“Tring” goes my cell phone as my credit card is once again ravaged by a retail chain store – these modern mobiles are so incredibly clever, they even sound like old fashioned tills taking away your cash!
When the numbers flash – if you can bear to look – the mind recoils at the vast amount of money required to fill a car’s boot with laden plastic bags; do not dare to exclaim in horror to your better half!
“Have you any idea what things cost? Why don’t you do the shopping then?” and so on and so forth, fifth and sixth!
Male shopping avoidance is even more prevalent than tax avoidance; so it has always been, as vividly depicted in a recently discovered and entirely unexpected work by William S, written four hundred years ago; it could have been written today!
To shop or not to shop: that is the dilemma:
Whether ‘tis weaker in the brain to suffer
The trings and harrows of outrageous cell phones
Or to push the trolley around the shop
And by opposing stop her?
However, let’s look at the situation in which wives and mothers find themselves, in the 21st century, compared to times past.
Memories of my childhood include milk bottles on the doorstep, with a thick head of cream; of donkey carts carrying fresh vegetables for sale, going from house to house providing housewives at home with bargains; of the corner shop with its vast array of goods, at prices that make no sense at all today.
How about a glass bottle of Coca Cola for a tickey – that’s two and half cents in modern Rand language; of course, in those days one Rand was half a pound of the sterling variety, and so a tickey was not to be sniffed at – I remember the price of the Coke because I was always given a tickey to put into the plate at Sunday School, but sometimes I didn’t get there.
The difference between the 1950s and the present decade is that housewives then had plenty of time and very little money; now they have hardly time to breathe even if they might have a little more dosh than their grannies ever did.
And the very clever retail guru recognises this paucity of time which has crept up on us, and carefully positions his shops to catch the poor female as she hurtles breathlessly through the day’s unending chores, much as a spider spreads his web in the path of unsuspecting insects.
They rush in, ransack the shelves as they run down their busy lists of items which hadn’t even been thought of in Granny’s time – think tubs of flavoured yoghurt, endless pannets of “organic” vegetables in place of really fresh produce, fancy pet food at vast expense, even bottles of wine, once the preserve of bottle stores – a thousand other product lines; poor woman, such a rush.
And, if she persuades her South African husband to come along and push the trolley, which he does while pretending not to be bored out of his skull, she may just astonish him by the strange female method of buying a loaf of bread.
There they parade on the shelf, serried ranks of brown loaves and white loaves and whole-wheat loaves, like regiments with different uniforms in an 18th century army; she inspects them carefully; not the simple act of picking a loaf off the shelf and chucking it into the trolley’s gaping maw; nope, they are taken out one by one and plucked and caressed and poked about until one out of half a dozen is finally selected; why, I ask you? They are surely identical!
But here is the really evil part about the retail chains – if the housewife was friendly with the farmer who grows the lovely vegetables which end up in fancy packaging on the gently refrigerated shelves of the retail store in the new and ultra-modern shopping mall where rents are amazingly high – she might end up paying a small fraction of the price for really fresh produce, and the farmer would probably get more than the retail giants pay him, and he would get it immediately, not several months after he has submitted his invoice.
Surely we sense an opportunity here? What about a retired gent in an old bakkie, taking the week’s orders from the Village housewives, before heading off to the farms to bring back the greens after a good day out in the fresh air of the friendly countryside? What about a whole lot of retired gents driving their modern donkey carts through the suburbs?
Beats pushing the trolley!
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