Consumer Confidence

20 Jan 2008

We couldn't do it. Tasked to spend £100 in the UK's greatest department store, we retreated two hours later with £70 still to our names. Harrods gift cards really mess with your value heuristic: I can't pay $70 for a pen. I just can't. Even if it's not my money.

The network of small, themed rooms made it feel more like a shopping centre than a department store; in fact, it can be difficult to buy items from one room in a different one. When I tried to finalise my purchase of an enormous, laminated world map from Books, while in Stationery, the clerk told me he couldn't scan it and I'd have to make my way back to Books. He offered me a map.

But it was standing in the food hall where I really had the feeling of living in one of the richest countries on earth, at the richest time in history. Even a hundred years ago, emperors would not have enjoyed the luxuries on offer here. Exotic, out-of-season fruits had been picked a thousand miles away and air-freighted in for my indulgence. Star fruit from Israel? Mangoes from Malaysia? Why not.

I wanted to bottle the moment and hold it against a time when things may be worse, because they'll never be better.