Sunday, 9 November 2008

Nice and easy does it

The Internet has brought about a revolution in the way we live today. We can communicate with friends and relatives, collaborate with colleagues remotely, browse the world's finest libraries, galleries and museums. An ocean of information is there, in which we can happily go skinny-dipping.

Plus we can look at Paris Hilton being boffed. If we so wish.

One of the biggest improvements the Internet has brought has been in the way we transact normal business. We can find services, look at products and buy online. And nowhere is this more evident than the unmitigated palaver that is Christmas. I used to look upon the final two months of the year as being somewhere parallel to the seventh circle of Hades. But being able to organise things with my fat arse sat on the sofa instead is nothing short of revolutionary.

Which is why, this year, the otherwise splendid people at Marks & Spencer are getting a virtual bitch-slap from me right here and right now.

Katie has already started planning the biblical catering effort* that will be our Christmas dinner. I've had to keep reminding myself, looking at the details, that we're not planning on feeding a battalion of the Royal Marines. But, it doesn't matter, because our friends at M&S are now offering their 'Food to Order Online' service. Which is good, because I don't do queuing.

So I thought we could just select what we needed from their slinky e-catalogue system, enter some personal details, and Robert would be my father's brother.

Hmmm. Let me give you a direct quote from their website:
"View the range of festive foods in our Christmas E-Catalogue. Print and complete the order form. Place the order in your nearest store."
Whoa. I have to actually visit and talk to someone? Why don't I make some cave paintings of buffalo while I'm at it, daddy-o?

So that's why yesterday afternoon saw us waiting. In a queue. In the Solihull M&S. At the desk in the corner of the store, at the end of the run of tills. With my ankles being nipped by passing trolleys, I stood their gently fuming, watching Mary.

Mary, I'm sure, is a lovely person. She probably likes walks in the countryside, fluffy kittens and knitting sweaters for her nephews. Unfortunately, she is also preternaturally scared of her computer. She moved the mouse as anyone would, if they suspected it was booby-trapped. She entered data for the customers at a rate of up to several characters per minute. I swear, I have seen speedier continental drift. And she was on her own.

Occasionally another member of staff would walk up and down the ever-growing queue and brightly ask each customer what they were there for. Although, clearly, her abilities didn't stretch to actually being able to deal with food orders.

"Christmas order? Oh. Christmas order? Ah. Christmas order? I'm neither use nor ornament, am I?" Eventually she wandered off to be hopeless in a corner, all by herself.

After what seemed like several months of umming and ahhing we finally got our order input and paid a deposit. After this level of hassle, I would now expect our delivery to be made in person, at our doorstep, by Mr Marks or Mr Spencer. But no! We have to go back on the 23rd December and wait in another queue, then struggle to our car with several farmyards worth of food.

Memo to the strokey-chin marketing people at M&S: that "e" in "e-commerce" - what's it stand for, then? Easy? Efficient? Or how about "Errr. Sorry. We actually don't know what we're doing."

*(And I'm not talking about the loaves and fishes thing, either.)


Tom said...

Robert is your father's brother also?! We must be related in some manner then! Good to know you!

Lisa said...

Bloody hell, that would frustrate the crap out of me. I love shopping online...I love being able to avoid the queues. Perhaps you could take a book or a PSP with you next time?

City Girl said...

I like walks in the country, fluffy kittens and knitting sweaters...and my XM radio, my GPS, my (husband's) iPod, my 4 gig laptop and my wifi. (working on skype)

Maybe Mary was just holding out on you...quite possibly it was past time for her coffee break and she knew the way to get out of the job at hand was by doing it poorly. Mary, you cunning little devil!

Le laquet said...

God I messed this up last year - we went to France without our "M&S" turkey and I had to settle for Tesco's parsnips - my father still hasn't forgiven me. He is talking to Simon though - he remembered the horseradish cream ~ lickarse!!


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