Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

No, Evans, you can’t have my postcode

September 13, 2013

I had a small moment of personal liberation on Saturday. I was in a branch of Evans, and the bloke behind the counter asked, “Can I take your postcode, please?” They always ask this question whenever you buy something there, but like a goldfish who turns around and sees the same view he has witnessed two seconds before, I am always surprised by this weirdly personal inquiry. It’s a cheap portable lock. Why do you want to know where I live before you let me buy it, fer Chrissakes?

Invariably I blurt out the answer because, stupidly, I’m caught off-guard by the question. But not this time. “Actually,” I said, “can we not do any of that stuff?”

“Oh. OK.”

And that was that. I bought the lock without having to provide a means of identifying where I live. I experienced the same sense of relief you feel when removing a pair of tight-fitting shoes. I am free! Free, I tells ya!

Sales assistants at Evans are not the only ones to engage in this odd practice. CycleSurgery has also asked me the same question. Jen gave our postcode when she bought me a rucksack from Snow and Rock. And one of my Twitter chums informs me that Brantano, a shoe shop I had never heard of, is also in the business of postcode-gathering (his admirable response: “No, just the shoes thanks.”) But Evans was the first to ask for my postcode, and ten years later, standing in their Fulham branch, I suddenly realised I had absolutely no idea why.

Evans is the Tesco of cycling: most people shop there because it’s convenient, not because it’s a great experience. The comparison isn’t quite true in my case because, as I have previously confessed, I bloody love Britain’s biggest supermarket chain. I give Tesco a huge amount of personal information by owning a Clubcard: not only do they know where I live, they also know what products I like and how often I purchase them. But in addition to speeding up my shopping by allowing me to use their Clubcard-only barcode zappers and providing free Wi-Fi to Clubcard holders (very handy for listening to 5 Live on my phone while I’m pushing my trolley around the West Cromwell Road Enormo-Store), Tesco also sends me frighteningly specific discount vouchers for the things I like. Evans doesn’t offer this personalisation. I’ve surrendered my postcode to the green-and-gold giant for a decade, and all I’ve got in return are the same brochures and emails that everyone gets. From the customer’s point of view, telling Evans where you live is a complete waste of time.

So on Wednesday I asked Evans on Twitter why its shop assistants want customers’ postcodes. They said they needed it in the event of a refund or exchange, but the conversation went dead at their end when I pointed out that retaining the receipt performs the same function. Could it be that this isn’t the main reason?

Here’s my theory. Being a customer of a chain of bike shops is a peripatetic experience: you might pop in to one on your commute and visit another some miles away when you’re on the way back from a ride. And more than a decade ago, Evans began opening more and more branches. These days Evans isn’t just the shop you visit on your way home from a club ride or during your lunch break – it’s probably your local bike shop, too. But how did they know which areas would have a population of cyclists large enough to make an Evans LBS profitable? Perhaps it was because they already knew where their customers lived. You and I provided that information when we gave them our postcodes.

I’ve got nothing against Evans having lots of branches – they provide lots of jobs in a challenging economic climate and their existence gives cycling a greater presence on the High Street. But I’ve already got a local branch, so I won’t be giving them my postcode again.

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Westfield is great, and it’s even better by bike

May 17, 2013

Do you want to know a secret? Shopping at Westfield is an immensely satisfying experience. No, really it is! Everything you could conceivably need is in one place, you’re protected from the elements, and you never have to wait at a pedestrian crossing to get to a shop a few feet away. There’s an Apple store, which is a godsend if you live locally and your Apple device goes up the spout, and the range of food outlets is pretty good too. Basically, it’s the retail experience you’ve always wanted, but you might not have realised it yet.

Shopping is like sex: if you’re not enjoying it, then you’re not doing it properly. And the commonest error most Westfield detesters make is going there at its busiest time. Anywhere can be annoying when it’s packed, and while I can’t make the crowds magically disappear for you, I can give you a couple of tips. The first is: go by bike. That way you’ll avoid queuing to get in the car park. My second tip is the divulging of another secret: inside the Westfield complex there is a bike parking area which is more secure than the one outside, but it isn’t mentioned on the centre’s website and it isn’t signposted anywhere. I only stumbled upon it because I am incredibly nosy.

