One of the things about being a parent is that being ill isn't really allowed. Back in the day I could phone Nielsen, put on a pathetic voice and then go back to bed. When you've got kids you don't have that luxury - they still have to be fed, dressed and taken to school. Fortunately not this week, and also fortunate that Claire was also off sick for two days so between us we've soldiered on but to say it's been a tough few days would be an understatement.
I'm not well enough to leave the house at the moment which means any socialising is out of the question for a few days, which is a pity as one friend has his 40th birthday tonight and then there's a karaoke night I had planned to go to on Friday, but can't be helped. Health./ family comes first and I know they'll all have a great time anyway - contrary to what I might have you believe it's not absolutely essential to have me there as the life and soul of the party to make it go with a swing. Though I undoubtedly do make an impact - even if it is only on the buffet.
|We'll only need one tray of those now, Jason's not coming.|
Anyway - shopping. Last time we dealt with getting the best deals possible, and let's face it, who wouldn't? Every few quid you save in Tesco's or wherever is money to be spent on the more important things in life e.g. drinking and gambling. Today's blog is not so much about saving money, though clearly shopping online is one way to do that. No this is more about my own personal preferences about where I like to shop.
Online or not online? Well our individual preferences differ, and I don't just mean shopping. Take betting for example. Many people enjoy nothing more than the banter and company of some fun in the bookies - I have myself in my day - but it's no longer really an option for me. Besides, I can get a massively better deal on any betting I want to do online - just little things like being paid for the first 5 places in big races like the Grand National other than 4 places in the shops, and countless other concessions, but it makes a huge difference.
Poker is another one. Now I have a poker player friend, let's keep his anonymity by calling him "Sharky". Now Sharky likes a game of poker. So do I. But the two of us have never met in a game and possibly never will. Why? Because Sharky has never played online poker in his life. He loves to sit around the table with people and try and read their body language. That's what it is all about for him. And why not? That is how the game has been played since time immemorial.
I am the complete opposite. I was aware loads of people played poker but never myself played until well past the age of 40, when finally my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Now, unlike Sharky and most of my other mates, if someone rings up and says "hey mate, poker tournament tonight at such and such", for the reason I have stated so many times before - young children, responsibility etc. So my poker playing has taken place 100% online. I enjoy it - can't pretend I've been massively successful at it, but it's a cheap, and challenging mathematical game to while away an hour or two late in the evening when my responsibilities for the day are done. The thought of actually sitting down around a table with lots of other people is quite terrifying really but I guess I ought to do it some day. Funny though isn't it how our lives lead us to do different things differently - Sharky only plays live. I only play online. But we are playing the same game.
|Flush! Get in!|
Now finally on to shopping. I like to shop online too - with some notable exceptions. Let's get the positives out of the way first. Anything electronic - PC's cables, batteries, ink cartridges, cd's, dvd's - you must buy online. It's no shock to me that the likes of HMV have ailed so badly in recent years - they can't compete. I can't believe how WHSmith get away with it myself - the prices they charge for some of their products that can be bought for fractions online or elsewhere is truly outrageous.
|Back to scbool? Where do you think I go - Eton?|
But - what won't I buy? Easy - food! Now Bestie and Jo Jo extol the virtues of online shopping and I can see the appeal in some areas - many people find it easier away from the hustle and bustle down the aisles. And other find that by not going to the supermarket you save money by not buying all those impulse items. Well these are two things that I enjoy. Let's take a couple of these scenarios and look at how they might be handled.
