Is there anything people won't do for a bargain, wonders Carol Midgley in The Times. The story of the Wal-Mart worker trampled to death in Long Island because he was caught between a crowd of shoppers and a pile of cut-price DVDs may be shocking, but it wasn't surprising.
That's because shopping has now evolved "into a modern version of Hell, with shoppers demonstrating all the etiquette of a pack of starved hyenas". Look at the way people behave in big stores, "the guerrilla tactics practised by ferocious women who link arms with their battle-axe friends to barge through crowds, the way they'll use pushchairs to create a cordon around a rack of sale blouses that they guard like lionesses over a kill".
In this frenetic world, common courtesy to staff has all but vanished, says Midgley, while shoppers taking clothes back because they've had 'second thoughts' are now quite shameless. At H&M the woman in front of Midgley in the queue emptied a carrier bag of different items, demanding a refund on them all. "'Is there anything wrong with them?' stuttered the very young assistant, politely. 'No, I've just changed my MIND,' replied the time-waster in a 'Do you want a thump?' voice."
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The most shameless customers, though, are the ones who go to Marks & Spencer. At the recent 20%-off-everything day, some "even opened Christmas gifts they had already wrapped to recoup, ooh, £4. Needless to say, this caused monster queues, ruining everyone else's day, but hey, what's life for if not to stand in a shop for three hours on your day off?"
Business is booming for adultery
A sign of the times: one business thriving now we're in recession is the adultery website, Illicit Encounters. The site's owners told the FT's Lucy Kellaway that, since September, the number of London-based males in the financial sector registering had risen by nearly 300%.
Illicit Encounters "is a Turkish bath of a place in which 230,000 mainly professional married people leer at each other through virtual steam searching for anyone who might be a suitable lover", says Kellaway. To maintain secrecy, everyone uses false names and members only release their pictures to other members they like the sound of. Men pay £119 a month to join the site, women can join for free.
Kellaway herself signed up as part of her research for a book. "While I was on the site, I noticed business seemed particularly brisk among those citing financial services as their occupation. Over and over again, I was approached by men using names such as 'Alpha123' or 'Civilised1' or 'CityGent', each telling the same story: I'm a successful banker, now with time on my hands, looking for excitement/love/romance/casual sex, etc." So why were so many senior business people responding to recession with adultery, Kellaway asked a Harvard professor. His answer? In a recession, people want hugs.
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