The joy of real shopping - Monocolumn | Monocle


A daily bulletin of news & opinion

14 December 2011

The best Christmas gift I have received in recent times was a jar of home made pickled onions complete with a hand printed label (thank you George Percy). It was thoughtful, generous and warmly appreciated, traits represent the ethos of gift giving. The modern and increasingly commercial festive season is a melting pot of many traditions, feasting, drinking, family, fighting, and unfortunately a tradition that seems to garner a greater following each season is internet shopping. The OI’m getting it all done before December’ brigade. Bought in September, delivered pre-wrapped and in bulk by October. It’s as sensitive as Pontius Pilot.

The facilitator of this moribund movement is of course Amazon, ubiquitous, user friendly and efficient, so why not right? Mainly because, inversely to a Boxing Day puppy, Amazon should be for life and not for Christmas. It’s fine for back cataloguing your music collection or expanding your library, but it’s a little sterile when it comes to Christmas gifts. When selecting a present you need a bit of look and feel, to ask the shop assistant, make sure the shoe fits. Nothing says thoughtless like an algorithm generated suggestions window. Why choose something that 73 other shoppers you’ve never met bought. Here you go Mum my monitor picked this one out or you.

And I don’t think the word browse applies to the internet. Browsing is a physical slow meandering activity, and importantly it’s random and offers the odd surprise. You can’t accidentally stumble from books to cooking on Amazon, but you can in a department store. You go in thinking cook book and exit with a box set, a pot of preserves and something for yourself. If you’re buying online it’s probably because you know what you want and it will be a brief exchange, and no-one overspends online. But what’s so appealing about brief, shopping can be a mildly pleasing pastime, as long as you are prepared for it.

This year while finance minister across Europe check their coffers for remnants of drachma, escudos, pesos and lire, be generous with your time when you shop. Hit your high street, tussle with the public and allow shopkeepers the chance to seduce you with their display of wares. Sadly it appears stores have reduced their window dressing budget to just about cover a can of spray on snow and a discount poster. But ignore these visual humbugs, head in and blow your January paycheck, you can log on again after Christmas.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio


  • The Menu