A trip to Italy earlier this week gave me the opportunity to sample the delights of Heathrow Terminal 5.

T5 has quickly become a byword for system failure, but the IT all seemed to be up and running on Monday morning.

So this won’t be another rant about BA or BAA. Actually, on the travel front, it all performed rather well.

A queue of less than a minute for a self-service check-in was followed with a clear and concise user interface on the machine itself. I was able to choose my seat and offered the option of printing an itinerary, as well as the boarding card.

However, I was only travelling with hand luggage, so I can’t comment on whether the much-documented luggage system issues have been ironed out. No, my gripe was with the shopping; or, more specifically, store staff.

I’ve had lots of messages in my inbox in the past few months from IT vendors keen to talk about their technology that’s been used within the terminal’s stores. Mixed in with the new formats and styling that some retailers have chosen, it should have made for an exciting and enjoyable experience.

But within minutes of arriving airside, I had heard all about how much one bookstore assistant can drink without getting a hangover. I wasn’t impressed and, frankly, neither was his colleague, although clearly the banter wasn’t boring her enough to make an effort to get up and assist me.

Next up was a beauty counter assistant opining on her manager’s demands that she give some notice of taking a holiday. Again, customers appeared invisible and any hope of personal service drew a blank.

Then I was subjected to the lewd opinions (on each other, luckily, not on me) of a group of contractors taking an early lunch break on the passenger seating.

It was hardly world-class retail theatre – more like a Punch and Judy show.

From a consumer’s perspective, the most noticeable problem was the glaring difference between the service at check-in and the service – or rather lack of – in many of the shops.

T5 should be aiming to match the service levels that shoppers receive in the best of London’s – and the rest of the world’s – stores.

It might have had a shaky start, but on Monday morning the technology at T5 was winning over the supposedly personal service hands down.