So it used to be that shopping by mail order or on the internet was an unusual occurrence and that only the brave (or foolhardy, depending on your perspective) undertook it.  Now it seems shopping IRL*  is the unusual activity.  And with the way businesses have set themselves up now, there is no real reason not to shop online.  I mean it has become so easy that we now have completely unrealistic expectations.  Here is an example of a typical conversation I have had with D.

“I have decided not to buy the shoes I have had my eye on for months because the website says that there is a £3 delivery charge, it takes 2-3 days and they won’t come and collect them if I don’t like them.”

If you don’t think these are unrealistic expectations, I can tell you do a lot of your shopping online.  Because the easier some companies make it, the harder it becomes for other, often smaller companies, to do business like that.  I mean, I hate paying for delivery.  But why shouldn’t I pay?  They do have to deliver it.  And I know that that costs money, as anyone who has ever bought a stamp can confirm.  In some cases it is the amount you are paying.  Loads of companies do this thing where they give you free delivery if you spend over a certain amount, and that is fair enough.  I mean if I am shelling out over £50 for stuff, then bring it to me for free.  This is, however, completely unreasonable.  I mean, even if you were going to shop in an actual store, you would have to pay to get them to your house, whether you took the bus, or your car.  Only if you walk carrying the things is it cheaper than paying for delivery.  And yet, with big companies throwing in next day delivery for free or sometimes even same day delivery, we are now completely hooked on not leaving the house and desperate for instant gratification.

Don’t misunderstand me,  I am for anything that means I don’t have to go to the shops.  I think I have spoken before about how much I do not enjoy the whole experience.  Grocery shopping I quite enjoy (probably because I don’t have children with me), but I do not enjoy the carrying stuff back home afterwards.  Every other kind of shopping, I don’t enjoy. The first thing I dislike about it is the temperature change.  It doesn’t matter where you live, the ambient temperature in the shop will be inversely proportionate to the temperature outside.  I know this because I have shopped both in cold and warm countries.  In London, we are wearing 4 or 5 layers (at least two of which involves the word fleece) and a coat outside, only to get inside where the temperature has been ramped up to a  toasty 26 degrees.  So 26 degrees is a lovely temperature when you are in a t-shirt and jeans, but when you are wearing a thermal vest, a microfleece top, a blouse, a zippered fleece and a quilted jacket, (not to mention hat, scarf and gloves) 26 degrees is HOTTER THAN THE DEPTHS OF HELL. Similarly in Greece, where the outside temperature is actually hotter than the depths of hell, the shop’s interior is an icy 17 degrees, which, when you are wearing a strap top and shorts feels like you have been dropped into an ice fishing hole somewhere near Vancouver.  Somebody needs to have a word.  I would but I am too busy either evaporating or going into hypothermic shock to be any kind of articulate.

warmly dressed

Getting ready to go into the clothing store in Athens, in August. Outside temp – 35 centigrade, indoors: 12.

So I do a lot of shopping online. (I know, that took a while to say).  And whilst I appreciate the convenience, I do not appreciate some of the quirks.

Let’s talk about convenience. Do I have to point out the obvious?  You want something, you tap it into your phone or the computer and it is there usually within 2 days.  You haven’t had to do anything except open the door to the delivery guy and open a box.

And now I would like to talk about some of the quirks of internet shopping.  I said all you have to do is open the door to the delivery guy and open the box, and here is my first point.  I do not need a box that I could house both my nieces in comfortably for two AA batteries.  Neither do I need the 15 metres of scrunched up brown paper you put into the enormous box to make sure that the batteries won’t move around in the box.  You are over-packaging people!  If I have ordered plates, then by all means, please do over-package.  It is irritating for you and for me if I get shards of china in a box delivered to my house.  And two plates knocking about in a big box is a recipe for disaster.  Two batteries already in secure packaging (which you need a machete to get into) will not get too badly damaged however.  Also, I am sure they make smaller boxes.  It cannot be that there is only one size of box for everything.  Sometimes, things in a box come in a box. It’s like pass the bloody parcel for goodness sake.  I think the funniest thing I had delivered was tissue paper.  I was moving house and I wanted tissue to wrap breakables in.   I ordered two packs of 200 sheets.  The next day, two enormous boxes arrived, each one containing a pack of tissue paper surrounded by scrunched up paper.  Like the tissue paper was going to break/spoil/snap/crease.  Or indeed anything could happen to it, that would necessitate it being in a box.    And why two separate boxes?  Was it boy tissue paper and girl tissue paper and they didn’t want me to open a box full of tissue paper babies?  I mean, come on people, some common sense…


