All posts by Kevin

Everything old is new again…

“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.”
Ambrose Bierce 1842-1914

Having only recently read about this blogging phenomenon, I thought I would try it out by posting some things I wrote with similar intent way back in 1997.

I’ve Died And Gone To Heaven!

As reported in Wednesday’s edition of the Financial Times:

“British youngsters flocked to beaches in Cornwall where thousands of colourful Lego building bricks were washed up after being tossed overboard from a ship damaged in a storm in the Channel. The toy bricks had been on the way to the US from Denmark.”

Re-Engineering The Grocery Shopping

Having returned from New York to an empty fridge in an empty flat, it was time to order the groceries again. Since October I have been shopping for groceries over the Internet. We’re participating in a trial currently being conducted by one of the UK’s leading food retailers, and as you can probably guess, it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Actually, the fact that our orders are transmitted to the store via the Internet (as an email essentially) is really irrelevant to us; we could almost as easily send our shopping list to them via the Royal Mail. The significant benefit from our point of view is that our groceries are now delivered to our door at a time of our choosing. And since my New Year’s resolution was not to set foot in a grocery store (with the notable exception of Marks & Spencer), I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this new service! I truly hope it succeeds and is expanded to serve the whole of the UK.

However, I have to admit that the process has its problems. From the start we’ve never received everything we’ve ordered; every single delivery has missed some items that she who shall remain nameless deemed essential (Pineapple Slices In Syrup 439g; Salted Cashew Halves 100g) and that were reportedly out of stock on the day our order was prepared (how can they run out of laundry detergent or fabric softener for goodness sake?!). In addition, we have sometimes received goods intended for someone else (if you’re still waiting for your 10 lbs of potatoes and six tins of peaches, we have them here!). There haven’t been too many problems with payment, if you exclude that fact that their software refuses to accept the last digit of my debit card and that our accounts have yet to be debited for two out of our five deliveries. And of course, it was inevitable that eventually, the van wouldn’t arrive in our chosen two-hour time slot. But those teething problems aside, the service is a great time saver (except when she who shall remain nameless spends an hour and a half compiling the list) and a welcome relief to those of us that find grocery shopping in person a stressful chore.

It has occurred to me, however, that some of our criticisms of our home shopping experience are our own fault. We have made a classic mistake. We failed to adapt the way we shop to take into account the new information technology we’re now using. Having applied information technology to our grocery shopping, we failed to consider changing the way in which we shop for food. If we re-engineered the grocery shopping process, we might experience fewer problems and hence enjoy the benefits of home shopping even more.

For example, to use the new technology to its best advantage we really need to use it only for what it does best. Home delivery is excellent for non-perishable goods of consistent quality that can be ordered in bulk. It’s not so good for items of variable quality such as meat, fruit and vegetables. Consequently, we should consider splitting up our grocery shopping by buying fresh produce from the grocer on our street corner, convenience foods from those kings of own-label products, Marks & Spencer, and non-perishable stuff from the national food retailer via the Internet. But that actually raises another problem for those of us in small homes — where do we put all those items that we now want to buy in bulk? Storage space is often in short supply in the UK, where many people don’t have large freezers in which to store copious quantities of frozen food. So this new style of shopping could end up changing household appliances and presumably even homes, if it proved sufficiently popular.