Do you want to hear about a comprehensive shopping cockup, boys and girls?  No?  Oh, well you’re rather out of luck then…

The setup

So, Liz decided that she wanted to buy a telly.  Something to do with paying for a Sky package every month in order to get internet, and having no telly with which to view the torrent of bollards that also gets stuffed down the cable at the same time.  Makes sense.

Anyway, Much Research was Done – when buying a telly it’s essential to go into the shop knowing either exactly which one you want, or at least what your critical specifications are, otherwise you end up getting dragged around a merry dance of salesmanship and typically wind up paying more than you had intended.  Well, none of that here!  After much looking at websites, browsing past shop windows, and general nodding and saying “Hurrumph”, we settled on the Sony Bravia KDL32EX403U 32-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p LCD Internet TV.

Ordering online is a little too easy, and with more expensive electronic gear we reasoned that it made sense to visit an established brand shopfront, as that may help with any warranty issues or suchlike, as well as the “have it in my hands right now” factor (which has the added benefit of avoiding the home delivery conundrum).  In the Bristol area there’s a fairly large national department store, and so like every sensible potential shopper we phoned ahead to make sure that they had the item in stock before heading out there.  Yes, plenty.  It therefore made sense to toddle off to the bus stop to travel the 45 minutes to the place known as Cribbs’ Causeway.

I’m wondering if I’ve got some skin condition that’s set off by going to shopping centres – I always seem to get a bit edgy when heading towards malls and suchlike.  It might be the anticipation of the epic amount of fannying about that invariably ensues, however I was feeling pretty good about this – we really only had to get in, get on with it, get it, and get out.  The bus however had other ideas, and some pretty irritating traffic at the tail end of the trip meant we took about half an hour longer than we were meant to.  But that’s not enough inconvenience to kick off a blog post, is it?

The entrance to the shopping centre put us right near the Sony shop, so it seemed sensible to pop in and see if they had any for the same price, however we overheard a couple asking the salesman about the exact model we were after, and he said, “Oh no, we’ve sold out of those – very popular!”.  For some reason this was the moment Jason’s Shopping Paranoia chose to strike, and I turned to Liz saying, “We have to get to [the name of the shop]!”, and off we shot.

Our trajectory took us past Curry’s, and despite prior experience telling us that the name originates from some Ancient Roman colloquialism meaning “Absolutely gouge the arse and eyes out of everyone who steps in here on the basis of price”.  We saw the TV we wanted, but they were selling it for £150 more than we were looking to spend.

2 shops, no telly yet.

We scurried into the store we were looking for in the first place and somehow navigated the oscillating masses to the Department of Tellies, and having sought out the unit that we wanted to indeed prove that it existed in the store, the next step was to attract someone’s attention to get on with the business of selling us the telly.  Hmm.  Easier said than done.  Eventually we caught a slick foetus’s attention and said “We’d like to buy this telly please!”, to which he responded, “Oh, you’ll need to go and queue up and speak to that lady” – gesturing towards what was indeed a queue in front of a lady, not particularly close to the telly selling zone.

Queuing up for things is a part of living in Britain, so there’s no sense in moaning about that – only a few days beforehand I’d queued up for 40 minutes to get into a cheese shop to buy exactly what I’d known I already wanted.  The worst bit about that was being surrounded on both sides by people who didn’t have any idea what they wanted (other than some form of cheese).  Essentially it was the antithesis of the way that shopping is ingrained into the Australian psyche from about the age of 18, via the mechanism of the drive-thru bottle shop.  There are 2 lanes at the drive-thru bottle’o – there’s the browse lane, and the express lane.  The theory being that if you need to get out and have a look around you stick over to the left, and leave the right lane free for people who have turned up to collect a specific thing – no sense in cluttering up a place by blocking people who can get back out quickly, eh?  Well, it’s not the British way.  And, it’s probably worth also mentioning now rather than devoting another tedious entry to it, that queue was the most middle-class line in history, I think.  I enjoyed the way that I remarked to the lady doing crowd control on the door that you don’t normally see that many shop staff all working behind the same counter at once, and she drily corrected me – “Cheesemongers”.

The chase

Reaching the front of the line, we realised that we were putting our names down to be attended to by a member of sales staff.  Awesome!  Lining up to put our names on a list!  New horizons in fannying about!

We were eventually seen by a chap, and as helpfully and enablingly as we could, we said, “Hello, we’d like you to sell us the Sony TV on the front of that row over there!”.

“Oh, there aren’t any”, he grunted fairly disinterestedly.

Us: “Are you sure?  We rang and checked…”

Him: “Oh, did you speak to a person with a Scottish accent?  They’ll be from our call centre.  The stock levels there are only refreshed overnight.”

Us: “So… despite being told clearly that there were TVs in the store, and that being the basis for our catching a bus for an hour and a half, there are in fact no TVs in the store?”

Him: “No”

Us:”Do you have a comparable TV of similar features or price which you could substitute for that particular TV?”

Him: “Not really, that one’s a great deal”

Us: “We’ve travelled for an hour and a half to buy a TV from you, and we have this money, which we intend to give to you.  Is there anything you can do for us?  Perhaps arrange to get one delivered as soon as they get in.”

Him: “Perhaps?”

Us: “When might that be?”

Him: “Oh, not before Thursday week.”

Us: “Oh.”

Him: “Yeah.”

Us: “Is there anything else we can do, or any other question we could ask that would facilitate the getting of a TV within the next day or 3?”

Him: “Not really”

It was SOOOO bizarre – we were pretty much double-teaming this bloke, giving him as many reasons or opportunities to take our money, and it just didn’t happen!

The punchline

Having established that we weren’t taking a telly home, we busted a groove around to the nearest comfy display sofa and used my mobile web browser to order the telly off Amazon, with next-day delivery.  Then we went to Carluccio’s and knocked over some venison tortellini, spinach & ricotta ravioli, and a bottle of pinot grigio.  WIN.

The inevitable aftermath

Having ordered the telly and been picked up by Charlie, dropped home & subjected to an absolute cracker of a dinner I checked my Amazon account to see what was going on and found that they wanted me to “update my payment method”.  A bit of futzing around later, and it transpired that when Amazon tried to debit my account, the bank had gone, “Oh, what?  Internet transaction?  Must be fraud.  Block it.”, but then not tell me they’d blocked it.  And when I stayed in all the next day in waiting for the delivery bloke, the online package tracking thing seemed to insist that our telly had been delivered to someone in Preston about 20 days before we’d even ordered it.

So the moral of the story is – everything’s a complete pain in the arse and it’s easier to live in a cave and hide under a blanket.

Happy New Year.

(mind you, the telly turned up on Friday, and it’s awesome.  So, woo for that.)

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