As I walked down to the Burberry shop on Bond Street I paused outside Smythson and flirted with the idea of looking in Smythson. They appear to do nice things and it’s a brand that even I have heard of.
To check though — and on the off chance — I thought I’d Whatsapp my wife. I took a snap of the Smythson window as I stood outside, the rain pouring in. I was having to hold the iPhone almost vertical so that the raindrops didn’t interfere too much with the touchscreen. I sent the snap off to my wife. It’s pretty fast with Whatsapp nowadays, especially thanks to the Vodafone 4G.
She was ‘online’ with Whatsapp so came back to me immediately with, “Oh, interesting.”
“See anything you like?” I asked.
“The clutch-bag is interesting, but I don’t like the colour,” she replied.
That was enough encouragement for me to pop inside and have a look around.
My wife and I have what I consider to be a seriously healthy arrangement when it comes to presents: She tells me what works. She’ll define a narrow operating window where the risk for me is minimalised, ergo I am guaranteed to win. We implemented this methodology after I flew back in from San Francisco one weekend — windswept, you understand — with a Burberry handbag just 18 hours old, wrapped, bow, everything. The folk at the Burberry store just off Union Square had assured me that based on my wife’s (fiancé at that point) preferences, this particular model would rock.
She hated it.
Indeed I think I was actually back at the Bond Street Burberry store almost 32 hours after visiting the SF store getting a refund.
Previously I’ve gone so far as to email photos of potential purchases to my wife to let her have the ultimate choice (and dramatically de-risk the gifting process). My wife has enthusiastically the experience. I did the same again in Beijing when I was thinking of buying some UGGs for her.
But I decided to kick things up a gear this evening.
I went into Smythson and had a look around. After a respectable amount of time, Vicky approached and asked if I needed help.
I explained I was after a clutch bag. I had a rough idea what one was, but I asked her to define the concept and give me some examples. I had a brief examine of a few models and then started the Whatsapp process.
Across about 10 minutes I wondered around the store with Vicky doing a stirring job interacting with my wife, through me (on Whatsapp). After about 5 minutes, Vicky had got my wife’s preferences narrowed down to just one model. Seriously, seriously impressive.
I was just the conduit. My wife was at home comforting our youngest who had a temperature on account of getting a vaccination earlier in the day. I took copious amounts of ‘Whatsapps’ and Vicky even suggested photographing one bag against one of the gorgeous navy armchairs in the store, to help my wife perceive the colour of the final choice.
I could feel the squeals of excitement down the wire from my wife.
I bought the bag and a few moments later I snapped a photo of the Smythson bag and Whatsapped it.
Now, I recognise that my wife and I are what you might term an ‘edge case’, however I was interested to note that Vicky from Smythson didn’t bat an eyelid at the purchase process I adopted. She was entirely accommodating — as though shopping-by-Whatsapp is routine. Who knows? Maybe it is. I should have asked!
I can’t recommend this for everyone though. I was rather concerned that the shop might object to me taking photos of everything. I did get some rather annoyed glances when I took a shot of some bags earlier in the evening in Selfridges.
I should also highlight — if it’s not already painfully evident for many of the men reading — that some women will react seriously badly to this approach. Some of my female friends would have been horrified at the apparent lack of thought and ingenuity on my part. It’s almost like phoning it in. Well, it’s almost literally that.
Would you rather have the exact bag you want, or the one that you sort of like? I don’t know.
I’m pleased to have won. My wife is delighted. The surprise was my Whatsapp message. The excitement on her part was rendered across 10-15 minutes and she played an integral part in the experience.
We’ve got the technology nowadays — and the speed — to make this sort of process real-time.
If I was thinking rightly, I could have actually done a FaceTime with my wife. However that could have been a bit more… invasive. As it was, with Whatsapp I was able to fit within the ambience of the Smythson store.
So there you have it: Whatsapp-enabled Christmas shopping.
Have you tried it?
[PS: Ask for Vicky at the Smythson Bond Street Store and she'll help you out.]