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Supermarket Madness

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

Supermarkets – nearly all of us go there. What drives you nuts? Check out this list of super frustrations and see if you can add any new ones.

Express Checkouts – There is no clearer indication of declining educational standards in English and numeracy than many peoples inability to count if they have the required number of items or less that qualifies them for entry to the express checkout. There has been little research done on this phenomenon so we are unsure if they are unable to read the large signs explaining the requirements or they simply cannot count beyond 12. Either way it is a constant source of frustration that is only added to when many checkout operators won’t send them packing and serve them anyway.
While we are on the subject of express checkouts, the new craze of self service express checkouts sweeping the country is just bizarre. In the old days we would go to the local shop and be individually served by the grocer who would gather up everything we needed. It was affordable and no one starved. Supermarkets came along whereby we had to serve ourselves. This had the carrot of a wider range of goods that were supposedly cheaper. Now we have the trend of Shop n Go and self service checkouts where we have to get the goods ourselves then sell them to ourselves.  So in the evolution of food retailing we have gone from being waited upon and assisted every step of the way, to having to do all the work ourselves then charge ourselves for it.
So what is the next step? Do we have to grow the food, package it and market it as well? Where will this madness end?  The only good I can see out of this whole self service lark is that there are some people out there with a secret fetish for working as a checkout operator who can fulfil their fantasy while not having to give up the higher paying day job.
Smokers – now don’t get me wrong some of my best friends are smokers. But when it comes to supermarket checkout queues and cigarettes the world grinds to a halt. It is an undeniable fact that it is easier to launch a nuclear missile than buy a packet of cigarettes at a supermarket. The checkout operator has to go and see the supervisor. The supervisor has to go to the vault. If they can remember what the combination was for the day and find the right key then eventually the operator meanders back with a packet. All the time that this is going on the rest of the world has to press the pause button. The people behind the smoker in the queue are forced to stand and wait as their life passes them by. The icing on the cake is when the smoker declares that they asked for low tar not the mild packet that the operator has returned with.    
The Basics – When it comes to Milk, bread, booze and meat, it is well known that supermarkets deliberately position the essentials as far apart as possible so we are forced to walk past every other item they have for sale during our journey. I guess it is a legitimate tactic, but when we are in a hurry and only want a loaf of bread and some milk, to be forced to embark on an epic adventure with twists, turns, tragedy and triumph it can get a bit frustrating.
Trolley Etiquette - We have to jump through lots of hoops to get a car licence but anyone can drive a trolley. Fully laden juggernauts or lightly loaded speed machines we can drive them all as fast or slow as we like. There are no trolley etiquette rules – anything goes. Stopping for a chat with someone and blocking a busy aisle is all good. The rest of us will just wait while you discuss what class little James is in this year. With the great trolley ‘free for all’ it is no wonder that there are not more incidents of ‘trolley rage’. When we have chatty drifters mixing it with speed merchants out to beat their personal best it is a recipe for frustration.
Price Mismatches - A while back all the goods used to have price stickers on them. Then we went to computerised point of sale systems. So the items weren’t priced but the shelf label was the same as the price in the computer. No worries – yeah right! For those of us with a good memory for prices we watch while the items are checked through for any discrepancy. If we find one (and it is not normally in the consumers favour) it used to be customary for the supervisor to offer an apology. It seems this is a thing of the past. Price queries for getting ripped off seem to get treated more like an annoyance by supervisory staff. It’s not our fault the price on the shelf does not match the price on the computer. But there we go again, holding up the queue again like we are a smoker or something.
Candy Free Checkouts - A marvellous innovation from supermarkets to assist parents with demanding offspring by not parking them at the checkout next to myriads of sweets. This is some kind of sick joke though. The punishment for parents with whining toddlers is to send them down aisles laden with condoms and pain relief. It like rub(ber)s it in reminding them of the very product that could have saved them from the screaming life form writhing in their trolley. Putting these stressed out parents in front of non-prescription pain relief surely runs the risk of enticing them into a life of substance abuse.
Plastic Bags – Paying for plastic bags that are the lowest grade is just bizarre. Trying to have us believe that the supermarkets are doing this because they care about the environment is even more bizarre. If they really cared then they would go back to the thoroughly recyclable and biodegradable paper tub bags. Yes I know that they are more expensive, but with all the money they are saving because we are being forced to be our own checkout operators surely they still come out on top.
Checkout Operators – Against all odds many of these are happy, friendly and fast. There are however a certain class of operator who are suffering greatly by being there. The night before was a blast but the morning after is horrific. Waking up in front of a queue of impatient shoppers wouldn’t make many party animals top 10 lists of things to do the next day.  The awful realisation that this is really happening to them is etched on their catatonic faces. Any search for sympathy from shoppers forced to witness their sloth like pace is futile.

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