Capitalism’s great trick is to make us long for the useless and unnecessary. Under the bright lights, I felt that itch starting up
All I can say is that I should have known better. No, my decision to visit the branch of Amazon Fresh that has just opened near where I live was not at all a good match for the sweeping month-long programme of mindfulness and joy-sparking I tentatively set in motion for myself on 1 January. But there I was all the same, curiosity having got the better of me. And yes, the result was predictably awful. As any wellness guru worth the name could doubtless have told me, this way lay simmering despair and an almost overwhelming desire to buy a packet of Jacob’s Mini Cheddars.
I still have no idea how Amazon got the go-ahead to set up a branch of the grocery wing of its rampaging empire in the grade-II listed building it now inhabits: an old tram depot that when I first came to this part of London was the home of lots of little antique shops (RIP). There was, I seem to remember, a bit of a kerfuffle over its alcohol licence, but in the end it got the green light, in spite of the fact that there are already three large supermarkets mere metres away. Now it stands there rather mournfully, its lurid sign seemingly aiming to attract either those who simply cannot be bothered to cross the road, or those who prefer to keep on their headphones as they shop. (Amazon Fresh’s USP is that it has no tills, so customers need not speak to a single soul.) This, I have read, is one of 10 branches in the capital so far; by 2025, the company hopes to have 260 across the UK.