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Further notes from The Reluctant Consumer

That’s me. If I was going to start another blog it would be called that. I have previously blogged a bit about being fleeced by the utilitymen whilst I sit innocently on the sofa and, probably like you, find that facet of my helpless consuming continues unabated. If only that were all. I am also forced out and about from time to time to confront the coalface of consumption, otherwise known as: a shop.

I am not big on shops. I have worked in a few and I was not big on customers when I was behind the till either. Being not big on shops, or indeed the verb related to them, I have to go in them far more frequently than you might think. My tolerance levels are so low (on the floor in fact) that I can only bear to shoot in and out with a hand basket. The spoils this garners clearly does not feed a family of four for a week, so I am back in, usually the following day on a repeat mission. My fickle nature additionally sees me tarting round a smorgasbord of purveyors of foodstuffs and other consumables, wherein I refuse to join their loyalty reward programmes. This because I know these doing you a favour, fool schemes are also aka collecting intimate information on you and your dependants. I remain, in my mind, under their radar.

To maintain this elusive status I like to work the aisles haphazardly, doubling back on myself, charging up and then down and then up the central aisles. I start with bakery and work back to the veg. I go in and buy coffee and than wend my way back to the carrot soup. I am a smash, swerve and grab shopper.

Except sometimes. Those are the days when I am on a go slow. On those days my trusty psychological armour against supermarket trickery slips and lets in a chink of their consumer manipulation and then I find I can’t escape. I may look like I am frozen in time, staring at a product for far too long, but what I am doing is trying not to fall for their tricks. This kind of torture usually coincides with having over-indulged the night before. The other weekend I got trapped in this manner in Sainsburys. In a state of confusion and overwhelm (I’ve made it a noun now – that’s what happens if you spend too long in a supermarket) I could have easily sat down in aisle 12 and cried. You see, in that staring moment, I am fighting a losing battle. I have blundered into their House of Mirrors without knowing what I want and I am consequently highly susceptible to their BOGOFs , their 3 for 2s, their fake alcohol discounts (hair of the dog obviously) and their random rubbish near the tills like ¬£3 DVDs. The crazy staring is merely evidence of my internal effort to fight the good fight and only spend a tenner instead of the practically obligatory redback.

Don’t suggest online grocery shopping either. Booking a delivery slot is too traumatic (amongst other things). The page doesn’t refresh in real time and the van icon that you had set your heart on vanishes into thin air when you want to commit your Wednesday evening to an evenings all-weather racing and waiting in for your baked beans to arrive.

Anyway, last Sunday, because I was trapped in a supermarket for a very long time, trying to decide on dinner, the store announcer permeated my brain. You really notice these announcements in Sainsburys because there is no piped tuneage. If you like a bit of music whilst you shop, go to the Co-op or Asda (although there’s nothing edible in the latter they do have their own radio station). Returning to Sunday in the Supermarket (it’s not Smollenskys on the Strand is it?), this is what I heard (more or less):

Would all suitably trained staff please go to checkouts to support your colleagues?

It wasn’t a command, it was bit more of a plea. I knew the staff member that I had seen with the pink feather duster dusting the crap off the crap on the central aisle, near the seasonal shit, opposite dairy where only the lactose intolerant won’t venture, wouldn’t be going to support anyone. She clearly had only received training (mandatory) in the ways of the duster. Neither would the Customer Service lady in the extraordinary wig be going either. She never, ever leaves her domain where people queue to ask dopey questions about their Nectar points and to return stuff they never needed in the first place.

Was there a stampede of other Sainsburys staff to the checkouts? There was not. And when I arrived there, with my trolley (no energy to carry a basket) I did not find half-fainting checkout operators in need of urgent support either. I just found the usual Sunday scene: a load of other hungover people queuing to buy sustenance and some rubbish DVDs and the papers. And in a neat twist, my till operator delayed my alcoholic transaction, not to check I was over 21, but because she needed someone to check her selling thereof because she was… Let’s hope this management style doesn’t find it’s way into the armed forces.

Would all suitably trained soldiers please head to the front in Afghanistan to support their colleagues. Unless, of course, you are busy cleaning your musket. And if you are under 21 can you bring someone else along to authorise your shooting people and people shooting you back.

I find I am increasingly irritated with the cost of that campaign, or war or whatever it is. We just can’t afford it can we? Not when a bunch of crap on a Sainsburys Sunday costs fifty sodding quid.

There’s more, but I think you’ve been trapped in these aisles long enough.