Not so super supermarkets

I have recently been obliged to do some of the household’s supermarket shopping. I can’t say I have enjoyed the experience. Whilst standing in line at the checkout, I have been thinking about a few things that would improve it for me. Here they are, in no particular order:

The car park – slanted spaces plus a one-way system. These would make it much easier to manoeuvre and save some of us from making decisions about whether to enter a space backwards or forwards. While we are in the car park it would be useful to clearly label the rows A, B, C and so on. If I can’t remember my car registration number, I’m not going to remember where I parked it. People who use the disabled, parent or pick-up bays illegitimately should be banned from the store for four weeks, longer for repeat offenders. Any custom the shop loses will be surpassed by the goodwill of the remaining 99% of its clientele. Dedicated spaces for large 4x4s should be reserved in the furthest corner: this would keep them out of everybody else’s way and give their drivers some much-needed exercise. (No, I don’t have one – how did you guess?)

A tight squeeze

A one-way system for customers inside the store could be indicated by big arrows on the tiled floor and no-entry signs on one end of each aisle. This should stop the peak-time trolley gridlocks and associated ‘aisle-rage’. Shoppers who disregard this rule should be restricted to using baskets for a week or two for their antisocial behaviour.

One of my local stores has deliberately arranged the islands in the greengrocery section to obstruct easy passage, forcing shoppers to behave like ball-bearings in a giant pinball machine as they weave their ways between the potatoes and the bananas, the fresh greens and the foreign fruit. The automatic entry gates reinforce this image, acting like a giant pair of flippers to keep the shoppers in play.

Reduce the packaging of most products, throughout the store. Why shrink-wrap and vacuum-pack the broccoli?

Ban children beneath a certain age from running loose. This would do everybody a favour. (A friend of mine even lost her middle-aged husband in a large store and the amused lady on the PA had to put out a message for him to come to the information desk.)

More help in finding products, with perhaps a Unique Reference Locator (as on the internet) for each item, or some variation on the library’s Dewey-Decimal system? I am possibly speaking for the majority of men when I say how much better it would be if everything was in alphabetical order, from apples, artichokes and aubergines right through to XXXX-lager, yoghurts and zucchinis, though I accept that there may be logistical factors that prevent this. The stores will maintain that instant location would end browsing and reduce customer-spend by allowing us to avoid impulse-purchases. We all know that these breed only guilt and resentment at the stores that squeeze the most out of our pockets, so they can only bring them a short-term gain and are not in their best interest. If the manager ever senses that we have got the measure of the store layout, he organises a hasty stock rearrangement to put us all back to square one.

Easier price comparisons would save me several minutes on the kitchen paper-towel decision alone. When the rolls are different sizes, bundled in various numbers, with a bogof option to boot, you need a mainframe computer to help you make up your mind, especially if you bring green considerations in to play and try to select the most eco-friendly brand. A few years ago, when we learned it was better value to buy in bulk, some of us gave up doing the calculations, but the crafty supermarkets quickly cottoned-on to this and you will sometimes find the smaller packs now offer the best value, counter-intuitively.

Keeping the shelves stocked: if a single item on my wife’s list is out of stock, one of us has to visit another store.

Nothing frustrates shoppers more than picking the slowest queue at the checkout, watching shoppers in the other lines glide through first.

Charge 10p each for carrier bags, otherwise some of us will never cut back on their use.

A battery-recycling bin would be handy, too, placed somewhere we can find it.

So what should we do about it if we want to give the manager a few suggestions? Don’t do what one disgruntled woman did in my local store and grab the microphone to make some impromptu announcements over the supermarket’s PA system, as they are unlikely to be appreciated. The managers would prefer you to drop them a simple letter or have a word with them in person if you have any complaint or constructive idea and are much more likely to lend a sympathetic ear when this is done politely. If none of us ever takes the trouble to do this, we have no right to moan about the way things are. I think I will start by just sending in my top three suggestions and see what the response is. Let me know how you get on.

© 2011

How about L-plates?

Keywords: supermarket, shopping, shop, car park, parking, frustration, stress, trolley, checkout, queue, one way.

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