I love going to the supermarket, in London or otherwise. There, I’ve said it – I know some people dread the thought of entering the gates of Tesco/Sainsbury’s/etc’, but I rather enjoy that time of the week. Discovering new products, avoiding eye contact with other customers, the satisfaction of using coupons…
And yet, even for me, there are some awful, awful things that happen at the supermarket. So there it is – my list of the most annoying things that happen at supermarkets…
1. Unexpected item in bagging area!
The ultimate humiliation, annoyance and stupid AI all wrapped up in one. Anyone who ever used a self-checkout till knows this all too well: You scan an item, place it in the bag, and the machine doesn’t “like” the item.
You try to remove the product… and the machine tells you to put it back. You put it back… and it’s “unexpected” again. Then you have to call an actual human assistant, and all hell breaks loose.
Why does it happen? After all, it WAS the correct item, I DID scan it, its weight probably didn’t change overnight, and the damned machine already calculated the weight of my bag. So why was the item unexpected? I most certainly expected it to be there.
2. Coupons that won’t scan
Couponing is a great way to save money, or at least earn some extra club card points. So you take out your coupon, give it to the checkout assistant with a winning smile (or scan it at the self-checkout machine), and… nothing happens. You try again… nothing happens. The machine refuses to acknowledge the coupon.
The supermarket employee is already looking at you funny. The people behind you in the queue are giving you the evil eye. Eventually, you get sent to the Customer Service Desk – like a kid being sent to the principle’s office. 20 minutes later, you finally get your club card points, worth 5 pence. Hoorah!
3. Checkout Assistants that scan too fast
The German discount chains, Lidl and Aldi, are notorious for this. The till operators are told to scan products as fast as possible, and there’s no chance whatsoever you’ll manage to pack your bags in time.
Like a machine that spits out tennis balls, they throw the cornflakes at you, then the peppers, and the biscuits, and you fiddle around with your bags, trying to put everything in, and the small area behind the till is getting full, and… Help!
4. The products you love get discontinued
You discover a new product – some new brand of cheese, a new weird taste of Diet Coke. And then? Once you fall in love with it and get addicted to it, they stop manufacturing it. Yes, it’s personal. Yes, they know what you like and they’re doing it on purpose.
5. Trying to assess the number of bags you’ll need BEFORE you pay
Now that plastic supermarket bags cost 5p, we’re encouraged to bring bags from home and use as few as possible. And of course, you need to tell the checkout assistant IN ADVANCE if and how many bags you want.
So you look at the products in your trolley, and then the guessing game begins… Am I OK with the two big bags I brought from home? Should I buy another small bag? Should I buy a bigger bag? Decisions, decisions!
6. Millions of different types of apples
I want to buy apples. Really, that’s it. I want some apples. Oh, but I can’t just buy apples – the supermarket has Royal Gala apples. But the British Apples are on sale… (Aren’t they all British apples?). And wait, there are the Pink Lady apples, but they’re always expensive. And there’s something called “Braeburn” for heaven’s sake.
And there’s Jazz. And Fuji apples. And Granny Smith (Who?). And Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious, and Gold Delicious, and… I JUST WANT APPLES!
7. Understanding the difference between the “Luxury” brand and the basic one
The big supermarkets have their own private label range of products, that goes across the whole range – from food to cleaning. But the private label items have two – and in some cases even three – different “levels” of quality.
Sainsbury’s have a “Taste the Difference” range – that’s the top quality one. Then there’s just “By Sainsbury’s” – that’s the middle tier. And then there’s “Basics”, which is at the bottom of the shelf (literally). Tesco have a similar division.
So what am I supposed to do when I’m buying Coleslaw? Do I go for the luxurious (and more expensive) “Taste the Difference” Coleslaw? Am I allowed to settle for the regular “By Sainsbury’s” one? Do I DARE go for the “Basics” salad?
It’s just some cabbage and carrots, for crying out loud!
8. Screaming Children
They’re always there. Day and night.
9. Freezing at the chilled section
I get it – the chilled section needs to be, well, chilled. But do I really need to bring my parka just to get some milk?
10. Trying to compare prices between different stores
Comparing prices is super important. And while it’s relatively easy to do in one store, because they show you the price per unit/weight, trying to compare prices between different stores and chains requires a degree in maths.
Why? Because the packages, and amounts, and weights are often different. So I know Iceland offer a 3L bottle of Diet Coke for £2.15, and two for £4.20. And then Sainsbury’s offer four 1.5L bottles for £4… My head is already spinning. But wait! The Co-Op then offer a 2L bottle for £1.5. Now what?
11. Hidden / No Toilets
Many supermarkets are huge these days, so I sometimes spend hours there. Why, then, are the toilets hidden in the basement behind a scary photo of a tiger? That is – if they have toilets at all. (And yes, I know I should say Loo. But I’m new in London, remember?)
12. Prices that go up without notice
During my first year in London, almost every possible product in the supermarket saw a price increase – Thanks Brexit! Unfortunately, supermarkets never announce the price hike.
When prices go DOWN, they hang huge signs, and big red stickers, proclaiming a “New Lower Price!”. Where are the “New Higher Price!!!” stickers?
13. Checkout conveyor belts that hurl and fling your products
It’s a very delicate and life-threatening moment – the piece of plastic that separates your products from those of the guy in front of you, who just finished paying, is lifted.
You stop breathing. You look at that belt in horror, and… yes. It starts moving too fast, your diet coke bottle falls over, the turkey starts squashing the crisps, and the pack of gum flies over at the poor employee. Oh well.
14. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable?
When using the self-checkout, some fruits/vegetables don’t have barcodes on them (for some reason, they were grown on a barcodeless tree). So you need to pick the “Manual Item” option, but then – a quiz! Do I go for “Fruit” or “Vegetables”? Is Avocado a fruit or a vegetable? Squash? And what about the Okra? Is that even from Earth?
15. People who talk on the phone while packing their stuff
Hey, grocery shopping takes concentration! Not to mention, while you’re busy discussing your weekend plans, your packing slows down to a halt, and the rest of us need to wait. And wait. And wait.
16. Products that get constantly moved around
I know where they’re hiding the olives. I mean, they moved them last month, but I KNOW where the new shelf is. Wait… where are the olives? Oh, they moved them again. I guess I’ll spend 10 more minutes looking for the olives.
17. The horror of a new till that gets opened while you’re in a different queue
You’ve all seen it happen. You’re standing patiently and politely in your queue. And then… a checkout assistant opens a new till. “You can come here!”, he announces.
But wait, what do we do now? We’re British, queues have rules! Who’s allowed to go to the brand new till? The person at the front of the current queue? He’s not going to move, he’s almost at the till. OK, then can the LAST person in the queue move to the new one? But now he’s going to become FIRST, and there were people ahead of him.
The solution? No one moves. We’ll just keep waiting right here, quietly.
Done with your shopping? You might want to check out these tips from Cass.