Friday, August 16, 2013

Unexpected item in bagging area. And that item is 'shopping'.

August 16th 2013

Customer Service Department

Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC
Hilmore House
Gain Lane

Dear Generic Complaints Person,

Shopping used to be ever such a straightforward task, but I for one appreciate how Morrisons have added an element of danger, suspense and intrigue to what was once the most mundane of activities. Even the quickest of shopping trips can now feel like the opening round of now-defunct TV Game Show "Ninja Warrior".

The initial challenge - which is spiced up considerably by not knowing whether they'll be waiting for you on the way in or on the way out - is the dodging of the charity people. Although it's worth noting that the particularly shrewd charities are the ones who assault you on the way out - it's difficult to do the "I haven't got any change" shrug when you're jingling away like a set of Christmas bells from the pocketful of shrapnel the cashier has just handed you moments before. ("No, I already sponsor a dog with Dogs Trust thanks. Do I want to sponsor another one? I don't know, what do you think? The one I've got never writes, never calls.")

The most complicated challenge of any shopping adventure used to be the actual process of finding what you wanted and then placing it into your trolley/basket. This has been made considerably trickier by the fact that your store layouts appears to have been formulated by the Cretan Daedalus who wanted something more complex and challenging than his highly regarded earlier work, the Labyrinth at Knossos.

And in the good old days, that would have been it. A simple process of placing yourself into the correct aisle dependent on whether you have 10 items or fewer, pay the nice lady/gentleman and leave.

But Supermarkets on the whole suddenly decided as a whole that that final process was way too quaint and archaic. Or more precisely, that cashiers were way too expensive and unreliable.

And like Skynet becoming self-aware, half of our checkout ladies were suddenly replaced by self service areas.
"Unexpected item in bagging area, Dave."

The weighing scales in the self service areas are a miracle of modern technology without compare and are to be applauded. Able to randomly alternate between a precision low enough that it can't even detect a 12 pack of cans of cat food being placed upon it, to a precision so high that the low atomic mass unit value of a speck of dust can trigger an 'unexpected item in bagging area' warning.

Why, thanks for asking me whether I'm using my own bag or not, but lets face it - the question is mostly irrelevant when - regardless of my answer - with even a stray breath or cough landing in the bagging area you're going to flash a red light up so I have to wait for the assistant anyway.

And what a thankless task they have. They're like circus plate spinners, dashing to and fro to the solid red light that remains illuminated on at least one self service machine at all times. And then without even thinking about it, their expression permanently blank, they perform the arcane ritual of typing in the hidden cheat codes to restart the process. And then do it again. And then again, over there. And then back to the first one again because the customer had the cheek of not slamming the pack of polos angrily into the bag so it would register.

I'll be the first to admit I'm guilty of enjoying the occasional pack of crisps with my dinner. I know the salt content is too high (as is the calorific count), but was it not Erma Bombeck who said "I am not a glutton, I am an explorer of food"? But I'm ashamed to say that I'm having to choose larger and larger packets of crisps in the desperate and vain hope that they'll be heavy enough for your self-service machines to detect so I won't have to suffer the patronising glare of the lone woman given the responsibility of babysitting the bank of machines. I'm blaming you, Morrisons, for the increase in the size of my stomach.

So, for the sake of both my belt and my mental wellbeing, please sort out your self-service machines. Or better still, replace them with people - just like we had in the good old days. Far from their being "more reasons to shop at Morrisons", as your motto goes, you're in fact giving me more reasons to shop at Sainsburys. Or Tescos. Or Waitrose. Or to become like Tom and Barbara Good and become self-sufficient and do away with this silly supermarket nonsense altogether. 

Respectfully yours,
David J. Court BSc(Hons)

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