This is a really good example of ridiculous over-packaging. Eggs come with less packaging than this.

But the biggest issue I have with delivery companies is a relatively new one.  I say relatively new, because I think that this has worsened as people shop on the internet more.  When I first started shopping online, I would buy the item, get a confirmation email, and then wait the required 2-3 weeks for delivery.  Yes we have established that I am old, folks, let’s not go through all that again.  Now, you place the order and it gets there much sooner than that – as I said sometimes even the same day.  So my big question is:  Why do you need to send me so many texts and emails informing me of everything that is going on with my item?

I order some kitchen scales.  As soon as I hit the complete order button, I get an email.

Your order has been placed, Maria! Your order number is 1234, you ordered some kitchen scales, they should be with you tomorrow.

With you so far, thanks.  Now I would like to just go about my day, and – you know – continue living.  10 minutes later.

Regarding order number 1234.  Your order is being processed.  You should receive your kitchen scales tomorrow.

Ok, thanks, now where was I? Oh yes, living.  Later in the evening.

Maria, great news!  Your order number 1234 is now ready to go out to be delivered!

And almost immediately afterwards…

Your order is ready to leave the warehouse, and should be with you tomorrow.

At this point, I am no longer interested in the scales never mind what they are doing at present. During the night, I receive another 3 emails informing me that the item has been collected from the warehouse, put into a van, and that it is now at the distribution centre.

At 0700 the following morning, I get a text message.

This is [insert delivery company here].  We have your order number 1234.  You should receive it today.


Your order number 1234 is now with our driver, Bob.  It should be with you between 08:32 and 12:32.  To re-arrange this delivery please reply NO to this message.


Your order (number 1234) should be with you between 09:47 and 10:47.  It will be delivered by Bob.

I should point out that I also get emails to this effect at the same time as the text messages but my phone doesn’t ping when I get an email, so thank goodness for small mercies.  I also think that knowing the name of the delivery driver is not necessary.  I assume that in the future, there will be more and more information about the driver.  Congratulations Maria, your items are being delivered by Josh, a tall and skinny blond  who wishes he could have made it as an underwater basket-weaver, but needed grommets as a child and thus his hopes and dreams were crushed.  Josh is a Sagittarius and his left elbow plays up every time it is going to rain.  He and his girlfriend Louise are expecting their seventh child in August.

Anyway, the items arrive in the hour slot, and I sign for them, usually with my fingernail on a battered scanner.  Wow, I think, that was fast, I only ordered them yesterday.  I mean I think that, but I have actually been on the journey with them. And then there is my favourite message – the kicker.


Good news Maria!  Your order number 1234 of Kitchen scales has been delivered!

Wow.  I signed for it, I have put the batteries in (which arrived separately in a large crate necessitating 12 emails, 5 text messages, and three yards of bubble wrap) and I am already baking.  I do not need that information.

It’s like when you invite an elderly relative round for tea.  They send you a text when they are leaving. When they get on the train.  When the train stops due to leaves on the track.  When they get going again. When they get to the station.  While they are waiting for the bus.  From the bus.  From the end of your road (I think this last one is so that you put the kettle on).  Sometimes even from downstairs.  But when they get here, they get here.  They don’t send you a text and an email from your own living room saying.

Good News Maria!  I am here!


* IRL – In Real Life.  Yes.  I am down with the kids.