modern ms manners : some advice on supermarket etiquette
When you think about it, supermarkets are strange places. Always so bright with upbeat music, and aisle upon aisle full of everything you could think of. You make your way into the store merrily humming their jingle, your mind full of images of the happy staff in the television commercials, who are so overjoyed that you want to buy the apples that they bought from Gary the farmer just that very day. How convenient that you should be wanting apples today of all days!
Once inside though, it is a very different story. At my local supermarket anyway, the staff are not dancing around with bread or merrily whistling about how delicious and fresh their produce is. Nor are the customers twirling about with giant red hands pointing out the low low prices. Instead, the supermarket is a frantic shambles of a place, full of rude and unnecessarily angry people. All promises of dancing are put aside as you grab a trolley (after managing to find a dollar coin at the very bottom of your bag) and attempt to drag it through the aisle in spite of its dodgy wheel.
In completing some research for this article, I came across this video which demonstrates some of the psychology behind the layout of the supermarket. Brightly coloured packaging, all the way down to where the avocados are placed, these are all carefully planned by supermarket chains in order to enhance your shopping experience and optimise sales.
However, despite the revelation that purple packaging is appealing due to implications of luxury (salt and vinegar chips will now be known as the “fancy chips”), I cannot help but feel that all the psychology in the world will not make a supermarket the joyous utopia it so desperately wants to be. The reason for this is because of the way we, the customers interact with each other when they are in the supermarket.
I have had a variety of unpleasant experiences with my fellow shoppers at the supermarket, ranging from an unnecessary sigh when I asked the guy crouching in front of the shelves if he would mind letting me pass with my trolley, all the way through to a confrontation with a mother who was determined that she should be served first at the deli (even though my ticket was before hers) as it was her son who fixed the ticketing machine. All of these experiences could have been avoided if we all followed some simple form of supermarket etiquette.
In coming up with an etiquette framework, I have identified what I believe to be the three main areas in need of reform:-
1. The Delicatessen:
Nearly everyone I talk to has either experienced or witnessed some sort of rude encounter at the deli section of the supermarket. Maybe it is because in caveman days, our carnivorous ancestors would have to fight for their share of the wildebeest and the angst we feel in this section is just a residual part of our biology? Or maybe it is because there is an employee there who is determined to ignore the growing line and just continue to shave ham?
Whatever the reason, let us not lose control. It is 2012 people, we should be able to form some sort of reasonable queue without going into a melt down. Besides, it is just devon you are lining up for, not Lady Gaga tickets (although she may also be wearing devon).
2. Aisle Space:
Yes it is annoying when your trolley does not have four completely functioning wheels. Or when you are suddenly faced with three different kinds of cashew nuts which are inevitably not the right kind. These are not reasons to act like an irrational human being. At the end of the day, we are all there for the same reason so be considerate of your fellow shoppers when in the cramped aisles. Words like “excuse me” are good to employee in this situation.
3. The Checkout:
I know checkouts can be stressful places. You have finished your shopping and just want to make your purchase and get out of there. It is annoying when you have forgotten your green bags. It is more annoying when the person in front of you has forgotten their green bags. Remind yourself you are a capable human being and really, this is not the end of the world.
Huffing and puffing like a chimney is not going to make the process any faster and may cause hyperventilation. Try offering to help that mother of four in front of you load up her bags? Or even use this moment to indulge in that shameful part of yourself who actually does care about what the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the races.
By following the above advice, who knows? Maybe we might just be able to be as happy as the shoppers on the TV? (Even without the giant red hand props).
Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images