They say the best recommendation is word of mouth—a personal tip from someone you know and whose judgement you trust. But increasingly these days we find ourselves connecting with people in a less personal way as more and more of us take to shopping online.
Global economies are tanking as the rich get richer and the rest of us have to cope as best we can. It all boils down to the price of everything without taking the cost into account. We buy online because they don’t have high street overheads and it’s invariably cheaper, and because the high street is losing out on sales it becomes a sad collection of boarded-up windows, charity shops and bargain basements. Personal service seems to be a thing of the past. Soon we won’t have to speak to another real human being during our daily lives at all.
After all, we can order just about anything including our groceries over the internet. Our books, our music, buy insurance, search for a house. And if we do choose to go out we withdraw money from the cashpoint machine without going into a bank. If we do venture inside we’re being encouraged to use the automated deposit slots instead of waiting for a cashier window to become free.
We drive to the petrol station and pay at the pump instead of needing to go inside the kiosk and interact with the person behind the till. And even if we do they’re behind a reinforced glass screen. One supermarket chain near me will only let you pay at the pump and has no attendants at all.
Speaking of supermarkets there seem to be fewer tills open and more self-service lanes so even if we do decide to shop in person for our vegetables there’s no need to interact with an actual person in order to do so.
I wonder if the standard of salesmanship is partly to blame. The last time I tried shopping for electronics in a bricks-and-mortar store the sales staff could only tell me what was written on the side of the box rather than offering any informed opinions of their own. As I learned to read some years ago it seemed a bit pointless to pay a premium for the privilege of having someone else do it for me.
And when I go into a bookstore I love the insights and enthusiasms of the staff. Sadly, most UK independent bookstores I’ve been into offer no contact with the customers other than a bored, “Thanks,” as I open the door to leave empty-handed and if questioned they know less about the books than I do.
I will always pay extra for good service and solid expertise but not for lacklustre indifference, so I’ve gradually switched to doing more and more of my purchasing online too. The rest of Britain is very much the same. In fact, we in the UK are switching our allegiance online at one of the highest rates in the world. In 2010 we made 13.5% of all our purchases over the internet. By 2016 this is predicted to be 23%.
A survey reported on the BBC Business News last year suggested that while only 25% of us would give up sex for a year to maintain our internet connection instead, 65% would give up alcohol, 76% chocolate and 78% would forego coffee.
So, what do YOU buy online that until recently you would have gone out for to a real store. And why have you made the swap? Would anything make you go back to reality shopping for those items rather than virtual? Is there anything you would NEVER see yourself buying online? And finally, what would YOU give up to keep hold of your internet connection or are you sometimes glad to be without it?
This week’s Word of the Week is floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning the categorizing of something that is useless or trivial.