How Not To Spend It
This is the death-knell of the department store.
(Above; the guest who did not tip)
This is the year that turned into my own personal annus horribilis. But here’s something interesting: Our self-isolating future may bring an end to less fulfilling jobs.
The service industry is the most obvious game changer. Over the last week I’ve downloaded different apps in cafés, barcoding menus, booking tables and ordering food online in restaurants, and it works brilliantly. Most places seem to use different systems at the moment and setting up can be a pain, but you only have to do it once. The hardest part so far is splitting the bill.
We’re moving fast toward a cashless society. I haven’t used a coin or note since February. Very few vendors around us take cash anymore. The amount I can swipe has been broadened, yet making it easier to spend has somehow resulted in me spending less.
It has prompted thinking about the ways we enjoy our leisure. My biggest expenditure is still on books, but now I’m buying more of them online. Does this mean no more happy discoveries lurking on bookshop shelves? I hope not. Supermarkets are gearing up to ditch scanning completely, but presumably some shops will try to retain a sense of shopping for fun. Although judging by the deserted shopping mall near me, it’s not working.
A trip to Oxford Street today highlights the problem. The street is not deserted, but the big stores are. Selfridge’s the once wonderful department store that turned itself into an outrageously expensive bling emporium for vulgarian tourists, is now deserted. Their menswear floor felt like the set of ‘The Omega Man’. (They’re not hurting enough to have a sale.) John Lewis was so empty it looked haunted.
This is surely the death-knell of the department store. People shop by brands these days, so who needs an upmarket Woolworths anymore?
There’s the one more anomaly in the breakdown of my spending – there are far fewer impulse purchases. When everything must be pre-booked there’s no room for spontaneity. And will data theft arise with so many new electronic transactions?
Or could it be we’ll look back at waiters and shopkeepers and think them quaint symbols of the past, like horse-drawn carriages?