'Postcode!' drawls the woman behind the counter.
I recite it.
I recite it.
'What's the house number there, please?'
I would be happy to provide my address if I were renewing my car tax disc. I would be happy to provide it if I were drawing up a will, buying a mortgage or stocking the larder online. I do not, however, expect to provide it when I am buying a top from White Stuff. I have to, explains the woman, so that she can check I'm on their database. And I need to be on the database to ensure that I receive regular postcards of new catalogues and special offers so that my single guilty indulgence can be multiplied into a dangerous weekly shopping habit.
Next I visit my bank to pay in a cheque. 'Postcode?' says the woman behind the counter. I recite it. I assume it's a security safeguard. As I turn to go, her face irradiates. 'The screen is telling me that you live in an area that qualifies for a low insurance premium.'
This surprises me since two neighbours' cars have just their windows smashed in. I decline to be excited and her face falls. Then it ignites again. 'The screen is telling me that you qualify for a loan at reduced rates,' she says.
This surprises me too. Banks clearly have learned nothing from the credit crunch. At the next counter a customer's postcode has prompted the same happy tidings and she tells the cashier that a loan might realise her dream of a new kitchen.
I step into Body Shop to buy the glutinous unguents that shore up my face. I am told that if I provide my address and an extra fistful of cash I can acquire a membership card and that, with the stroke of a biro, I can help end child sex trafficking.
Finally I reach Greggs and buy a loaf. I hand over my loose change and the assistant hands over the bread. She has not the slightest interest in my postcode or my commitment to global injustice.
Man, the good Book tells you, cannot exist on bread alone, but after this shopping experience I shall jolly well give it a try.