Lukanyo Mnyanda.
Lukanyo Mnyanda.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

It’s almost that time of the year, and I’m thinking about things I’d rather not do. After years of being spoilt with reliable and cheap data, and a functioning postal service in the UK, I’m having nightmares about doing Christmas shopping in person, rather than online. Buying the basic necessities has proven to be painful enough.

Just more than a decade ago, going to the movies used to be my favourite thing to do at this time of the year, as I tended to be in the minority that didn’t run off to the Cape for the whole of December. Cinema Nouveau used to be a favourite: with that Tribeca bar-restaurant attached, it made the outing about more than just the movies. I went back there recently, and the experience made me think I should stick with Netflix. For one thing, the bar is gone and the best you can hope for is popcorn and Coca-Cola. In my day, Cinema Nouveau — that’s the one in Rosebank — was always buzzing. Now it’s a soulless spot with a boarded up bank branch opposite.

And the movie experience — a disaster. Projector out of place, faces off screen, silence, and finally … I’m a kid again, it’s 1980, and I’m staring at a test pattern. No word until one of the patrons walks out to find out what’s going on. A few minutes later someone who seemingly works there walks in, looks at the customers for a while, and then walks out again without a word.

Why can’t President Cyril Ramaphosa get on with it and slash the cost of data already?

If traditional cinemas really think they have any chance of persuading the younger generation to forsake the ease and value for money of streaming services, they are going to need to do a lot better. And the older people aren’t impressed either. They’re a demographic that has time, money, and still appreciates the joys of watching a movie on a big screen. Annoying them doesn’t seem to be a winning business strategy.

Cinemas aren’t the only places that don’t seem to be made for the modern age. Have you tried shopping at Woolworths lately and attempted to use one of the “express” checkouts? Actually, whenever I stand in a Woolworths queue, I wonder whether any of its managers actually shop there, and realise how long it takes to snake your way along and hand over your cash. Perhaps it’s my branch that’s no good.

As a friend said, Woolworths charges a premium, but seems not to have any respect for your time. In my little area, there’s also a Pick n Pay. Not much better. You don’t want to go there on a Friday afternoon and buy a couple of things. It’ll just mean spending what seems like a lifetime waiting in the express-till queue, manned by one person.

While I’m at it: why can’t President Cyril Ramaphosa get on with it and slash the cost of data already? And if they get their act together, CEO Mark Barnes and the Post Office will make a fortune. Two gifts I’d like this Christmas.

- Mnyanda is the editor of Business Day. He’s enjoying being back in South Africa after his time in the UK, but is missing the Royal Mail

- From the December edition of Wanted.

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