In my recent outing as an (unqualified) economist, I came to the conclusion that Amazon was not a good corporate citizen and that to drag this country kicking and screaming out of its n-dip (where n=2 at the time of writing) recession we should be spending our money elsewhere. This conclusion was by no means a foregone one – when I started writing I had no idea what the conclusion would turn out to be.
It struck me that if I was going to “talk the talk” then I had better “walk the walk”, as our American friends would say (well, the more clichéd among them). Some readers of this blog have ditched Amazon, so I could scarcely do less. This has meant Amazon and its ilk have not been a part of this year’s Christmas shopping. So I have sought out UK tax paying alternatives – looking for smaller companies and those without major operations abroad.
For many of my online needs, it was reasonably straightforward to find more exchequer-friendly alternatives to Amazon, and even ones that use the Post Office for deliveries (though this latter may not entirely have pleased my postman!). (Oh yes, for me shopping involves both economic and social policy considerations). However, in a few key areas I was forced to bite a rather unpalatable bullet and actually visit a real shop. Not just a shop, but a shop during the month of December – which I’m sure must be somewhere in Dante Alighieri’s masterwork (though, I’ll admit I haven’t actually checked the Inferno).
So, last Sunday I girded my loins and headed into Cambridge on my bike. Having cleared the gauntlet of cars waiting to enter the Grand Arcade car park (a queue which I think runs continuously from late November until Christmas day and fills several nearby streets) it was surprisingly easy to find a space to park my bike. John Lewis was busy, but still readily navigable and the staff were astonishingly cheery. Buying stuff was a breeze and queues were relatively short and moved quickly. I may have to do this whole “shopping” thing again. As an added bonus, shopping in the real (as opposed to the virtual) world also provides an excellent excuse to partake of a little fortifying cake (these loins don’t just gird themselves you know!).
Whilst in John Lewis, I noticed that they were stocking formal shirts made in England – rather in the land of our soon-to-be economic masters – and felt I might partake. I need some new work shirts as my current stock are rather too voluminous for my svelte frame so that I tend to feel like I’m wearing a kaftan or small marquee beneath my suit. I’m also finding myself making rather more use of shirts at work given my sudden rash of both client contact and international travel, and so the lack of fit is more often brought to my attention. At this stage, I would like to make clear that even when working from home, I do dress fully – if informally. No working in either the buff or PJs for me!
With a little help from a sales assistant, one reason why I was drowning in my shirts became apparent – my current shirts are all 17.5″ in the neck, whereas my actual neck is only 15.5″. It would seem that my neck was much fatter the last time I bought shirts or very poorly measured (or both). Is this (the shrinking neck) one of the infamous seven signs of ageing? Still, whatever the cause, I can now dress formally in a little more style (once – but more may follow), rather than giving the impression of waiting for a friend to join me in my chemise. Again, a benefit of the real over the virtual.
Another side-effect of my blog post is that I now feel the need to support real bookshops (as well as Greenmetropolis). My favourite London restaurant is only a stone’s throw from Foyles (and we are talking my stone throwing ability here, so that means pretty close). Despite some modernisation over the years, Foyles remains delightfully quirky and it is still quite possible to get lost when trying to find the exit (I can tell you this from recent personal experience). I’ve been to 10 Greek Street twice since that fateful post and so have bought two books. At this rate, I’m going to need a new bookcase worryingly soon.
So, the moral of this post is to be careful of what you write: the need to maintain a modicum of internal consistency can have unintended consequence for one’s life.