To find it, ride along the bus lane that passes by Shepherd’s Bush Tube station.

Westfield bus lane

About halfway along, you’ll see the entrance to the valet parking service.

Westfield valet parking entrance

Go in, and head straight past the barrier.

Westfield valet parking barrier

Then, when you see a sign for the carwash, dismount.

Westfield valet parking carwash sign

Walk around the sign, and voilà!

Westfield valet parking bike area

You have reached the hidden bike parking area which is within sight of the carwash’s office…

Westfield valet parking bike area office

…and barely anyone knows about it. Apart from, it seems, the employees of a certain fashion retailer. I know this because there is a sign denoting the company uses the facility…

Westfield valet parking bike area net-a-porter sign

…although you should observe that it doesn’t say the area is exclusively for their usage. And besides, it’s an internet retailer. They want you to stay at home and shop instead of literally getting on your bike and going to your local gargantuan retail park. Think of it as a victory for fitness and claim your parking space, like this cyclist did.

Westfield valet parking rude word on bike

(He or she is being a little harsh on themselves. The bike wasn’t that bad.)

Happy shopping!

Tesco vs Waitrose. Tesco wins.

January 10, 2012

My goodness, there’s a lot of hate around, isn’t there? So let’s start the New Year by showing some love – a lot of love, actually – for a thing that is universally reviled: the enormous Tesco on the West Cromwell Road.

Let me tell you, without a trace of irony or mischief, that I am well into this place. They sell those nice City Kitchen meals and the super-big cartons of Innocent smoothies. You have the option of buying small amounts from the meat counter instead of wastefully buying whole packs. There’s a lovely, raised, semicircular fish counter. There are self-service tills. There is easy parking. The food is cheap, and it isn’t nasty. And it’s open late at night. Man, late-night grocery shopping… When I’ve done the weekly shop at 2am, I’ve experienced the sort of exultation Michael Jackson must have felt when he wandered around Harrods after hours. Except this shop is full of stuff you’d actually want to buy, like whole chickens and re-sealable fridge packs of baked beans, rather than tweed jackets and diamond-encrusted candlestick holders (as you may have guessed, I have never shopped at Harrods).

Waitrose, where I also shop regularly, has none of these things. What it does have, in abundance, is queues. There are huge queues at the Kensington High Street branch because there are no self-service tills. At Fulham there’s sometimes a bit of a wait to get out of the car park due to the security guards checking the tickets at the gate (and, nonsensically, they angrily insist on handing back my card receipt, even though I don’t need it.) Over at East Sheen – the only Waitrose I know of that has a proper meat counter – there’s usually a long queue to drive in. This last annoyance is the most frustrating of the lot, because the Sheen branch is the only supermarket around that has trolley-mounted barcode zappers: the time you save by avoiding the checkout is wasted by waiting to drive in.

I think these are all good reasons why, from the perspective of user experience, Waitrose is PC and Tesco is Mac. But if you’re a cycleperson, there are two reasons why you should love the glass monolith glistening over the A4. The first is this: gigantic megabags of pasta and rice.

Buy them, stick them in your cupboard, and you will never go hungry after a long ride ever again. (Or just drastically reduce the chance of not having anything to eat, because even though they last longer you might still forget to replace them when they run out. Look, it’s not a failsafe system. I’m just trying to help, alright?)

The second reason is so extraordinary that you may want to ask a friend or colleague to scroll down while you hold onto either side of your head, because what you are about to see is going to blow your freakin’ mind. Seriously.

You ready? OK. Here we go…

Yeah, that’s right: FIVE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOREEN LOAF.

BANG: Cinammon. BOOM: Fruity Five. KERPOW: Banana. Frigging banana! The cyclist’s main food group! In a Soreen loaf! Plus, of course, the classic malt loaf in sliced and unsliced formats. There is nothing more the modern cyclist could want from a supermarket.

I have had the pleasure of consuming all of these, and each one is delicious. But please keep this secret to yourself, reader. For if I turn up at Tesco at 2am and find an empty shelf in the baked goods section, I shall be heartbroken.