Rule the World

It's time to begin my manifesto.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No. 015: Supermarkets

When I rule the world: going to the supermarket won't be such a chore.

I don't hate supermarket shopping, but when it's really crowded, and the shelves haven't been stocked well, and there's a huge queue at the checkout, I can get a little antsy about the whole experience. Add a trolley with a wonky wheel into the mix and I can easily lose my sense of humour entirely.

However, supermarket shopping will continue to be a necessary evil (until Monkey and I can make our fortune and afford to hire a nice retired couple to tend a vegetable patch, milk a cow, cure bacon, and bake bread for us). I'm pretty OK with the fact that my 'To The Manor Born' lifestyle may still be a fair way off, so in the meantime - and to make life better for everybody else forced to go to the supermarket - I propose a few changes.

Try Before You Buy - to make sure the grapes aren't sour. Sure, a lot of people do this anyway, but it's technically stealing. And besides, I'd also like to try things like bananas before I buy them - oh, and apples! I hate buying apples that look crunchy from the outside, but turn out to be a big mushy disappointment. Friendly assistants will be on hand to manage the food-testing procedure, so freeloaders don't just turn up and eat their three square meals a day in the Produce aisles. We might need to offer this service in the Biscuits aisle as well, because nothing sucks the big kumara more than risking it all on a new brand of cookie, only to find it's more floury than chewy. And at the Deli counter, because who can recognise the best ham just by sight? This would also be a great service in the Wine aisle.

Steerable Trolleys - because trolley rage is a serious problem in today's supermarkets. Why do so many trolleys have wonky wheels? At the supermarket last week I had a trolley which had a permanent left turn thing going on. I didn't realise quite how bad it was until I'd made it past the Produce aisles and already had a few goodies in my trolley, so it was too late to go back for a swap (or, I couldn't be bothered). By the end of the shop I was so sick of the crappy trolley that, when my shopping accidentally set off the shoplifting sensor as I left, I nearly ran the security guard over with the trolley and fled the scene. When I'm in charge special trolley mechanics will operate an ongoing trolley service programme. And trolleys will all have the handy customised partitions to hold bottles of wine and bunches of flowers.

Spam Removal - because who buys that shit? I've never seen anybody with a can of Spam in their trolley. I'm starting to suspect that Spam is a cover for some illicit drug smuggling enterprise taking place in supermarkets worldwide. I don't want that kind of caper at my supermarkets. That Spam is just taking up space that could be filled with exotic chocolates from foreign lands.

Grocery Packing - because, frighteningly, this isn't an automatic service. In New Zealand most supermarkets will pack your stuff for you, and in South Africa you often get teams of packers working on your shopping, but in here England it's almost unheard-of. Sure, they'll occasionally ask you if you want help with your packing, but they do it with such an obvious 'you pathetic fool who will muck up the simple task of packing' tone to their voices that most people feel too intimidated to say yes, and instead chirpily say they can manage it themselves. But there's a certain skill to efficiently packing a supermarket bag. I didn't have the kind of parents who believe that teenagers must suffer through undignified weekend jobs, and so I didn't do a tour of duty at a supermarket, and now I'm a bad packer. Monkey and I pack like we've never been to the supermarket before. Monkey has a bad habit of putting things like flyspray in the same bag as fresh bread, whereas I try to keep all my grocery categories separate and end up with a big packing backlog because I'm waiting for a block of cheese to make my dairy bag complete. A guaranteed packer would relieve us of a lot of stress.

Traffic Flow - because you've always got some fool who does their shopping all backwards, and is forever crashing into you around corners. Of course, it would be easier if supermarkets were designed a little better. Frozen stuff should ALWAYS come last! And ideally fruit and vegetables would come second-to-last, as there's no sense in putting strawberries in your trolley at the beginning of the shopping trip, only to have them squashed into jam after you accidentally hurl a tin of baked beans onto them a few aisles later.

Off-peak Bonuses - because supermarkets get too busy in the weekends (in England, anyway). Supermarkets have to restock in the wee small hours, and a lot of places now capitalise on this by having a couple of check-out chicks at work and catering to the shift work crowd, but I think they could incentivise people to shop at anti-social hours - perhaps with a 10% discount on their bill? This would help thin the crowds on Saturday mornings.

Child Wrangling - because other people's children are a nightmare at the supermarket. In fact, I'm sure a lot of mothers would admit their own kids are horrible to deal with at the supermarket as well. The solution? Free supermarket creches, so the little horrors are kept occupied while their parents get the shopping done, thus saving the world from tantrums in the Ice Cream aisle. Childless people will definitely spend more time shopping if they don't get exposed to children at the supermarket, and so the creches will pay for themselves.

Treat Management - because supermarkets make it difficult for us to be good. No more chocolate at the check-outs! You'll have to ask somebody for it. This person will be the Chocolate Manager (also responsible for Ice Cream and Chips), and they'll want to see what else you're buying before they fetch you a Snickers. If your trolley's full of pizza and beer then they might send you back to the Produce aisle for some carrots or something, to balance things out.

Background Music - because I'm enjoying my shopping a great deal more now I wear my iPod around the aisles. Trust me, it's hilarious to have Gwen Stefani singing 'this shit is BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!' whilst actually buying bananas! The irony! Ha!

Better Lighting - because some single people still like to think they could meet their One True Love whilst reaching for the chicken breasts. And because the rest of us don't relish catching a haggard, strip-lit glimpse of ourselves in the background Ham mirrors at the Deli Counter.

And - obviously - there will be no mushrooms for sale. If you want to buy weird shit like that you'll have to make your own arrangements.

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