With the shopping marathon all done and dusted for another year, I was pondering how much has changed compared to Christmas seasons gone by.
Some of the ritual is still the same, though, with shoppers sweating on the deadline for gift buying and looking anything but festive as they battle grim-face through the crowds.
Despite the massive rise in online shopping, most retail centres seem to be well thronged and busy.
At the risk of being slightly politically incorrect, as if I would, it still seems that many ladies see a trip to the shops as something of a leisure activity, while most of us chaps seem to treat it as an exercise in getting it down to a record minimum time.
I saw a lovely cartoon recently where a lady was about to enter a shoe shop and she asked her husband what he was going to do while she was inside choosing her new purchase.
“I’m going on holiday to Spain,” he said, “I’ll meet you here when I get back.”
The modern world slowed me down on the footwear front recently.
In typical male fashion, I made a brief statement of shopping intent to the young assistant.
“Black leather, please, slip-on, size 9.”
“It’s not a 9 anymore” she replied, “we’ve gone European, so it’s a 43.”
Taken aback, I pointed out that I’d been buying shoes for half a century, and it was definitely a 9 that I needed.
She insisted that it was now a 43, so I asked to try one.
“It’s too tight” I said.
“OK” came the reply, “You’ll need a 10 then.”
On a more serious front, one recent trend in shops has left me a bit baffled – namely, the reluctance to hand over a receipt.
I’m now well used to credit cards and even contactless payment, totally different from the all-cash days of my youth.
A few times recently, I’ve been asked whether I wanted a receipt for a purchase.
They always used to appear as a matter of routine, but now, I’m told, some shops are trying to cut down on their production for what they claim are environmental reasons – to save paper.
If you are in the retail business, you may be able to talk me through this one, as I just don’t get it.
The classic example came in King’s Cross Station recently when I was buying a snack for the train journey back home to Hartlepool.
There’s a pleasant Little Waitrose shop near the platforms which is just the job and has a splendid array of healthy foods for us young athletes.
The total I spent was under a tenner, so I gave the assistant a ten pound note, took my change and was, as seems to be common in London especially, asked if I really needed a receipt.
I took one, which seemed to my simple brain to be a good precaution.
If I was stopped on the platform with a carrier bag of goodies and no proof of purchase, how could I prove that I had indeed paid for them – especially as it was in cash?
I’m still mystified by the trend, and perhaps there’s a hidden plot which I’ve missed – it can’t just be to save some bits of paper can it?
Enjoy your break from shopping.
And all the best for a splendid Christmas to you and yours.