Wednesday, June 08, 2011



The new place The Dreaded One and I live in, it's right above a large shopping complex. It's so convenient – run out of anything and it's a quick elevator ride downstairs (why is it still downstairs when it's an elevator ride?). I can be in the local bottle shop before most people can make it to their front gate.

Curiously, though, our downstairs shopping complex has two supermarkets from the same chain. Two Coles, known to us as Good Coles and Not Good Coles because although one minute's walk separates them, one is good and one is, erm, not good. I'm not sure what the differences is exactly... they both play the same crappy music, they both carry the same produce... it's a vibe thing. And the fact that The Person Who Decides Where Stuff Goes in Not Good Coles appears to be a direct descendant of Dali's.

Both stores recently implemented a policy of having a meet-and-greet person at the entrance. Their job is to smile and ask you how you are and hand you a shopping basket.

I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but it's a very strange experience. The people doing it are very good about it (although the dude at Not Good Coles is clearly struggling with what he obviously thinks of as the very extreme low-point of this whole stupid life but gives a grudging gesture of faux pleasantness with lips generally reserved for sneering), but you can tell that even the ones at Good Coles know that it's all a bit silly. Nevertheless you make eye contact and smile and tell them you are well and ask how they are as you accept the shopping basket.

Thing is, you get used to it. It's just a done thing. It all becomes almost second nature. It becomes as natural as putting one foot in front of the other. Suddenly there is a new person in your life and their role is to hand you a shopping basket. In its way, it's a change for the better because it takes the pressure off. It's one less thing to think about in our cluttered, busy lives.

But what happens if Shopping Basket Person is not there?

Maybe they're just hanging out outside getting a lung cancer hit. Maybe they've quit. Maybe... look I don't know where they are, all I know is they are not here and I don't know what to do. Usually they are here with the handles on the top baskets turned perkily up in anticipation of being handed from Shopping Basket Person to the grateful shopper. But they are not here and what happens next? The whole system has crashed. What next? What next? The confusion is overwhelming. How does the shopping basket get all the way into my hand if Shopping Basket Person is not there to ensure that this very complex process runs smoothly?

I move in confused circles. I desperately look for Shopping Basket Person. I flap my arms a bit. I scratch my head. The handles on the shopping baskets have not even been turned up. Is this a sign? Am I not allowed to take a shopping basket until someone with appropriate skills turns up to rectify the situation? Or do I go to the front counter and alert Front Counter Person that Shopping Basket Person has gone MIA. Or AWOL. Or both MIA and AWOL at the same time. Perhaps Good Coles is losing customers to Not Good Coles because they cannot cope with the confusion this... this... this crisis has brought on?

I'm sending this dispatch from my phone whilst stranded at the deserted shopping basket post. There have been no further developments. I feel weary. Please send help or I fear I may have to abandon the operation and make my way to Not Good Coles...

Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( He thinks the meet-and-greet thing would be much more successful if they replaced Shopping Basket Person with Hundred Dollar Note Person.


Margarita Milonguita said...

I too find this a strange phenomenon... I've enjoyed being unattached from the check out chick using the self service option. Now I have to deal with someone handing me a basket. I feel disempowered.

Guyana-Gyal said...

You're s'pposed to call The Media and make hysterical sounds for the evening news, talking about how wonderful this 'service' used to make you feel, and now that it's gone, how will you cope?

Lee said...

Strange policy, isn't it MM.

The service is still there, GG, they were just on a break. It's just a slightly awkward moment for all concerned. It's really very unnecessary, and everyone involved is aware of it.

Kathryn said...

You are so silLee. Flappy arms and looking like George Bush? you use a 'tram voice' with these greeters? I probably would.

Lee said...

Shhh... I'm on a tram... wishing I knew my book was in my bag.