Tuesday, 6 December 2016

'Tis the season to be jolly. Tra la bloomin' la.

Three weeks of Christmas advertisements suffered thus far, and not one mention of Mary, Joseph or the infant Jesus. Just message after message telling us in incredibly sincere and twee language how much the supermarkets are putting in all their grandest of efforts to ensure we can put on a microwave-to-table family spread fit for a king. 

Just like last year. And the year before last. And the year before that. 

Seeing they start making more of a fuss of "the big day" Christmas each year than most host countries do for the Olympics, perhaps Christmas should be held just once every four years, thereby giving us three wonderful "big day" free years, thus making Christmas really, really, extra special. As I said, they never seem to mention Jesus any more, so if it's to be so commercial that the founder doesn't even warrant a mention any more, why not slim it all down?

The furnishing companies with their 365-days-a-year sales are busy telling us there is still time to order their sofas and carpets for Christmas. Why anyone in their right mind would want to have a new sofa delivered in time for some relative who crosses the parapet just once a year to either throw up on it or fall asleep on it, thus preventing anyone else from sitting on it is beyond me.

All this frenetic Christmas activity falls into that category sometimes referred to as "screwing the public", something corporations all over the world are great at. Especially at Christmas. Buy one, get none free. Until 3 seconds past midnight on Christmas night. And before then you will have already noticed, as you do your last-minute Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, that even as you are walking around, staff are re-pricing stock and preparing for the post-Christmas sale. If you check carefully you'll see that that the designer jumper you have just bought for your wife at £135 is now sitting on a rail in the corner of the shop repriced for the 26th December sale at £45.

A discount shopping chain in the UK, 'Home Bargains', has declared £137m profits on sales of £1.6billion. They discount many products that the supermarkets allegedly already sell 'cheaper', yet those same supermarkets keep advertising with their twee and downright dishonest "eat better for less" and "every little helps" slogans. Yes. It would appear you can 'eat better for less' with 'every little bit helping' you even more at Home Bargains.

But then wait until having dispensed with Christmas lunch, Christmas lunch leftovers and
Christmas lunch leftover leftovers, and you venture out to try the British train system to visit relatives. It must be the only train system in the world where it can sometimes be cheaper to travel first (free tea and biscuits) class than standard (cattle) class, and where splitting your journey (say Manchester to London) into three separate tickets (for example Manchester to Stockport, Stockport to Milton Keynes and Milton Keynes to London), yet never once leaving your seat on the train, can save you 40%.

And don't get me started on the comparison websites where it nearly always works out cheaper to book directly with the concern you are interested in. The only people gaining any value form the comparison websites are the comparison websites creaming off £60 a pop for each referral. Maybe the industries they represent should just shave the £60 off at source thus cutting out these  unnecessary websites holding suppliers to ransom. 

Like the take-out food websites such as Just Eat and Hungry House (other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) which are killing the smaller takeaways with their fees.  Smaller operation can't afford not to be on one of them, but they also can't afford not to be on one - it has been proven that the smaller operation may generate slightly extra sales, but the fee structure means these takeaways don't see an overall increase in business that justifies the fees and covers the extra costs they have to pay. I know from my own local. They have had to join one of these sites or lose out to nearby competition. But while their orders over the past 189 months have increased slightly, they are losing about 20% of each meal thanks to licensing, commission and the fee they now have to pay for having to not only take debit and credit cards, but constantly monitor orders coming in over the internet. Overall for 2016, while orders and the work in preparing those orders are up on 2015, their profit is down £450 for the year. 

It's a case of working more for less being forced upon a small local business by these sites. Plainly Just Eat, Hungry House (as mentioned, other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) and lazy consumers, in that order, are the only winners.

And do the Just Eats and Hungry Houses (again, as mentioned, other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) of this world care? Of course they don't. They are on to a good thing making easy money holding the country's takeaways to ransom. I phone up my local Chinese takeaway directly myself and collect personally paying cash. They know this, and despite  giving me a free packet of prawn crackers, they still make £2.25 a meal more than if I used one of the
Just Eats or Hungry Houses (as mentioned, once more, I remind you that other takeaway ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available). And when you look at it, it is so much simpler to phone up than go online, log in and fart around with electronic payment.

You need a comparison website to sort out all the comparison websites that have mushroomed in all the different industries.Websites that, in the long run, really only benefit the comparison website owners.

So for the moment I'll go back to watching the same old trot on TV where vacuous sell-eh-brih-ees and TV never-off people help you 'prepare for the big day'. Again. Just like last year. Identical crap, different year.

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