I’ve been challenged to write a blog a day for the month of June by the business club I Am Woman – as I’m an enthusiastic member.
. As a huge advocate of blogging, I do try to write a new blog at least twice a month but sometimes life takes over.
So this idea of keeping a month-long diary seems like a tall order. But that’s just it – surely a blog can be like an online diary, just bearing in mind that it literally is an open book – anyone can read it. Therefore, like all social media, you have to think twice about putting everything ‘out there.
As June starts on a weekend, I did have a little lesson on something new today. For the first time, I ordered groceries from an online shopping site. In spite of being a lover of social media, I’d not done this before. The first lesson came very quickly – when asking your child to call up the site for the supermarket – with very orange branding – don’t assume the first site is the correct one.
It must have taken ten minutes before we realised that we weren’t on the right site. Another one, which you can use to get to any major store, comes first. As I had a money-off voucher, it had to be the right one.
Next lesson, it’s quite hard to navigate round this orange site, the pages are larger than the screen, so we had to have a lot of frustration around trying to see all the images on the page. Then there was the confusion over delivery, on an early page the delivery slot clearly said £3.99 but when shopping, it was over £6 and only came down to the lower price when you’d spent more than £40 – that was not made clear at the beginning.
One good thing though is that I find myself less tempted to buy as much. I was much more focussed on what was needed rather than what I saw to whet the appetite. It was actually a struggle to spend my £60 limit. So for me, that was a bonus.
It now remains to be seen if the delivery comes on time, is accurate with not too many substitutes. Who knows, I might even do it again.
Sometimes it takes an expert to state the obvious to get those in power to take notice.
This morning retail guru Mary Portas did just that by mentioning parking charges as one of the main reasons why many of us no longer use the high street. It’s something that most of us already know and could certainly have told the government without the need for a costly review. But, of course, had it come from the general public, the idea would have been dismissed without consideration.
Take Bristol’s much revamped city centre with its Cabot Circus development. The range of shops on offer is now exponentially better than it was in the previous decade. Then, the delights of Bath, Cheltenham, Swindon and London were infinitely preferable to the paltry range of shops on offer in Bristol. The development of the out of town retail centre at Cribbs Causeway brought positive changes and then came the city centre redevelopment. Finally, Bristol has a high street worthy of its status as the largest city in the South West.
However, something unexpected has happened. Instead of making me change my shopping pattern and use these lovely new facilities in the city centre, I went twice and then went back to shopping at the out of town retail centre.
This decision wasn’t based on the shops. It was due to the parking charges. And no other reason than that.
My eldest daughter came home from school a couple of months ago asking why she was the only person in her class who had never been to Cabot Circus. It made me reflect – surely I had taken my children shopping in the city centre at some time? Obviously not! So, vowing to put this right, we set out for a girls shopping trip last weekend.
The first battle was finding a parking space. In the few cheaper car parks all the parking spaces had gone and only the expensive car parks were left. I entered one to find that the charges were £6.00 for two hours and if you went one minute over the two hours, £12.00.
That is a serious amount of money to pay before you even begin shopping. It’s like an extra tax for the privilege of using the shops.
Instead of a leisurely time surveying the vast range of retail opportunities on offer, interspersed with a cafe stop, my girls speed-shopped and instant decisions were forced. There was certainly no opportunity for indecisiveness on this trip. I would have liked to sit in a cafe with them (spending more money on the high street) but with the prospect of paying an extra £6.00 parking if I delayed, we didn’t. Instead my pre-teens were route-marched, super quick, back to the car park. The whole trip took one hour and 56 minutes.
There is something self-defeating about this. I feel I’ve done my bit and shown them what the town centre has to offer, but next time we go to Cribbs Causeway, where there are no time restrictions or parking charges.
Maybe now that there’s official recognition that parking charges are a deterrent, councils and car park owners will get together and find a reasonable solution.
Who has the most expensive charges for parking in their city centre? Can you beat Bristol’s charges? We’d like to know.
the hard sell at the orange supermarket.....
Smarter shopping – that was the subject of a blog post I recently wrote for www.birdsontheblog.co.uk where I talked about my strategy for saving money on the weekly shop.
Do have a look – but in a nutshell, it’s now core shopping at Lidl and top-up shopping at the more traditional supermarkets in my home town of Swindon eg. Asda & Sainsbury’s.
Just a few months of shopping in this way is now saving me an average of £80 a month and I’ve got the spreadsheet to prove it.
However, at the weekend, I realised how seduced I’ve been for so long into buying from the Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tescos of this country.
I whizzed into the orange shop to quickly pick up a few things that we needed. As I emerged from my car – I’m accosted by ‘car wash madam?’ at least once – no, no, no.
I don’t know about you but I really object to being harassed every time I go shopping about having my car washed.
If a business is going to run from the orange supermarket’s car park, let me use it if I want to.
Please don’t bother me every time I park up which is probably twice a week. I’m never rude by the way, I just don’t like being sold to in this way.
The green supermarket has a much better system – a corner of the car park is given over to such a business and the motorist chooses to go there. No pressure, and very, very busy at weekends.
Charity collecting by the door I can just about cope with – after all, I’ll give if it’s a charity close to my heart. Generally I’m not accosted by anyone, it’s a matter of choice if I want to make a donation.
But if someone shakes a can under my nose, I’m unlikely to stump up cash.
Once in the shop, I’m no longer seduced by smells, special offers etc – I just head for the aisles which stock what I need. If a special offer applies to those products, brilliant. If not, then so what?
But please don’t try to then harass me to switch my electricity and gas (this has happened to me several times as well). I don’t want to think about that when I’m shopping. So I use this ruse every time – ‘I’m already with you…..’.
The worst and most annoying thing though are the ‘quick’ (and I use the term extremely loosely) self-service check-outs at the orange supermarket.
I must try these at least once a week in the hope that they actually will be quicker. Today I was lucky, in and out in a flash.
Last week, I was not so. And most of my experience has been like this….
Loose peppers caused it to almost explode – that meant searching through menus to find a pepper.
Then there are the bar codes, the machine can’t read. So I’ll type in the mile-long number to get that item through.
Then that awful message ‘unknown item in the bagging area, unknown item in the bagging area’ at 300 decibels so everyone in the store can hear.
I don’t know why they don’t go the whole hog and have a spotlight on the unfortunate shopper who has an ‘unknown item in the bagging area’ so that we can all take a good gawp.
It would be more honest for the machine to say ‘idiot who cannot use the technology’ just to complete the humiliation.
Having grappled with the ‘unknown item’ phenomenon (after all, it’s not usually because you’ve been trying to shoplift) you look around for help.
The three ‘hovering’ staff who were there about 30 seconds ago have all gone. There you are, like a lemon, wasting time and negating the effect of having speedier service.
I love the idea of speedy, self-service in the supermarket but I look forward to the day when it works properly.
Until then, when I’m not in a hurry, I’ll take the human being sitting at a till and when I’m in a rush – I’ll try to make do with what’s in the fridge.