Like anyone who has worked in any industry for a length of time, you pick up things. One of the many tricks I learned in almost twenty years of retail
work and management, is when not
to go shopping. There’s times of the day and night you are simply mad to go in and do a shop, times when
there are no one around and times when you will simply be pulling your hair out dodging other shoppers and generally muttering profanities under your
breath, trying your hardest not to throttle them.
One of the times that it is best to shop is right after the store opens. Most supermarkets in Australia, at least in country areas, open around 7am.
For the first three hours or so the place is practically deserted, and you can pretty much do your shopping in peace. This tends to get a little
busier up until around 11am, when you have the first ‘rush’ of the day. This usually coincides with the school drop-off, where parents drop their
kids off at school, have the usual morning gossip with their friends, and then go shopping. By around 11, they all line up at the checkouts at once,
and from there things go downhill. For anyone who has ever been on the other side of the checkout, the hostility is almost frightening.
For some unknown reason, people who are made to wait, even for a few minutes in a supermarket environment, turn into hideous raving monsters, or even
worse, rabid dogs, snapping, barking and generally foaming at the mouth at the injustice of it all.
So this weekend just past, I made a terrible error in judgement, one that showed me just how far the attitude towards the humble retail employee has
fallen since my departure from the industry.
I slept in.
Now mind you, this was only a 9am sleep in, but for someone who is used to rising around 530-6am, this was quite a feat. I blame all the recent events
going on in my life just finally catching up, and a very rare empty house, as both of my girls were away at friends.
Sitting over my rather late morning Iced Coffee, I toyed with the idea of leaving the shopping until after lunch, the second ‘smart’ time to go
shopping. After the 11am rush, it generally goes dead after lunch, once everyone has been and gone, got their lunch, their food, gone home and gone
back to work. If you want peaceful shopping, get in now, because at around 4pm, the second rush begins, coinciding with the after school dinner rush.
is the rush you want to avoid unless you enjoy abuse and mosh pits, not to mention waiting.
Unfortunately for me, my kids were returning shortly before this time, and my fridge kind of resembled Mother Hubbard’s, and trust me, my kids come
home to an empty fridge and I’d rather take my chances in the 4pm rush.
So I set about convincing myself that it couldn’t be that bad, and maybe, just maybe I’d be ok. So armed with a belly full of caffeine and a
well-slept mind, off I went.
I swear the people who plan shopping malls make the car parks based on about a tenth of the population of the town. After parking on a lawn area about
five miles from the actual supermarket (thank god for 4x4s), I walked into a rock concert of shopping trollies, screaming kids and mindless drones
clearing the shelves at an alarming rate while complaining their favourite product wasn’t there, there were too many people, etc, etc. Taking a deep
breath, while fighting down the urge to about face and just get the hell out of there, I pressed on and entered the supermarket.
This is where I realised people somehow
drive trollies worse than they drive cars. They cut in front of you with no warning, stand with their
trollies sticking out into the aisle while endlessly browsing, and walk three and four abreast down the aisle at a snail’s pace, stopping and
turning without warning or even bothering to look, and generally giving you filthy looks for being in their
way. Now this isn’t some inner
city rat race supermarket, this is rural Queensland! Add to that the masses of screaming kids running up and down the aisle at full speed, and it
makes you wonder how there isn’t just some pile up of twisted bodies and broken metal in the centre of each aisle.
After half an hour or so of ducking and running through shelves, dodging people left and right, I finally made it to the checkouts. Of course,
there’s a mass line-up of people. Now I’ll give this to the supermarket, they had many checkouts open to handle the influx, and only had two out
of sixteen that didn’t have someone manning them. Now, like anyone, I hate waiting. Call it impatience, call it just wanting get the hell away from
this noise and chaos, but I’d come this far, and knew full well the consequences of my sleep in, so I parked in behind two others, and waited,
trying to think of quiet and nice things while I did so.
It wasn’t long before you could start to pick out the idiotic comments from people standing in line waiting. After a few minutes I heard a customer
call over the supervisor, asking for a replacement. The girl came over, to which this loud-mouthed moron stated;
“I need a replacement on this operator. He’s too slow!” Now this woman had been waiting all of five minutes to get served, and surely must have
had some clue that coming here on the busiest part of day, on the busiest day of the week would lead.
This kid was all of 15-16, and frankly was doing his best to be polite and friendly towards the people he served. Granted, he wasn’t racing through
the items at warp speed, but compared to some of the dullards I have been served by over the years, he was doing ok.
After this I noticed another shopper pacing up and down the line up, every time he passed me, he very loudly and rudely stated “I always come here
and every time I have to wait. It’s ridiculous; they should look after their customers better.” After the fourth or so smart mouth comment he
settled in the line next to me, and continued to basically bitch about having to wait. After a few minutes of this, I had had enough.
“Did it ever occur to you this is all they have that can serve on registers? That they’re doing the best they can?” Part of me wished I hadn’t
opened my mouth so bluntly to a total stranger, but I’ve never been one to hold back, thoughts or otherwise. This guy, and several others within
earshot stopped dead, turning their voracious eyes on me. Too late to back out now. He opened his mouth, no doubt to utter some smart mouth remark, I
jumped in first.
“You people amaze me. Every week you come here in the busiest part of the day, on the busiest day of the week, and bitch and complain at the
service. Yet you go into a bank, a post office, a government building, and you sit and wait, and never complain once. These people are doing their
best to serve you. Maybe you should just shut up and wait your goddamned turn!”