Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for April 3rd, 2018

The Mystery of Shopping

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018

Mystery ShopperSpam emails tend to come in waves, I find. One will be bombarded for days with offers of cheap Canadian medicines, only for that wave to recede and be replaced by weight loss cures. The only constant things are the notifications of huge sums of money that people wish to transfer to my account from a bank in Burkina Faso — usually allegedly from the daughter of the late Libyan dictator, Colonel Mouammar Kadhafi. But over the Easter weekend a new rash of emails arrived, inviting me to become a mystery shopper, for a quite attractive fee. Doubtless phishing spam, nonetheless. But somehow I felt the suggestion was an affront: do they really think that I am the sort of person who would enjoy going to Oxford Street or Westfield to pretend to be on a shopping outing, comparing prices and judging service? I cannot bear shopping. In fact, I loathe it almost more than anything other than friends’ funerals. Of course I do have to go to the supermarket to buy in food from time to time, and when a jacket or a pair of trousers starts to fall apart, I brace myself and sally forth to find a replacement — usually after a stiff drink. Perhaps my allergy to shopping has something to do with my childhood, growing up in a dysfunctional and sometimes abusive adoptive family who owned department stores, though I don’t think that is the whole answer. I am just not wired into consumer gratification in the way that most people apparently are, driven on by TV and other advertising. Descartes famously said “I think therefore I am”, which I can certainly relate to, but for many people the modern equivalent seems to be: “I buy therefore I am”. No thank you. You want me to be a Mystery Shopper? Wrong person. For me, the appeal of shopping is the mystery.

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