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Ode to Shopping

One of the supposed “perks” of moving to a new city is spending weeks or months furnishing a new dwelling. Some of us enjoy the experience, some of us hate it. There you go – we are not all born equal shoppers.
I fall into the category of people who enjoy small amounts of shopping, tolerate moderate amounts and abhor all other kinds. Or at least I used to. Now I hate all shopping. I can safely say that, as a consumer, I’ve run out of “nice.” This is in light of a number of recent purchasing disasters.

You didn’t want to buy one of them anyway,
One of our first purchases was a sofa, which came with a couple of coffee tables. The shop sent us broken ones. The delivery guys told us their brand of tables were generally so badly made that we wouldn’t really have wanted them anyway. And could they just leave the broken ones with us and go home now please? (You could see why they weren’t employed on the sales floor.) Two months later we had new unbroken tables delivered but not before I’d spent a disproportionate amount of my life on the telephone (besides shopping I now hate telephones as well). All I can say is, at least the telephone has something to sit on now too.

The Shorter (than usual) Oxford Dictionary
We decided that we’d treat ourselves to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It was ordered but when we went to pick it up there was only one volume.

The sales assistant insisted it only came as one book (it was after all the Shorter and not the Longer Oxford). I had to point out that the alphabet didn’t generally stop at M. The consensus was that Vol. 2 had been pilfered. I then spent a week suspiciously listening to people to see if they had an uncommonly good grasp of the latter half of the English Language. Also as a small experiment I tried to spend a day using only the words that started with the letters A through M. It wasn’t pretty.

People looked at me funny. Life is very very hard without the definitive article.

Overthrowing capitalism the long way,
And I’ve also noticed a disturbing trend – based on my own purchasing experience 50% of the time, items made in communist countries don’t work when you bring them home. My best example of this was a clock purchased from a reputable store – ok, it was in the shape of a duck but it’s still classy. I got it home and the little pendulum duck legs didn’t swing (see, I told you it was classy).

By my reckoning, the communists have hit on a very clever way to destabilize capitalist countries. If everyone has to spend twice as long buying things and then returning them to the shops, they will spend less time working and spending money. Capitalist Economies will collapse over the long term, communism will rule and the world will have fewer duck-shaped clocks. It’s all too frightening to contemplate.

I know that this article must read like a bit of a gripe session, but perhaps I am just empathically attuned to the Conference Board Index. The Financial Times reported just today that consumer confidence is at a nine-year low. I’m merely reflecting a nation-wide trend. And when 60% of your economy is in the service industry, I can be forgiven for asking, “Can I have some service please?”

November 4, 2002
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