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Monday, June 15th, 2020, 1:12 pm

The ‘Second Phase’ in the UK is No Shopping Time (Unless You’re Really Desperate)

The Manchester experience, day 1

Main Line Railway Station 2

For the past two weeks if not longer we’ve sort of looked forward to some stores reopening. After about 80 days of lock-down some things in the house were broken and probably needed replacing. I expected the city to be packed with people and stores to have loads of discounts (sales). How wrong was I…

To be fair, we have no prior experience when it comes to this. The last pandemic that hit the UK (at a scale remotely like this) was over 100 years ago and a lot of things were different back then, so any shallow/superficial parallels don’t quite apply.

Today was my first time putting the mask on because usually, at least for food shopping, I chose small stores where isolation was super-easy and a mask barely needed (there’s already a plastic screen near check-out tills/clerks. Cash is OK as long as you don’t touch the face, even when it’s itchy.

The mask is really irritating. The heat in particular. Breathing isn’t too easy either; it’s kind of a nuisance. So you’re already uncomfortable just by ‘virtue’ of being there. Not for a few minutes but hours….

We left the home at 9AM and came back at around 1PM. I don’t think we’ll go back to these stores for at least a month. We just bought what we really needed. And looking back, maybe it wasn’t really worth the bother; we could wait a while longer…

The main observations worth making:

  1. There are very long queues, sometimes huge ones. It depends on the stores’ size and appeal. Hard to think of people so desperate to stand in line (waiting in those means being outside)…
  2. There were very few people in the mall and out in the streets. Like 10 times less whatever I was expecting. Even after almost 4 hours we still didn’t see many people. So it’s not about our early arrival time…
  3. Most or least at very many stores are still shut, they don’t bother even if they’re now formally allowed to reopen. Makes one wonder how many are technically bankrupt or may be too afraid to reopen for health reasons/or and expectation of dire sales. Maybe people aren’t receiving a salary, so they lack finances or financial security/confidence (uncertainty about the future).
  4. For each store that is open, bar few, the experience inside the store is like a guided tour; it’s so limited, losing much of the appeal of in-store shopping (permissible and impermissible walking routes)
  5. We got lots of hand sanitiser, as each shop advises if not forces you apply it. Again and again.
  6. Not only does store staff issue guidance; inside the malls (not stores), even while merely walking in the aisles, one has to follow some odd rules and instructions of mall workers must be obeyed

The bottom line is, unless it is really essential, like an item that must be purchased and carried in person (or paid for anonymously), I’d advise to not bother. The way things stand, the experience is painful, unsatisfying, and I think reduction in consumerism may be the best solution right now. We aren’t going back there any time soon; not because we don’t want to support local stores (we do!) but because there’s clearly a severe problem here. And if people are not willing to spend or lack the budget to spend (borrowings must be hard now), I dread thinking about what summer will look like for businesses, causing social unrest if not societal breakdown.

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