trawler. However, online I’ll never know and as long as it smells and looks OK, it’ll probably not kill me although I suppose I might just die quietly from radio-active poisoning…
Of course, what you see on the website doesn’t always mean you get what you want. I once ordered a couple of kitchen chairs from EBay because they looked great in the picture—just what I wanted, or so I thought. But when they arrived, they were dolls’ house kitchen chairs and just under 4 inches tall. The moral is to make sure you check and recheck the dimensions, the weight and the complete description before buying from a photo. When you buy online, all that glitters is not gold. It’s more likely to be sparkly metallic plastic. Or shiny cling-film.
Shopping for clothes online is even more difficult. Of course, the photos on the website make it look fabulous, but that sleek close-fitting silk skirt or shirt will arrive as a shapeless mass of coarse nylon material that cause static sparks to fly off your fingers when you remove it from its squeaky jiffy bag. The only good thing about it is that you can print a label, repackage it in its nasty plastic bag, take it to the Post Office and return it for free.
And what about shopping local? Well, of course I will again, now that things are opening up. I agree there are too many truck miles involved in my Nottingham rose bushes let alone my glow-in-the-dark Newcastle seafood. Better still, I’ll now be able to try on the trousers before I buy them and admire the cheese and olives at the deli.
However, I will keep some of my online shopping slots because it has been so very convenient. No scrabbling in my pocket for a pound coin for the trolley and no heavy shopping bags to carry to the car. Instead, I’ll get a warm welcome from my supermarket van driver arriving with yet another home delivery of King prawns, loo paper and garlic butter. That’s another thing—the daily cheer of real delivery people as they bring me AA batteries, camera spare parts or cuttlefish. There is one young lady (she’s a Morrison’s driver) who deserves special mention. This is a true story! When my favourite breakfast cereal had run out in the store for the fourth time, she actually drove out after work and left me two packets anonymously on my front doorstep. I reckon she also paid for them herself. If that’s you and you’re reading this, you’ll know it’s you! A big ‘thank you’ to my Cereal Fairy! I owe you a couple of quid and next time could you please kindly add some more coffee ice-cream?