The days when we humans were self-sufficient are long gone. We don’t have to hunt for our own food, and wear the skins of the animals we hunted to keep us warm. And a good thing too, if my skills with a bow and arrow are anything to go by, I would either starve or freeze to death. Nowadays we rely on others to do all the hard work, and all we have to do is earn the money to buy the things they sell in the shops.
Now I must admit the only shopping I can say I really enjoy is buying Christmas presents. Otherwise for me shopping’s a chore. I’m the ‘buy the things on my list and get out’ type, definitely not a wanderer.
Not everyone has the same attitude, of course. Some people say they enjoy shopping. We’ve even invented a word for people who are addicted to it – shopaholic. Sometimes the old hunting skills resurface in these people, as they search for the best bargains at sale time. But shopping also brings out some extremely infuriating characteristics in people.
Take supermarket shopping for example. I think there should be a set of rules that are strictly enforced. A job for those people we see standing around in shops in their paramilitary uniforms. Have you noticed that they all have the belt-world equivalent of the Swiss army knife: attachments to cope with any emergency, including removing stones from horses’ hooves, I suspect!
So let me speak directly to the people who commit these crimes (yes, crimes) – you know who you are.
“You may regard shopping as a social occasion: a chance to meet friends and chat, even if it is the neighbours you see every day. OK, but why does the conversation need to be held in the middle of the food aisle or in front of the bread shelves? Move out of the way BEFORE I have to push by you and you have to give me the black look. In the future, offenders will be electronically tagged so that when more than two of you rest in one place in the supermarket for more than two minutes you receive a mild electric shock, increasing in strength the longer you stay together.”
“There has been an important change in the way we buy fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. Now, not everything is pre-packed: you can choose to buy one apple or ten. Apples, like humans, come in different shapes and sizes so they are priced per kilo not per piece. There is no magic system (yet) to scan the three objects you’ve put in the bag, detect that they are apples and measure the size of them: you have to weigh them and put a label on the bag! I’d like to bet that you’re the first person to complain when you’re behind someone at the checkout who forgot. From now your name will be announced over the loudspeaker, and your photograph posted on a ‘Not Wanted’ board at the entrance.”
At least in a supermarket you are free to wander around without being hassled: totally different to setting foot in a clothes shop.
“Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?”
The words and the fixed smile are always the same, but the technique varies. According to the training manual of GRAB (Guidelines for Retailers to Acquire Buyers) there are basically three approaches:
– pounce as soon as the ‘customer’ has crossed the threshold; make them aware that they have entered YOUR territory, and now belong to you
– let them start to look at something and then sneak up from behind; the shock effect, especially with a loud greeting, can be very effective in unsettling the customer (careful with the heart attack danger)
– follow around just in the peripheral vision of the ‘customer’ and hover: unnerving for even the most dedicated browser.
The manual also offers some guidance for those involved in upmarket shops:
Don’t waste your time on people who obviously could never afford your products. Saying something along the lines “Are YOU thinking of buying something, Sir?” coupled with the right amount of something-the-cat-dragged-in body language, should soon get rid of them
With all these difficulties involved in going to the shops you might think I am the ideal candidate for buying in cyberspace: on-line shopping. You’d be wrong. Call me old fashioned (I can’t hear you anyway), but I cannot bring myself to order the things I’m going to eat with a few clicks of a mouse. I like to see and feel what I’m buying – yes, I have to confess, I’m one of those people who squeezes the fruit (gently, of course) under the pretext that I can tell if it is fresh. My judgement may not be always right, but at least it makes me feel better. It’s the same with meat. Not that I squeeze or prod it, but seeing it in the flesh (pardon the pun), even when wrapped in plastic film, is much more appealing than a photograph on my computer screen. Incidentally, have you noticed the return to real, live butchers in supermarkets over the last few years; this must tell us something about the buying habits of Joe Public.