Saturday, 15 March 2014

Retail Therapy, Cream Cakes And Predictability.

It's become something of a tradition when i visit my Dad, that on a Sunday afternoon just after dinner, we dig into a box of cream cakes that i have bought in town earlier that morning.

Now what could be simpler than driving into town, having a coffee and a browse in the bookshop, followed by a short visit to the supermarket for a box of cream cakes..? In the normal course of events, nothing. This being me however, i found myself in an awkward situation that i had no idea how i got myself into before it was too late.

On arrival at the supermarket, i found that they had moved the aisles around and sorted the food out into different places in a smart and customer friendly strategic manner, as per the newest retail management practice manual, Page 62, entitled 'Regular Customer: Confusion and Mind Games.' The downside being for me, that i couldn't find the damn cream cakes.

Now i know the reason for moving stuff about in supermarkets is to confuse the customer and make us wander around the whole building in search of what we came for, and hope that we will pass the aisle with dustpans, plastic gizmo's and wet wipes, we will see them and exclaim, "Hey, you know what? My kitchen floor is filthy, i may need that dust pan and the wet wipes… i shall buy them forthwith." As if customers actually do that… Eh..? They seem to think we are utterly predictable, malleable and sheep like.**

Well i'm wise to them. Cream cakes is what i came for and cream cakes is what i am leaving with. Nothing more and nothing less.

I spied a loose gaggle of supermarket employees at the end of the aisle, helping those who have become stuck at the unmanned, self service checkout tills that needs a person to be there, in order for people to use them properly. I approached and without a second thought, tapped the nearest of the four employees on the shoulder and politely asked...

"Excuse me, i'm a little lost, but i expect YOU will know where the cream cakes are..?"

An innocuous question i think you will agree, but not when you have inadvertently picked out the largest of the large female employees and basically said that due to her size, she will obviously know where the cream cakes are.

I swear i didn't see her as that, It was not what i was thinking. As normal i was not thinking at all, i just picked the nearest employee of the group and that was it. A hello, followed by a question followed by disaster.

She glared at me. I swallowed hard. The situation was now dawning on me as to what i had just done, and however misconstrued my intent, i was now on the receiving end of a very hard eyeballing.

"Second refrigeration unit on the left, next to the milk and cheese." She said, foregoing the usual 'Sir' at the end. I let that go, now was not the time for impertinent questions and a lecture on the finer points of good customer service.

"Thanks… I… Errr… Thanks." I left hurriedly for the milk, cheese and cream cake aisle and could feel the daggers behind me. No matter, i made it unscathed and intact to the cream cakes and found what i wanted. There was no way i was going to retrace my steps to the self service checkouts though, so i made my way to the main checkouts.

Having wandered through the aisles, I approached the checkout with my cream cakes, two bottles of South African Pinotage, disinfectant for the toilet, a box of cereal and a plastic gizmo.

Hang on… I don't usually pass the red wine / disinfectant / cereals / gizmo aisles on the way out… Oh, the utter, utter bastards.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.

** The author would like to point out that he is in no way predictable, malleable nor sheep like.