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Shopping Tales

Not unused to shopping
but didn't have the time or the inclination
until recently to record my adventures.


This rating is given to incidents which do not reflect well on the store concerned. Severe provocation could lead to a double award.

We should not lose sight of those stores, owners, managers and assistants, who are sensitive to customers' needs and make some effort see to them. Anyway a list consisting of nothing but gripes would be depressing and contribute to an overly negative view of the life of a shopper, which can occasionally have its uplifing moments. It would be a shame to let these go unrecognised. However, you would want to be very good to merit a double award in this category.

Earlier Times

Green Chicken

There is a class of assistant, indeed a class of store, with the attitude that every problem is the fault of the customer. If it were not for customers, all would be well. Everyone could go about their business at their own pace and follow their own inclinations.

Unfortunately, business depends on customers. Without customers there is no business. And without discerning customers who are prepared to engage with management there is no sustainable business.

Anyway, I digress. A long time ago, or fadó fadó as we are now expected to say, I bought a wrapped and disembowelled chicken, the sort that comes in plastic packing from Monaghan, in my local supermarket.

When I got home and unpacked it, its insides, or what remained of them, were distinctly green. This was very inconvenient, to say the least, as I was about to roast the fowl.

I scuttled straight back to the supermarket, convinced they would be mortified at having sold me this piece of E.coli. Not a bit of it. "When did I buy the chicken? What had I been doing with it?"

I assured them that the mere unpacking of it was unlikely to have turned it green and they reluctantly replaced it.

Mind you, I didn't know about the impending GM revolution at the time or I might have disputed the replacement. Nor did I know about how these battery chickens are reared, if you can call it that.

Vanishing Coffee

At home we drink Nestcafé Blend 37 coffee. Strong stuff, you might say, but anyway.

Again in my local supermarket I scoured the shelves for jars of this commonest of coffees. Not a trace. Went to the desk. "There is no Blend 37 on the shelf, do you have any in the store?" "No, we're out of it!" " How come?" "Oh, a lot of people buy that brand!" "Really? Wouldn't you think that would be a reason for stocking more of it?" "Oh, well, I'll put in an order for more!" "Do, and make sure you get enough while you're at it!"

Like I said, bleedin' customers!

More Recently (2005)

Gizza Job (Safeways, Caernarfon, Wales)

We were recently in Wales, in beautiful Caernarfon, staying just across the road from Safeway's, the big UK supermarket chain which has been taken over by Morrissons, another UK supermarket chain. We were very taken with the notice over the main entrance which proclaimed "As we convert to Morrisons we are creating staff vacancies". This is surely taking creativity to the degree which would not be appreciated by the original staff whose demise gave rise to the vacancies.

We also picked up an application form, for filling these same vacancies, which contained some amazing questions. One can understand why the answers might help achieve a more balanced recruitment policy but they do seem an invasion into areas of privacy and some of the "self description" categories are a bit weird eg "Irish Traveller". "White Irish", "White Other", "Other Irish".

The Northern Ireland section is something else. While asking applicants to " indicate your religion or religious allegiance", it goes on to offer answer options in terms of the perceived perception of others. " I am perceived to be a Protestant, Roman Catholic or neither". It goes on to state that failing provision of this information recourse would be had to the "residuary" method of inferring the answer from other personal information.

To be fair, it is not clear how much of this is derived from legal obligations placed on the store. You can see an extract from the form here.

Green Bananas

On a recent shopping expedition I was asked to bring home a few bananas. "No problem" you might think. But you'd think wrong. When I reached my local supermarket all I could find were the greenest of green bananas. I went to the desk. "Do you have any edible bananas?", I asked. The assistant rushed out to the banana section to provide the evidence required to answer this silly question from a stupid customer. He returned shamefaced with a bunch of green bananas. "I'm afraid this is all we have!" "How come you don't have any edible bananas?" "This is all they gave us" he said, referring to the suppliers.

"Do you realise you do not have an edible banana in your store? I was asked to bring home bananas for eating and not for rearing". I did not tell the assistant that I was very familiar with the Banana Wars currently in progress between supporters of hand grown and mass produced bananas as it did not seem relevant at the time. I left, after making it clear that I did not think customers would be particularly interested in the store's problems or those of their suppliers, but that it was astonishing that the only bananas they were selling were not edible.

It seemed to confirm a point made to me by a fellow shopper some time ago. "These places are known as 'top up shops' " she told me. "They don't even try to service the full range of consumer needs, nor do they have any consistent supply policy. They take whatever it suits the supplier to offer and that is that."

Checkout Lotto

I recently noticed some rhubarb in my local supermarket. I put it in my trolley with the rest of the stuff and brought them to the checkout. Everything bar the rhubarb went through the automatic barcode decoder. The rhubarb was not barcoded, it had not been there yesterday, and there seemed to be some question over how to register it.

"Mary, what's the number for rhubarb?" my checkout girl shouted to her colleague. "246", came the reply. 246 was duly entered and produced demi-baguettes. "Joan, can you come and do a void?" Purchase duly voided. "Mary, what's the number for rhubarb?" "I don't know, try 234." 234 produced a can of beans. "Joan, can you come and do a void?" Purchase duly voided. Meanwhile the queue was building up.

Problem was referred to a higher authority, further checked out, and, bingo - rhubarb.

Ah well, you can't beat a good flutter, particularly when you eventually hit the jackpot!

Expectations (Moore St. 1950s)

On reading over the entries above I realised that I had not awarded a merit mark to any of incidents reported. Although it refers to an incident a long long time ago I would like to correct the imbalance with the following.

Many many years ago when I was an innocent young schoolboy, I saw a sign on a fruitbarrow in Moore Street proclaiming " 5 bananas for 1/- ". Now, this seemed quite a bargain in the prices of the time, so I gave the lady my shilling and got a paper bag containing 5 bananas. On my way down Henry Street I looked into the bag and found one of the bananas was overripe to the point of being inedible. Full of righteous indignation I marched back to the lady's stall. "Your sign says five bananas for a shilling and one of these bananas is rotten" said I as indignantly as I could, only to be met with the calm and unperturbed reply "What did you expect for a shilling?"

I am giving her a merit mark purely on the grounds of her contribution to the "caveat emptor" culture and her conviction that you get what you pay for, no more, no less. And, she never even considered asking me how I managed to turn the banana black in the moments that elapsed between my buying it and returning to her stall.

More Recently Again (2011)

Material in Preparation

Don't send your problems to me.
COMPLAIN to the store.
Make them FIX IT.

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