Retail therapy: why I don’t buy it

The month of May has finally arrived, topped and tailed by a public holiday. Time off work allows us to indulge in our favourite national pastime as hordes of people part with their hard-earned cash at retail parks up and down the country. The last time I visited one of these out-of-town hellholes – otherwise known as Cribbs Causeway, on the outskirts of Bristol – it finally dawned on me that they aren’t designed for oddballs like me who prefer to travel by public transport, and who view a shopping trip as a tedious necessity rather than a family day out.

On that occasion, I got off the bus at the wrong stop and spent ten minutes stranded beside a dual carriageway, unable to see any obvious means of reaching the shopping mecca on the other side, while puce-faced motorists bibbed their horns at each other in the queue for the underground car park. Why does anyone think it’s acceptable to behave like this? I’d be regarded as certifiable if I barged down the street, elbowing people in the ribs and bellowing at them to get out of my way, but it seems that different rules apply once you get behind the wheel of your car.

In an attempt to avoid the trauma of another excursion to Cribbs, I take myself off to Clifton village and its chi-chi boutiques for a spot of clothes shopping. This brings its own problems. Few women past their fortieth birthday welcome a svelte assistant popping her head round the changing-room curtain every two minutes, ostensibly to ask how they’re getting on but really to snicker at their cellulite. Some of these shops mockingly position their full-length mirrors in the communal areas, giving me little choice but to step outside the cubicle for confirmation that the shift dress that was so beguiling on the assistant makes me look like a dumpy frump with footballer’s knees.

Food shopping is more my scene, which possibly explains the cellulite. I bypass the supermarket, with its bulletproof pears in shrink-wrapped polystyrene trays and its infuriating self-checkouts, and head straight for the Saturday morning farmers’ market on Whiteladies Road. Here I stand in a queue for fifteen minutes while the ditherer in front of me tastes all the artisan cheeses on display and discusses them at length with the stallholder, before finally buying a tiny sliver barely equal in weight to what he’s already guzzled. Then he heads off to Waitrose in his 4×4 to stock up on ready meals, all the while congratulating himself on how he’s single-handedly propped up the local economy with his measly purchase.

Flagging by this stage, I drop into the Bristol Coffee House for a shot of caffeine. There, I hear the hipster ahead of me (you know the type – tricky specs and a statement beard) asking, ‘Can I get a flat white?’, to which the only appropriate response is, ‘No, this isn’t a self-service canteen.’ These are the sort of shoppers who fall for the trendy, down-with-the-kids school of marketing whereby companies attempt to project a personality on to their packaging, portraying themselves as a wacky bunch of innovators driven by a passion for the product rather than, say, the need to pay the mortgage. Note to these companies: it’s of no interest to me that ‘we’re always doing fun things here at Pieminister’, nor do I want to drop in at Fruit Towers to say ‘hi’ to the ‘guys’ who make Innocent Smoothies.

Given all this, it baffles me that shopping is still our leisure activity of choice. A few years ago, my neighbouring city of Bath ran an advertising campaign designed to attract visitors to ‘a golden city paved with shops’. The bathos of this slogan is so striking that I can practically see an ellipsis before the final word. Really, is that the best they could come up with? A World Heritage Site famous for its Roman remains, Georgian architecture and literary connections, and the main tourist pull appears to be its crappy retail outlets, most of which are replicated in every town across the country? Sometimes it seems there’s little hope for humanity. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some internet shopping.


6 thoughts on “Retail therapy: why I don’t buy it

  1. Youtube Mp3 Converter

    You are so cool! I don’t think I have read through something like this before.
    So great to discover someone with a few unique thoughts on this subject
    matter. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is
    something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  2. Size15Stylist

    Oh deary deary me, Bristol Betty, I’m sorry that you’ve had some awful shopping experiences, particularly in the South West’s largest shopping haven. Some sales assistants really don’t know how to behave, and I can only suggest you ditch that shop, perhaps with an explanation to a Manager as to why – mirrors and staff; last week I complained in my local department store about shoddy service and received free tea and cake for my bother.

    I admit to quite openly being a bit of a shopper (and more than happy to offer tips and suggestions, whether fellow blogger, woman, shopper or non-shopper), but realise it isn’t for every body. (Space intentional?) The problem with Cribbs is that it isn’t [ The Intu Trafford Centre] (I swear you can book a mini break there now) and the problem with sales assistants is that they’re working (and some do an amazing job) and not shopping…..ahhh, the secret is out.

    It does seem a bit of a shame that Bath resorted to a shopping campaign for tourists, particularly as so many visit for the Baths, the Crescent and Jane Austen already, although the new wave of Asian tourist halts my shopping ambitions – for the perhaps three people in China who didn’t know where Bath was, I suspect the lure of shopping was enough to draw them to the airport.

    Hope you enjoyed your online shopping…..and took advantage of free delivery and voucher codes where you could.

    Keep up the fab writing!

    PS – I’ve always found Marks and BHS to have well-behaved (hidden when necessary) sales staff, and M&S has the most abundance of mirrors everywhere you twirl.

    1. bristolbetty Post author

      Aha, Size15Stylist, I see I’ve hit upon your specialist subject. To be fair to the shop assistant, she was only doing her job. I love your blog – and you never know, it may yet convert me from an outmoded sociopath into a seasoned and proficient shopper. Keep it up! BB

  3. Pingback: Road to nowhere | Bristol Betty

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