August 22nd, 2013


Unfree Market

Supermarket etiquette is always fascinating, especially when it intersects with the not-so-gentle art of queuing. I had a rather unsettling experience a couple of days ago, which I'm still brooding over and would appreciate your take on.

I was doing a little shopping for my mother at the local Waitrose. At the end of my shop, having just a basket, I went to the basket-only queue - but there were quite a lot of people there so I decided to try my luck at one of the other check-outs. Sure enough, some three aisles away someone was just paying with no queue behind her, so I went to position myself next in line.

As I did so, though, I was shooed away by a member of staff, who said - "There are people in the basket queue who've been waiting longer than you", and proceeded to call across the intervening aisles to invite a few of them down to stand in front of me. Increasingly awkward seconds elapsed, as the dull-witted and bovine basket folk stood obliviously in their queue. I for my part was beginning to get a bit irritated. "Let Grill be Grill, and have his hoggish mind, But let us sail, whilst weather serves and wind", was what I was thinking - but what I actually said was, "I'd quite like to pay for my shopping, please." Harsh words, I know, but I felt I had been sorely provoked - by the officious delay, yes, but far more by the apparent imputation that by finding an aisle with no queue I was somehow pushing in. That, as we know, is the worst insult an English person can receive.

In the end she gave up, and deigned to let me spend my money, but I felt sullied and dishonoured, and all the joy had gone from my 2-for-1s.

Has anyone else had an experience like this? Did I behave badly? Did she?