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Deliveroo wants to take over from Father Christmas – I can’t think of anything more bleak

Deliveroo is expanding into offering DIY tools, toys and gifts to combat falling orders
Deliveroo is expanding into offering DIY tools, toys and gifts to combat falling orders - ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS

HO HO – OH. Bad festive news folks. You know how Elon Musk says we won’t need to work in the future when artificial intelligence subsumes all human activity? Even the fun stuff, like decking the halls and being jolly?

Well, sorry to bring you the very worst sort of seasonal tidings but it looks like Father Christmas himself is facing the existential threat of redundancy sooner rather than later.

Frankly he’ll be lucky to keep his zero-hours gig for much longer as Rudolf hangs up his harness and the sleigh bells fall silent. Tradition is being swept aside by technology, and I’m not certain how or even if we can call a halt.

The way things are going we won’t be leaving a tumbler of whisky and a slice of Yule log by the fireplace because here on in, it’s all about accepting cookies online.

Deliveroo is reinventing itself as the ultimate anti-Santa. The dystopian doorstep service will no longer be just a one-stop source of lukewarm pizza margheritas and burritos assembled in a dark kitchen somewhere on that industrial estate off the bypass.

It has announced an expansion into DIY tools, toys and gifts in a bid to boost its flagging growth rate, which has been hit by a credit-crunched fall in orders.

Especially in my house, much to the chagrin of my nearest and dearest. It’s no secret that I believe it is wicked and lazy to have food delivered.

And especially especially when I can rustle up a delicious curry in under three hours, if someone pops to the corner shop for cumin.

But nobody wants to pop out anywhere anymore do they? Or get dressed. Even midweek. Pathetic, pitiful – infuriating!

Deliveroo has sensed our moral weakness and is determined to exploit it, which is why customers will soon be able to order drills, electronics, Lego and beauty products through the takeaway app.

There’s a range of 500 home improvement tools from retailer Screwfix and Christmas bits and pieces courtesy of Boots. I say courtesy but it ain’t free, none of it.

Deliveroo has said it wants to provide “a quick solution to issues at home from plumbing, electrical, decorating and more”. Orders will be delivered by its network of around 80,000 riders; and do make sure you tip them because no word of a lie, these couriers will be the ones inheriting the earth once the rest of us are all too fat, feeble and freaked out to contemplate leaving the house ever again.

Deliveroo, in its great corporate magnanimity, is also introducing the option to “gift” items like flowers and so forth to be delivered to friends and family ahead of Christmas. How bleak is that?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of traipsing endlessly up and down the high street in search of the perfect present – although it’s a lot more pleasant now I’ve taken to wheeling a capacious old-lady trolley I bought for £15 at the market.

Yes, my family sneered initially – but soon changed their tune when I disgorged an entire week’s shopping, including the ingredients for a full roast with wine, followed by an enormous pot plant and a Mary Poppins-style coat stand. But I digress.

There are two kinds of Christmas shopping. I happily turn to the internet for the stuff my daughters want – now they no longer send lists up the chimney, they judiciously furnish me with links, as is the modern way – I’m not a complete Luddite. I’ve got Amazon Prime, for pity’s sake.

But that leaves more time and energy for the merry thoughtful bits-and-bobs shopping, where I can browse and chit-chat with independent retailers while rising to the (increasingly daunting) challenge of sweetly expressing my friendship and affection for 15 quid or less per head.

Sorry, I’m just telling it like it is. Even magic moments have a price tag. Christmas has always been about commerce; it’s the personal input that brings the real joy.

By comparison the prospect of an anonymous helmeted takeaway driver dropping off season’s greetings on anyone’s threshold has a depressingly transactional ring.

So this year, let’s shop local a little more. It’s twinklier and shows both retailers and recipients that you care. And if you invest in a trolley, you can provide your own doorstep deliveries for free.