Remember ‘shopping’? Not for food or clothes, things which one really wants to select by sight. I mean, shopping for the perfectly-packaged, homogenous items Jeff Bezos targetted as being ideal internet-commerce stock. DVDs, books, CDs (who even buys CDs now?).
I used to really enjoy that kind of shopping. I remember as a teenager (yes, I was a geek), I used to take tremendous pleasure in standing in the basement of WH Smith on the Finchley Road, comparing different Dr Who videos (what? I told you I was a geek). I’d look at the titles, the photographs, the descriptions, see which Doctor it was and which companions. I could spend half an hour comparing the different videos available, before deciding on one to take home and watch as a reward for finishing my Latin homework (I *said* I was a geek already.)
I rarely do it now though. Books, DVDs – why not just order them online? Saves schlepping to a bookshop in town, or dealing with the depressingly warehouse-like massive local Borders. One click, it’s done, they arrive in a couple of days.
Except… by the time those couple of days have gone past I’ve often forgotten why I wanted them. Or the moment has passed, that perfect moment when I really wanted to sit down *right then* and read that book or watch that movie. I have to try to recreate my enthusiasm, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t I’m left with a movie whose perfect moment was last Tuesday, waiting to see if that moment turns up again.
So today I went to ‘Retrobloke’, or to give it its full title ‘Retrobloke.com‘, a shop down the road from me and yes the ‘.com’ is on the storefront. It’s a little shop, full of sci-fi and horror DVDs and videogames in the front, and vinyl in the back. The stock is good, eclectic and interesting. Looking at the shelves reminded me of things I’d always wanted to see and never got around to – unlike Amazon, no one was trying to push new releases on me.
It was a slow Friday afternoon. I stood for a long time flicking through the DVDs until I picked a couple of discs with three episodes each of original series Star Trek on them – total £6, very reasonable. I was the only person there. No one was hurrying me, or making tannoy announcements or trying to entice me with the piped-over smell of coffee. I’m looking forward to watching them over the weekend, because I’ve chosen the time slot to fit them into along with my purchase – you can do that if you walk out of the shop with them in your hand.
As I made my purchase I asked the friendly shopkeeper whether he did most of his business online nowadays.
“No,” he said, “it’s strange but we find a lot of people still want to come in.”
But if you’re looking for a ‘retro’ experience, I’m not sure that’s so surprising.