Monday will be the busiest day of the year for Britain's online retailers, according to the internet industry body, IMRG. In America, the annual retail bunfights are dictated by Thanksgiving Weekend: the shops go discount-crazy and everyone ploughs in to buy gifts and pull hair, in the true spirit of Christmas. I once asked a shop assistant how the frenzy had gone, and she said it hadn't been too bad in her department, compared with Menswear, where someone had been stabbed with a shoe. Imagine wanting a tie that badly, and simultaneously creating such an impressive pun on the stiletto heel. I don't think I've ever wanted anything enough to stab someone with a shoe.
In the UK, we have a more casual attitude to our Christmas shopping, because we don't have an appropriate bank holiday in place. The last time anyone was off work was October half-term, and no-one Christmas shops in October unless they want to spend all of November and December grinding their teeth as John Lewis suddenly discounts everything they've already bought. So our big Christmas purchasing day is simply caused by the hive-mind. We've vaguely seen the Christmas trees and lights on everywhere. We scoff an advent calendar chocolate and notice that it really is less than three weeks till Christmas. We collectively choke on the chocolate, and start making mental notes of people we need to get presents for.
We head to the shops, then remember it's the first Saturday in December. The queues are long. The fitting rooms are full. The tills are half-closed, and one is making an incessant pinging noise. We consider crying. We run away, with precisely no presents bought. By Monday, we feel kind of bad about this. We head into work, and then we remember the internet. That's why we all suddenly descend on Amazon on the same day, like the Midwich Cuckoos would have, had they needed a box-set of David Attenborough's Life for their dad.
Internet shopping is the saviour of anyone who has ever moaned about Christmas. There are no crowds, no hassle, and no humanity involved at all. We can buy things for people we love without secretly resenting them for having been born. That's something we value above all things at this time of year: why else would we have been so grouchy about the threat of pre-Christmas postal strikes? We don't care about missing Christmas cards, we just want that parcel to arrive from Play.com.
And people buy better presents online: the temptation to succumb to a pair of moose-shaped slippers is much lower when you can't see them in real life. So shops can't palm tat we don't want onto our kindly relatives, and instead, we get a good book. Plus there are no receipts, which means no clogging up the shops during the sales, trying to exchange something. Unwanted stuff can just go straight to the charity shop. Everyone wins.