A Curious Shopping Experience

You may be familiar with the film Groundhog Day or perhaps like me you recall it’s something to do with small furry slightly chubby animals who pop randomly on mass from holes in the ground. It’s got that American actor in, you know the one – oh you do – he was in that film about [insert chosen subject] – he’s got a brother whose also an actor, yes the one with the drug habit (like there’s only one lady) – oh come on you know, hang on it’ll come to me, yes he was in that film with the younger American actress – she’s got an unusual name, like a gem stone, and she advertises perfume (again lady is there only one? And no we’re not talking Charlise Thuron (probably misspelt)) – yeh that film’s set in a hotel room and they never seem to leave the hotel, or even the bedroom for that matter, yeh the decor was a bit drab, you know dark, well that could have been the lighting – etc etc. You get my drift and irritatingly I now feel the need to find out the name of that last film; Google is great but I’m sensing I may need more details to avoid an overly complex multilayered search. One that feels like virtual pass the parcel!

Last week I went a number of times to Morrisions on account of not quite having remembered what precisely I needed augmenting the little note left for me by the Friday Fairy. For once the latter doesn’t include Flash Ahha as per the advert – it always makes us smile! The first visit was peppered with the following little vignettes as if scripted independently with ample room for ad libing. Turning round the corner I narrowly avoid ramming my single person trolley into a small crowd all of whom are starring at the ceiling. I look up to see a Thomas the Tank Engine helium balloon gently bobbing as if giggling ‘ha ha ha! Told you!’ Next to the balloon is the end of a broom the bristles paw like batting Thomas from side to side.

At ground level is a tall robustly built gentleman in Morrisions striped apron and uniform; it is his outstretch arm that is holding the broom handle. With his generous beard he resembles the fat controller and is revelling in the attention! The owner of the balloon is one of two women pushing a full pushchair; both are in a heighted state of anxiety meets adoration. ‘I don’t know what happened, one minute it was tied to the handle and the next it was gone! We tried to catch it but it were too quick! He’s going to be gutted if I get to the school and there’s no Thomas, I don’t know what I’ll do?’

Thankfully neither the mother or I will have to find out how she would have placated the anonymous child because our Hero (in the apron) saved the day. He hooked the balloon and firmly tied it to the pushchair handle accompanied by a round of applause from the assembled crowd. Overwhelmed by sniggering I exited stage right into an aisle that held nothing I needed! Indeed I thought to myself that was service because the balloon was nothing to do with Morrisons – the kindness of strangers once more or should I say Big Society? No Mr C bugger off; we in Barry look after our own and we don’t need the likes of you Posh Boys taking credit for everything we do that’s good and p*ssing on everything you don’t value!

Arriving at the checkout I find myself behind a woman with a mercifully small load; great I’ll be home in half an hour I think but how wrong was I. Usually I don’t pay attention to what’s going on as I am paranoid about ‘being disabled’ and getting in the way by being too slow. Standing time in the queue is for planning a swift exit. On the occasion I for some reason watch the Checkout Operator who seems a little overwhelmed by initially by a priceless Savoy cabbage; she turns the light on the ask for someone to go and find out the price but the operator on the till behind her quickly intervenes to tell her to switch the light off as the till has all the prices on it to avoid bothered’them’ (nodding towards the supervisors). Putting on the glasses around her neck on a cord she literally takes a deep breath and puts her hand on her chest as if to calm herself.

Eventually the price is found and the cabbage placed behind the till. After a few seconds – during which a few explanatory comments are shared with me and the woman who is buying the Savoy cabbage – as the Checkout Operator laughs nervously in my direction I smile and say ‘are you going to give her the cabbage?’ Laughing she reaches for the cabbage and the shopper in front raises an eyebrow in my direction. And then we get to the tricky bit: paying for the good with a combination  of cash and vouchers. This results in more flustering as the vouchers are counted (twice – there are three). Whilst counting the vouchers the cash is placed on the scanner. Opening the till to put the vouchers away for some reason the Checkout lady gets a £5 note out which she proceeds to include in counting up the cash given by the shopper in front! Entering £5 too much into the till she then tries to give the shopper more change than she is due – at this point I decide to enter the conversation explaining what has happened and how much change is due – the relief on faces of both the Checkout Operator and the shopper in front is immense. The Checkout lady thanks me profusely and asks if I’d like to come round the other side of the counter! I didn’t have the heart to tell her that when they cashed up in the evening it would look like they had £5 too much (on the till roll not in the till).

On the way out I stop to buy cigarettes – the goods are now behind doors as the change in the law is due in December along with plain packaging. No under 16s can be exposed to the packages just in case the images/brands alone entice a purchase! I am told by the Checkout lady who knows my regular purchase that they have been told they can no longer stock up whilst there are customers in the shop! Later that week I have one of those ‘only in Wales moments; I meet an ex-colleague with his wife and their small offspring. I’m telling them about one of the women in the Women in Pregnancy Project who had given birth to the biggest baby in Wales this year (13plus lbs) and he says ‘oh was that in June the midwives were telling us all about her when Max (their baby) was born! And then I’m asking how his wife is getting on at work and she tells me she’s been promoted to head up the Tobacco Control policy section in the Welsh Government. He unhelpfully asks if I still partake of the ‘evil weed’ to which to give my stock response that the VAT on my cigarettes more than pays for my health care!

When I comment on what I’d been told in Morrisons my colleague’s wife laughs and says that there are exemptions covering (the matter of replenishing stock) in the regulations. As I wave good bye I consider whether I’ll tell the Morrisons ladies the good news; such potential one upmanship could risk damaging my cosy shopping experience so I think better of it. Next time I am buying cigarettes they need to get more from ‘out the back’ so as usual these resourceful ladies have found a pragmatic solution! They just get the goods. Not so much ‘make do and mend’ as ‘see no evil hear no evil’ akin to my mantra ‘don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear the answer to’.

And finally when I am shopping a few days later at a quiet time of day the Checkout lady and I are discussing the Christmas voucher scheme i.e. how to get the most out of it. On this occasion I am purchasing Christmas present alcohol and have a large load as it were. Every time the shopping reaches £40 she gets me to pay so I get the voucher thereby enabling me to get the most out of the scheme! I like your style lady please tell me where your supervisor is so I can tell her how excellent your customer service is! Believe me as a ‘disabled’ shopper the patient Checkout Operator makes all the difference.

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Filed under Musings of a Contemporary Spinster

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