1) You want to get down the aisle, but two old biddies have stopped for a chat, strategically placing their trollies with just not enough space to get through. As an added complication they have done this right next to one of those cages full of boxes that some spotty gap year student is meant to be filling the shelves up with.
a) Stand there tutting and moaning while the biddies gossip on about old Mr Gittins and his hip operation, while spotty lamely tries to open the next tray of baked beans with his girlie 17 year old hands.
b) Shout "Coming through", knock grannies and spotty flying, whilst making it look like spotty caused the accident as they all lie groaning on the floor.
|Coming through - move it or lose it!!!|
2) There's a big display near the door with all this week's best offers on - they include BOGOF's (buy one get one free) on the following items: Strongbow, Walkers Crisps, McVities Chocolate Digestives, Gammon Steaks, Butter, Cheese. What do you say?
a) Look at that blatant attempt to lull us into buying all these unhealthy products, wifey. It's a disgrace. No wonder this country has such an obesity problem. Come on - let's walk by and go to the salad aisle.
b) I'll have the lot.
Well both b) for me so that's why I love supermarkets. But all joking aside, I do not like the idea of buying food online. Here's why. Firstly - sell by dates. Now I had a most unpleasant experience in Iceland the other day (no surprise there then I can hear the Iceland haters saying). I always go there to buy my milk as it costs £1. In Tesco it is £1.18. In M&S it is £1.49. Well milk is milk isn't it? I don't believe M&S milk can possibly come from cows producing milk of 49% better quality so Iceland it is.
However - I have a real big issue when buying fresh food that I have to have the best date available. This was borne out of a number of early shopping trips when I would take a packet of bacon or something off the shelf, put it in the fridge and then discover a day or two later it was already out of date.
Everyone knows surely about merchandising and stock rotation. How the oldest stuff is at the front, and newer stuff at the back. Well go in any supermarket and check. You could very well find that your packets of bacon at the front are dated 2nd Septemeber, whereas reach round to the box behind and they are dated 23rd September! OK - both are in date, and you may be planning to eat them today - but quite honestly - would you really prefer having something that's been hanging round at least 3 weeks longer than the fresher stuff at the back?
Anyway - what happened in Iceland? Well, their milk fridge packed up so there was none on the shelf. Desperately needed some - so asked an assistant. She said there was some out of the back and she would get me some. This immediately made me nervous. If I can't choose what I want myself I'm not happy. So off she went and sure enough came back with a bottle just 3 days away from it's use by date. I am used to getting at least 7+ days with milk. I had to buy it then, as I just felt I couldn't ask her to take it back - however this highlights in a nutshell why I won't even contemplate online food shopping.
I am told that they do give you the freshest stuff. Well how do I know that? If I ordered a shop from Tesco today and they brought me a bottle of milk with the date 4 September on it - 6 days away (we'll drink it within two so no problem) - then that's OK isn't it? No - it's not OK - I cannot live with the thought that whatever warehouse/ store that came from may have had some with the 5th, 6th and even 7th on it. I have got to have the freshest! Sorry, it's just the way I am!
And it's not just dates. It's quality too. Now when I go shopping I have very clear indications of what I want. The hams I buy and cook for example. I like to get down on my hands and knees and rummage through the whole lot looking for the one I like the look of most. Some are really fatty and horrible. Others much better. I have got no control over that with an online shop. Bacon - has to have the right amount of fat in the right place and has to "look right" - hard to explain. Bananas - got to find 5 at the exact level of ripeness I want. And then maybe I want 5 carrots for a casserole. I have to go through the box and get 5 the exact right width, length, with no nasty bits on them. If they look all old and hairy, then I'll rip open the bag below to get at the fresh ones. And don't think I don't know about your trick of hiding the nasty veiny gristly bits in your beef by turning it the other way or up or trying to hide it under the label. I'll be buying my meat from the butchers in town from now on. None of those tricks and it does actually taste like meat as well.
|I'll choose my own, thank-you!!!|
So that's why I don't do online food shopping.
Obviously with all this rummaging around, there can be some collateral damage - i.e. the nice tidy display of hams that someone took great pride in may change from the look of a freshly made and laundered bed to one that someone's been having hardcore sex in all afternoon, but in war there are always victims, and every trip to the supermarket is a fresh battle in the every going war against the blatantly profiteering Goliath's that rule our country.
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