'This supermarket trick makes me fume'
There is a recognised piece of code that’s used when visiting supermarkets by nearly all eagle-eyed, intelligent and very kind shoppers.
It is a phrase that is used only when queuing.
The phrase can be adjusted but the meaning remains exactly the same.
To even call this a phrase is probably wrong. It’s an agreed sentence that you use when engaging with a complete stranger.
And it only happens when you’re awaiting your turn to be served at the till. And here’s an example.
You’re queuing and you happen to spot someone behind you, or possibly lurking nearby, who is searching for an appropriate till.
If you notice, at this point, that they have only one, or a maximum of two items, if you see fit and only if you’re in the mood, then you may engage in the following brief piece of interaction.
It goes something like this: ‘If that’s all you’ve got, (gestures with hand) then please go ahead.’
The recipient of this massive display of shopping generosity may well double check with, ‘are you sure?’
At this point the deal is done and you make clear that you're the kindest person on planet Earth, saying something like, ‘of course, not a problem, my pleasure’.
Now they are legally allowed to queue-jump.
Sometimes a glance down the rest of the queue is required to see whether your kindness has really irritated another shopper, but this is not vital.
This event happened to me a few days ago.
I was queuing with an overflowing basket of goods when I spotted a fellow shopper (a fella) clutching just ‘one’ item.
I have often felt that there should be a ‘no more than 2 items’ speedy till which would allow those in a rush to fly through. It wouldn’t work though because you’d still get someone with a piled-high trolley flouting the rules.
I opened with ‘if that’s all you’ve got, do go ahead’.
He double-checked with ‘are you sure?’ and then secured his place in front of me.
This was all acceptable. But then the unthinkable happened.
His wife (could have been a partner/lover/very young mother) joined him in the queue with an arm full of other goods! I know. I was shocked.
The rules in a supermarket may not be written down but the unspoken code of conduct has been passed down from generation to generation.
The items were unceremoniously dumped on the conveyor and nothing more was said.
I looked round to other shoppers for some support. I even attempted the ‘wide-eyes’ look, which could mean anything with a mask on. No-one responded.
I expected at least the original fella to turn and say something or do wide-eyes ‘whoops’, but nothing. I had been played. Like a novice at the pool club.
As per the other wider rules that apply to queuing in this country, particularly in a pandemic, I said absolutely nothing. I felt the discrepancy was not large enough to warrant further interaction.
Unbelievably, as the hilarious queue-jumping couple left, he turned to me and said ‘thanks’ as they walked into the sunset.
In a massive show of strength I replied with ‘no worries’. However, inside I thought ‘you're going to be my next column mate, because what you’ve just done is outrageous’.
The long-term impact has already been felt.
As from now, before any act of queuing kindness, I will make sure I check other shoppers’ credentials and qualify the statement ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ with ‘I also include anyone else you may be currently shopping with’.
It’s not quite as friendly but rules are rules.