Virtual wine and the festive pit of despair
Every year as Christmas comes closer I start to feel little pangs of sadness. I love the holidays and by the time Christmas comes, I feel really happy again, but there’s always that little thing at the back of my mind that just won’t go away, that just tugs at my heartstrings and won’t let me commit to the celebrations until I’ve done a tiny bit of grieving.
I am talking, of course, about the decline of Woolworths.
I know. It’s been years now. But it was just such a great store – and the bargain stores that have largely taken it’s place in the high street are just poor imitations – instead of CDs, they sell tinned goods. Instead of low-budget electrical equipment, they sell crap wine. But other than that, the product range is mostly the same, but somehow it is just not as good. The replacement stores are cold and heartless. Woolworths used to make a real effort with their promotions – not just stick a load of Fray Bentos pies in a bucket with a grammatically troubling sign reading “BUY 2 PIE’S GET 1 FREE” or worse.
Woolworths used to be absolutely heaving at this time of year. You could guarantee you could get all manner of last-minute gifts there, as well as the materials to wrap them, and something to munch on while you are walking back to your car. It’s demise left a giant hole in our high streets, and another one in my heart.
But the saddest thing of all is that I don’t even know if Woolworths would have a place in our high streets now – maybe it had already outstayed its welcome back when we all discovered that we didn’t have to buy CDs anymore – we could download music. And things like LoveFilm and NetFlix have made buying DVDs a thing of the past. In fact the only stores that still sell a range like Woolworths are the major supermarkets – Tesco Extra probably would have put them out of business sooner or later anyway.
Anyway, during my annual Woolworths grieving period I started thinking about the products that we used to purchase that we just download now. Last year, I sold my entire CD collection on EBay. I realised I hadn’t listened to any of them since the dawn of the iPod, and with the exception of a few that I kept to listen to in the car, I got rid of the whole lot. Now in theory, I have a bigger music collection than before, having downloaded all my CDs onto my computer first, and having downloaded a good deal of music since then from iTunes since then. Yet it doesn’t really exist anywhere physically in the way that my CD collection did. I wondered, what if wine went the same way as music and film? What if there comes a time when technology allows us to download a virtual wine in the same way we would download a track from iTunes?
This would really alter the way that we buy wine – imagine if you could just order the wine you wanted using your laptop or tablet from the comfort of your living room, and receive it instantly. I’m not sure entirely what form this virtual wine would take, but undoubtedly the key requirements would be that you would enjoy the exact aroma and flavour of your chosen wine, and depending on how much you downloaded, it would leave you feeling mildly pissed. You could order just a glass to accompany a meal, or a magnum for a dinner party which could be shared with guests using some sort of clever sharing portal software. Maybe your guests wouldn’t even have to come to your house – maybe there will come a time when all dinner parties are hosted entirely over the internet. Maybe we will dispense with any need to leave our homes eventually, and further down the line, we will only exist in cyberspace as part of the virtual world we have come to rely on so heavily. Perhaps we will not even notice it happening.
What a depressing thought!
I made a deliberate effort to pull myself out of the Woolworths depression early this year. But I couldn’t help thinking, if only we had supported them more during the recession, maybe the human race would have a three dimensional future rather than the bleak void I have just constructed in my head.
Dear reader, if like me, this article has plunged you into an (albeit festive) pit of despair, there is a solution at hand. Walk away from your PC. Switch off your iPhone. Get out of the house. Go to a real shop and buy a real product. Support your local wine merchant – remember that even the once mighty Woolworths empire started out as a single store. We have to be good to our high streets – otherwise that virtual wine that I mentioned might not be as far-fetched as you might think.
Oh, and Merry Christmas….