Take four shoppers, let’s call them A, B, and C and D. They finished their shopping in that order. You wouldn’t be reading this if they had unloaded at the check-out in that same sequence. A, so far as I know, was a faultless shopper. D had arrived at the check out next. She has unpacked some shopping, some rather nice china bowls on the conveyor belt after A’s groceries, before going off to get a cup of coffee and then finish the rest of her shopping, viz bread, butter, and cheese and milk. She’d left her trolley which had about another twenty or so items in it at the check out, presumably because at that point the conveyor belt was still full with A’s shopping. There was just enough space for those bowls.
Shopper B is me. I finish my shopping. I arrive at the check-out, see the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt, and the rest of the shopping in the trolley, and think, oh, someone’s forgotten the bread or something. And I wait. There’s nothing else to do. Minutes go by. Shopper A has now got her shopping through and is paying and getting ready to clear off out of it.
Shopper C, who has arrived a couple of minutes after me is a tall, elderly, Eastern European man.
“Have you seen this person?” asks Shopper C of me (B). He means D.
“No.” I reply.
“Have you been here long?”
“Three or four minutes.”
C is fed up. He tells me he has seen this before. I think he has seen rather a lot of things before, rather more serious than selfish behaviour at Waitrose. But this is really getting up his considerable nose.
“Do you know what we should do?”, he says, Shopper C, “Take that trolley and push it into the aisle.”.
And so that’s what we do. The moment when I release the trolley and watch it roll with it’s own kinetic force down the shampoo and minor medical supplies aisle is a uniquely pleasurable experience. C is enjoying it too.
And then I unpack my shopping. But we made a mistake. We left the nice blue bowls on the conveyor belt and at that moment Shopper D comes back, having actually now finished her staple shopping, an armful of it, and drinking a cup of coffee.
D is a well groomed woman in her thirties. Just look at her. She has a superior attitude and a sense of entitlement.
She steps in front of me. So now the order at the check-out is D, B, C. Which is clearly wrong.
“Terribly sorry,” she says to the cashier, “They had run out of cups at the coffee machine……. Where’s my trolley?”
“It’s in the aisle.” I say. “Next to the shampoo. Sling your ’ook.”
She was of Middle Eastern extraction and perhaps she didn’t understand the expression. “Oh.”, said the cashier, and started to put the blue bowls through, leaning over to me and saying, “It’s just that she got stuck at the coffee machine.”.
“She hadn’t finished her shopping.”. I protested. “She half unpacked, then went to get a coffee and THEN finished her shopping. I’m first. Serve me first. Please.”
I might not have said please. I probably did.
The cashier puts the blue bowls through the check out.
“I want the manager.” said Shopper C, in his tall, Eastern European, frustrated way. “This happens too often here. I want to know what the culture is in this shop. Is this how people are supposed to do their shopping?”
“I just had a few other things to get.”, said D, as she gets her trolley from the aisle. “Everybody does it.”.
In discussion it turned out that although we had sometimes left our shopping to get one or two items, neither of us, B or C, had done that and got ourselves a cup of coffee at the same time.
“It’s not my fault there weren’t any cups”
“No but it’s your fault you went to the coffee machine after you took a place here!”
“Everybody does it. Your coffee goes cold if you get it when you come in.”
“Don’t talk to me. Don’t say anything else to me.”
The manager, who is about 24 with a spiv moustache, is tackled by shopper C. “I want to know if this is now the normal procedure in this shop. Or is it that some people think they are better than others, that their time is of more value to them than mine to me. It seems to me that this type of person is also the type who park their enormous four wheel drive vehicles in the spaces for families with children because they are too stupid and selfish to park in normal spaces.”.
Fair point, I thought. But I wasn’t convinced that this was normal. It seemed extraordinary to me. It had been a while since I’d been in this Waitrose. It had been like a balm to me to go out and do the shopping here when all this caring business landed on my shoulders three years ago. It was an escape from the sick/madhouse. Now it was the madhouse.
Shopper D has now pushed herself in front of me (B), and is pushing my shopping back to make room for hers.
The check-out supervisor comes over and helps her. “Don’t worry Madam, don’t take any notice, let me help you with your shopping. Do you need someone to help you pack?”
“Yes of course she does.”, I say. “She’s now got to unpack the rest of her trolley as the cashier checks the first bits through. She’s not capable of packing her own shopping.”
“It’s not my fault they ran out of cups. You shouldn’t run out of cups.”. The second sentence was aimed at the Supervisor. The bitch, sorry, Shopper D, is annoyed at Waitrose for inconveniencing her with its inefficient free coffee service.
“Terribly sorry but, please don’t worry Madam, it’s fine. It’s fine. Take no notice”
“Thank you. Thank you.”, says D.
Well it is not fine with me. “It’s not fine to behave the way you do. It’s not fine at all. Supposing everyone did that? Half unpack their unfinished shopping and then go to get a coffee. The place would be in chaos. It’s not right. Don’t do it again. Get your coffee when you start your shopping. Then finish your shopping before you go to the checkout. That works fine. Can you imagine people behaving this way in LIDL?”
To be fair to her, and in retrospect, I can’t imagine Shopper D imagining anything that might take place in LIDL. And that might explain her response, through clenched teeth.
“I told you already. Don’t talk to me.”.
The increasingly annoyed Shopper C is still expressing his frustration at the Manager, who, going by the external arrangement of his facial features and gangling limbs, is finding the situation humorous. Customers, eh. This will be a good one for the staffroom. What can be done? Nothing. It’s not an issue, just a shopper who had forgotten a couple of items.
“You are laughing at me. You are not taking this seriously!”
The manager is definitely smirking.
The check-out supervisor offers to open up a new check-out for us.
We are unanimous, C and I, (or B, if you are lost in lettering). “No thank you. We just want this one to be managed properly. ”
D hisses, “I was here first and I only went to get a coffee.”.
“Oh dear. Madam, it’s fine. I hope this hasn’t spoiled your shopping.”
Shopper D is leaving.
“IT’S NOT FINE.”, I say. I definitely don’t want this D woman to think this is fine.
“Goodbye Madam. Hello Madam, so sorry to keep you waiting. Do you need any help with your shopping? Have you got your MyWaitrose Card ready?”
I go back in to Waitrose a couple of days later.
I do my shopping. I think I finish. I approach the checkout. I remember a few more items, and I push my trolley over to the fresh pasta, pesto, other stuff, and then come back to the same checkout which now has an unattended basket travelling down the conveyor belt.
I can’t believe it. I am Mr. Meldrew.
An elderly Indian man appears with his arms full of shopping. About ten items. More than are in his basket.
“You can’t do this!” I say. “You can’t dump a basket on the check out and THEN GO AND FINISH YOUR SHOPPING!”
“Everybody does it.” He says. “It happens all the time. People even get their coffee after they’ve put their stuff down on the conveyor belt.”
I turn round, saying “So this is a thing. Is it me or is everything shit?” to no-one in particular when I see that the lady behind me in this excuse for a queue is my very glum looking ex-manager from a long-time gone.
“Yes it is.” She said. “I’ve just had my purse pinched in the High Street. Could you look after my trolley while I pick up a couple of bits?”.
This time I complained to the manager, who, at the age of 12, had never heard of this happening before. He would speak to the cashiers and make sure it never happened again.