三级成人视频

Judith Woods
Uniqlo’s smart tills outfoxed me initially
Uniqlo’s smart tills outfoxed me initially Credit: Andrew Walters/Alamy

三级成人视频The young assistant in Uniqlo gave me a deadpan look as I flustered helplessly at one of the self-service checkouts. I was buying a fluffy white zip-up and a navy cotton sweater. But how to pay? I tried scanning the tags on the screen. I tried waving the tags at the side of the unit. So help me, I tried inserting the tags into the credit card slot.

“The machine, it knows what to do,” he said delphically. “No need to scan. Just put them down, and the machine, it knows…” I dropped the items higgledy-piggledy into the plastic bin at the checkout and almost instantaneously their details and price came up on the screen. He was right; the machine knew.

And now I did, too –  that, as with so many other aspects of life, Covid has changed the way we shop. Technologies we would once have regarded with mistrust because they lacked the human touch are now being embraced for that self-same reason. But I can’t help wondering if that’s an entirely good thing. As yet another white van speeds through my neighbourhood, offloading Amazon packages or Hermes deliveries, it’s hard to imagine a time when wandering round department stores was a bona fide leisure activity.

I can’t imagine a repeat of that wonderful date night my husband and I once had in John Lewis on Oxford Street in London, spent in soft furnishings looking at – and running our hands over – lovely things, rather than each other. One reason why that magical evening qualifies as a true one-off is because John Lewis has just announced that it’s flogging off 45 per cent of its flagship store as office space.

三级成人视频You don’t have to be Joni Mitchell to appreciate we don’t know what we’ve got ’till it’s gone. Talk about paving paradise to put up a fully serviced executive business lounge. Dear Lord, let them sequester gardening, but not haberdashery. I may not have bought anything there, ever, but I promise I will invest heavily in emerging ribbon markets if it escapes the axe.

But the fact is, John Lewis posted a £635m pre-tax loss for the six months up to 25 July. It axed its staff bonus for the first time since 1953, and announced eight store closures to shore up its position. Back then, company chairman Dame Sharon White said the pandemic had brought forward changes in consumer shopping habits “which might have taken five years into five months”.

Online sales surged by 73 per cent and now account for 60 per cent of takings, up from 40 per cent before the start of the pandemic. Pre-lockdown, Waitrose delivered 60,000 weekly food orders – by August, that figure had risen to 170,000. To make the most of virtual consumers and the fact Christmas-related searches on its website were up 370 per cent on last year, John Lewis opened its first online Christmas shop five months ago. With great success. Sigh.

I know I’m the sort of analogue shopper who couldn’t work a high-tech Uniqlo basket, but I miss old-fashioned shopping and stopping and vacillating. Buying baubles unseen – where’s the joy in that? I even miss pointedly (prissily) queuing for the sales assistant in convenience supermarkets as a gesture of defiance towards the alienating invasion of self-service checkouts.

But with the spectre of coronavirus looming, nobody is in the mood for symbolic gestures, or what passes for face-to-face interaction. Eyes may be the windows to the soul, but mask-to-mask colloquy is drearily unrewarding. Ostensibly in order to alleviate time pressure and contamination concerns, major grocery retailers now allow customers to scan items and drop them straight into their bags for life as they make their way along the aisles, paying with a simple card tap as they leave. It invariably ends in a sort of crazed Supermarket Sweep where you overbuy because it’s all tucked away out of sight, rather than heaped together on the conveyor in such a great, teetering mound of booze and nibbles, you have to pretend you’re having a huge party. With five guests from your own household.

According to a report this week, shoppers who use a handheld scanner while doing the weekly shop spend 12 per cent more than they would normally. Similarly, paying with a card is known to make shopping a little too ‘frictionless’. Even before Covid, cash was self-evidently on its way out, but its demise has been much faster than any of us – with the possible exception of Dame Sharon at John Lewis – could have anticipated. I have a £20 note at the bottom of my handbag that I took out in April, which I haven’t yet had the chance to use. I fear it may go the way of old fivers and pound coins, languishing in the kitchen drawer while I repeatedly kid myself I’m going to take them to the bank. Or I would, if the bank hadn’t closed my local branch.

三级成人视频People prefer to do things remotely – unless they have actual money in their hands and want to put it somewhere. From hardware shops to burger vans, cards are now universally preferred over cash. Is it really just to prevent the spread of Covid? I’m not convinced. Far be it from me to stand in the way of our brave new “the machine, it knows” future, but I have a niggling fear we are losing more than we are gaining – or, at least, every bit as much: the chitchat, the smiles, the “ooh that really suits you…”, the human aspect of trade that we have practised for millennia in virtually every society.

And now that Christmas – in whatever form it takes – is just eight shopping weeks away, the industry body for online retailers, IMRG, has predicted “really very excessive volumes” of trade. In a complete inversion of what we have come to expect as the norm, instead of being the last-minute, safe-bet option, online sites are likely to run out of stock before the shops that we’ve been avoiding during the pandemic.

三级成人视频Wouldn’t it be ironic if our preoccupation with keyboard clicks now led to the renaissance of high street bricks?