R.F.Wilson reports from London: Do you get all wound up when you go shopping and encounter hordes of people who just browse and have no intention of buying anything? I do. I get seriously pissed off actually when I’m forced to struggle in vast crowds in shops. It has come to a point when half of the bloody customers in department stores buy nothing – just browse. You can even see couples holding hands, cruising about in department stores, thinking that this constitutes ‘a day out’. As a result large stores are overwhelmed by crowds of people who create all sorts of problems for dedicated shoppers.
I can understand shoplifters and pickpockets who come to large retail enclosures to conduct their specific types of activities and make a dishonest buck. And I can even understand peeping toms who stand under escalators or peer through curtains in changing rooms, in the hope of catching a glimpse of some thigh or breast, to play with themselves later while recalling all that imagery. But I can never understand people who come to large department stores to browse. I’m sorry, but the supposed excitement of the process escapes me. Don’t they understand that they are a menace to the shopping community? I mean, who wants to battle through the crowds to make a purchase? Exactly, no one. Not forgetting that some browsers distract shop assistants by asking them all sorts of stupid questions about items they have no intention of buying. It’s perverse. It’s just not normal.
And it gets even worse during the festive season which we have now entered. The crowds in big department stores swell threefold and still the browsers are there in full force. Why, why do they have to come during this intense period when millions of people become all religious and look for junk to give to each other at Christmas? Why can’t they stay away from the shops at least for a while? It’s the same, by the way, with drivers who leave their homes during the school run, going nowhere in particular and creating even more congestion. Why can’t people use common sense and stay out of the way? What the hell is wrong with them?
Anyway, here is a novel idea for the retail trade: start charging customers entrance fees in big department stores, refundable on purchase. That way browsers would be turned away and not annoy proper shoppers. It is actually a very sensible idea, if you think about it carefully. Because many people are turned away from shops by the sight of the massive crowds in them. They don’t want to get into hand-to-hand combat in order to purchase things. They want to have the ability to move relatively freely and ask shop assistants for help, if they need something but can’t find it, and not wait for them to deal with idiots who are just wasting their time.
Of course, initially some people would be screaming their heads off at the idea of paid entrance into department stores. But eventually the concept would be accepted as a sensible one. And it could so happen that retail sales might go up. And that is what is needed to boost that elusive recovery that we hear so much about from politicians.
And while we’re on the subject of paid entrance fees, why not introduce it in Tate Modern? And then the public would no longer be asked to contribute to that monstrosity and the attendance will dry up, forcing all those modernists to take back their so-called ‘works’ that any kid of five can make.