April Fool’s Day is still a few weeks away, but some of the headlines this week had me wondering whether our newspapers were having a trial run. There was Lucinda Lambton in The Independent, declaring “Public WCs were once Britain’s pride and glory”, as another symbol of our nation’s proud heritage goes down the crapper. It’s those damn cuts, of course.
Then there was The Guardian, showcasing the unusual dietary habits of mum Debbie Taylor, “I’ve eaten only crisps for the past 10 years”. It’s a confession that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever looked at their plate of meat and two veg and thought “Nah, I think I’ll have a six-pack of Hula Hoops instead”. I know I shouldn’t be making light of Debbie’s affliction, but there was something about that opening paragraph: “I’m not a fan of the cooked meal. I’m much happier with Monster Munch crisps – beef flavour.” that made me want to laugh.
Only hours after reading about Debbie’s love affair with potato chips, I had an even bigger surprise when I belatedly realised that Amazon UK is flogging crisps alongside books, iPods and those ubiquitous digital reading devices. Yes, Amazon’s new online Grocery Store is, as they say, “in beta”. So while you’re busy downloading the “explicit” and doubtless unsavoury versions of “Do It Like a Dude” and “F**kin’ Perfect”, you can also stock up on savoury snacks, cat food and Lucky Charms.
It makes sense that Amazon wants to expand its plans for total world domination by selling us everything we need for our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. So, you’ve already invested in your flat-screen TV, Blu-ray player and enough boxed sets to see you through to next Christmas. The only thing you’re going to be exercising over the next few months is your credit card, right?
But before you get sucked into the magical world of HBO, Showtime or FX, make sure you’ve got enough salt, fat and artificial additives to keep you going. A 48-pack of Walkers Crisps (Worcester Sauce flavour) from Amazon UK (price just £10.28) should see you through a few of episodes of Dexter or Mad Men. To put it another way, it should be enough for two or three gruesome serial killings and approximately one and half Don Draper affairs.
Of course, Amazon customers in the US have been enjoying this facility for some time and I note that the Amazon.com website has a section for “Natural and Organic”. But I wonder whether those American customers have embraced the Amazon user review section with quite as much enthusiasm as their British counterparts. Fans of online retailing will already know that an important element of any purchase — large or small — is reading the ratings and reviews from other customers. If you want a crash course in nerdiness, check out the reviews of iPhone screen protectors and the ramblings of those obsessive compulsives who spend their lives trying to get them on straight.
Allowing customers to critique the groceries is a whole new ball game, though. But if the comments on the Walkers Crisps (Roast Chicken) are anything to go by, I think Amazon will be my first port of call next time I’m in need of a good laugh. As you scroll down, take a moment to peruse the “Product Specifications” — the important data you usually ignore in your haste to open the bag and get crunching.
Here’s a purchaser who rejoices in the nom de plume of “Benny Linguini” from Bath, who writes: “I am surprised that no one has mentioned that one reason to buy such a large bulk order of Walkers Roast Chicken crisps for domestic use would be to create a crisp blanket.” Though his DIY duvet wouldn’t keep you warm during those long winter nights, he claims it would be fine for spring and summer, providing “perfectly adequate insulation with the added bonus of an on-hand nighttime snack in small, manageable portions”.
Another user notes that “18% of people who view this item go on to select The Einstein Theory of Relativity by H.A. Lorentz. Chicken is not my favourite flavour of crisps, but perhaps once I have mastered Relativity (both Special and General) my opinion will have changed.” Thought-provoking stuff.
But my favourite contribution comes from the contributor who titles his/her 2-star review “they were better in vinyl”. Apparently 47 out of 54 people found this cryptic comment on potato chips useful: “I preferred their earlier stuff. This was all a bit too experimental for my tastes.”
The sight of British humour let loose on the humble British crisp is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a winning combination. Thank-you, Amazon.