I’m headed to University next weekend, and in preparation for that, I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of shopping.
I’ve essentially needed to buy at least one of everything — kitchenware, bedding, bathroom stuff… a loo brush. Heck, I even got a new laptop. It gets very expensive very quickly, and that’s led to me spending far too long on HotUKDeals (a UK-specific “deals” community – kinda like Reddit, just for stuff that’s good value) and the like, trying to squeeze marginal gains in value out of the purchases which are going to have serve me for at least the next three years.
Last week, in search of a duvet (and informed via Hot UK Deals of a particularly good value duvet that was only available in-store), I headed to Argos.
For the benefit of those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Argos, it’s basically a mix of mail-order catalogue shopping, Amazon and a normal bricks-and-mortar store. You go in, choose what you want from the catalogue, note down the product numbers, take the numbers to the checkout and then wait five-odd minutes for the items you’ve ordered to magically appear.
You then carry them home.
Does that sound useful? Eh, not really.
Would that have sounded useful ten or fifteen years ago? Yeah! It would’ve sounded awesome. If Amazon had a shop, this would be it. Before Amazon was really mainstream, it would’ve been a fresh, unique take on highstreet shopping.
The slight issue is, however, that I don’t really remember much from fifteen years ago; I was four at the time. I’ve essentially grown up completely with the internet and the convenience that it brings. The idea of going to a store where I can browse items via a massive paper catalogue or a PC with really shitty UI just doesn’t appeal at all. I can do that all from the comfort of my laptop; if you can’t even see the items, what’s the point of going to the shop?
Arguably the bigger problem is that the whole process doesn’t really seem to have moved on from the heydays of ten years ago. You still have to note down with a stubby pencil on a little bit of paper a series of meaningless product numbers to indicate what you want to purchase and in the process lose complete track of what each of the numbers refers to and thus what you’ve looked up already.
The in-store PC’s catalogue wasn’t even the whole Argos website either; it lacked the crowd sourced wisdom of product reviews that one relies on when working out which duvet is going to be the best, any decent sense of structure and anythingnearing a nice UI. It also lacked any sort of automated ordering system; it seemed like a complete waste of time writing down product numbers off one computer, going to the checkout and then having the cashier enter those same numbers into a different computer.
I thought it was particularly comical that one of the items I wanted was only available for home delivery.
Maybe that’s too harsh; maybe I’m missing some obvious benefit, but as far as I can tell, it’s internet shopping… just without any of the benefits of internet shopping.