This past weekend, I was dispatched from the flat to pick up a few essentials. After a brief wander through the sun-drizzle, I ended up in Waitrose. Don’t judge me; I live in the 0.05% of Scotland that has access to the hallowed white and green corridors. I go there partly because of their selection of sundries – right through the door you have twenty different types of kale, for instance (nineteen of which are variations on curly). I also go to Waitrose because it’s fun watching the other people there, the way they interact with the staff, and the general dynamic that takes place. They also have a fairly great range of Scottish and English beers on offer, as well.
Another thing Waitrose do, just inside the door across from the fronded pseudo-cabbage, is the free coffee. Simply flash your My Waitrose card, saunter over to the silver terminal, and (if it is actually working), stab a few buttons and see what coffee derivative gloops out. It’s hugely popular (which explains why the machine struggles to keep up). So popular, in fact, that the Daily Mail reported they now sell a million cups a week, making Waitrose the second-biggest coffee retailer in the UK (warning, link leads to the Daily Mail). I’ve tried it once – it’s actually fairly annoying, having to balance a coffee with the trolley/basket and also find a free hand to reach up for the organic bulghar wheat or bonito flakes.
Still, it got me thinking. What would happen if, instead of the coffee, Waitrose installed a small bar? Can you imagine? Aside from instantly becoming the UK’s largest provider of sherry, it might be fairly pleasant to wander around the supermarket with a small tumbler of IPA. Sip a delicately perfumed bière de garde whilst waiting for your Prosciutto di Parma to be sliced. Swap pleasantries with a be-suited eighteen-year-old store manager, each point emphasised with a wave of the imperial stout snifter, as the aroma of pain rustica floats from the in-store bakery. In short, it would get me in there more often than the prospect of a free latte.
There are dangers, however. Shopping under the influence (SUI) can lead to unforeseen consequences – according to Kelkoo, 43% of people have shopped online after drinking, with a fifth of those devil-may-care clicksters not actually remembering what they’d bought when they woke up the next morning (including, amazingly, someone who bought a boat whilst on the sauce). Now, admittedly, that’s online shopping – I’m not equating a raffish stab of the mousefinger on DreamYachts.com to impetuously doubling-up on slices of game pie at the deli counter; but you could end up with more shopping than you went in for. At Waitrose, that can add up, very quickly.
Apparently, branches of Whole Foods in the US offer beer whilst you shop – they even have cupholders on the trollies. Would that work over here, or does the thought of pissed-up Waitrose shoppers have you closing the curtains, reaching for the laptop and checking delivery times?