Monday, April 02, 2007

Who buys this stuff?

I was in Aberystwyth post office at lunchtime today, posting off Natural Causes to my agent.* Lunchtime's not a good time to go to Aberystwyth post office. The queue snakes back and forth, constrained close to the serving points by the tensabarrier tape, but beyond that it explodes to fill all available space. Surrounded by screaming children, elderly dears waiting for their pension money and strange people who just like to hang about in post offices,** it's hard to tell what is queue and what is not.

Still, I positioned myself behind a likely-looking fellow - he was cradling a small parcel to his chest like a newborn child - and prepared to wait my turn. Given the hordes already there, and the fact that not one of them wanted to do something as simple as post a letter, I was prepared to wait for quite a while.

Which gave me plenty of time to peruse the bizarre range of goods you can now buy at your local post office. Apart from the obvious stuff - envelopes, packing boxes, bubble wrap and sellotape - you can get greetings cards for the ever-expanding number of special days the marketing men would have us celebrate. I've yet to see an 'on the joyous event of your circumcision' card, but I'm sure it won't be long. A prize to the best rhyming couplet to go inside that one.

But cards aren't that odd, really. You have to post them, after all, so there's a logic to being able to buy them at the post office. Why, though, does it also sell computer printers? I could get a Kodak colour one, specially designed for printing photos, and so useless for anything else. Or a black and white Lexmark job for just £19.99. Neither came with its own USB cable, but that was all right because the post office had them separately for a very reasonable price. Also blank CDs and DVDs, and a selection of really cheap computer games.

They were also selling a speaker system to plug your ipod into. Or you could get a new radio alarm clock. And if that wasn't what you were after, how about a set of non-stick pans? Or some Mills and Boon modern romance novels. I nearly bought Royally Bedded, Regally Wedded just for the title alone.

But I didn't. Nor did I succumb to Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride and I can live happily without ever knowing what The Spaniard's Marriage Demand was.*** I was, after all, in the post office to post a parcel, not to buy things.

And that's my point - who buys non-postage related items at the post office? I don't go to the butcher for my washing powder,**** and I got a very old-fashioned look from my hairdresser when I asked her if she could mend my trousers. But people must, whilst trapped in the endless queues, fall for the allure of the cheap travel scrabble and tacky CDs of celtic tunes. They must spend their hard-earned on these gew-gaws and knick-knacks, otherwise the post office wouldn't put them on display.

I guess the world needs fools who can easily be parted with their money, otherwise the wheels of commerce would grind to a halt and where would we all be then? But I can't help wishing that people weren't so predictable and so biddable as to fall for even the weakest of marketing efforts.

* see, Sandra. It's gone. So stop bullying me.
** like the fellow from yesterday's post. I used to think I dressed flamboyantly, but I'm really not trying hard enough.
*** I don't mean to be snooty about these books; I'm sure they have a large and eager readership. But it's hard not to take the piss at titles like The Prince's Convenient Bride and At the Greek Boss's Bidding.
**** no, I go to him for locally produced Hereford beef, raised by the father of one of our farm workers, and the first beef joint I've had in ages that produced real, actual dripping when I cooked it. Mmmm.

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Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I only want masses of people to fall for cheap marketing gimmicks if I create them and stand to profit.

"Royally Bedded, Regally Wedded" Considering what we hear of the royals that doesn't actually sound that exciting. But it would not be ladylike of me to comment further. ;)

And all I can say is, it's about time. I shall be harassing you endlessly from here forward. I expect an update when it arrives, and to be notified of all correspondence.

(Seriously, you're probably way better at this waiting game than me. I need to grow long nails just so I can chew them off again now.)

April 02, 2007 10:37 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I hate the waiting, Sandra. It gets in the way of concentrating on other things. Which is probably why, in the past, I've just finished one book and gone straight onto the next without bothering about the hassle of submission and rejection.

Still, I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

April 03, 2007 9:05 am  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Maybe the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Either that or it's a positive for selective memory loss.

April 03, 2007 4:15 pm  

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