Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Nation of Shopkeepers

Retail Woes

I'm at a loss to fully explain my frustration and outright, overflowing anger with the retail experience in the UK. It is, in short, abominable (perhaps not even that good!).

I will get on to my fellow shoppers; but before I do, a few words about the retailers. Let's try to be fair. They do have a lot of obstacles to overcome. Without exception the premises they have to work with are less than desirable. Actually they are almost uniformly not fit for purpose. The aisles are just too small. There is barely room enough to swing a cat on a Tesco or Sainsbury's aisle.

Why is this? Simple. In order to make use of the maximum amount of space, stores cut down on the aisle space. To a retailer the aisle is just wasted space. And, and most importantly, shoppers here in the UK are already used to having no space to move yourself or your trolley. They just accept it as the status quo. Shoppers are so used to being treated like cattle they just don't know any better.

By way of demonstration - in the USA things are very different. Customers are accustomed to very wide aisles and simply would not shop in stores which resemble rat-runs or obstacle courses. They are spoiled rotten by the relative cheapness of land and the subsequent mammoth car parks with enough room to open your car door as wide as possible and still be in the bay you are supposed to be in.

Down at Roy's of Wroxham (and this is typical of every supermarket car park I've eve seen in England) there is barely enough room to open the door at all. You have to be very lucky indeed to be able to open fully – only when parked next to a Smart car for instance.

Again, retailers are only interested in packing in the maximum number of cars for the space available. (Here's a good one for the much maligned planning authorities – why not specify how many car park bays, and the size thereof, which must be available to the public before granting an application!) My prediction? Never happen.

So, your first job is to park the car and get out. This is quite a task even before you get to the shop.

Then you need to get your trolley and try to negotiate the small spaces in the aisles whist at the same time overcoming the vicissitudes of your fellow shoppers. This is the really hard bit.

Let me demonstrate by recounting my experience last week. I left home at 13.15 to go to Roys for a very small amount of shopping. We needed a few things for that day's dinner and a small bottle of whiskey for the afternoon's rugby international (about the only time in the year when I drink whiskey except for the obligatory bottle at Christmas). This should have been a 15 minute job.

I managed to get a car parking spot in the Londis car park. Very naughty but what the heck – I was going to the post office as well. Into Roy's and got my basket – not a full trolley – just a hand basket. The hand baskets can be more of a hindrance than a help. Unless you hold it in front of you it will not assist you in negotiating the aisles. Hold it at the side and you will hit other shoppers. jolly bad form, what!

The whiskey was the challenge. On my way to peruse the offers, I became aware of an almighty row going on at one of the checkouts. This is unusual – even for Roy's. Everyone in the store whilst pretending not to be interested was, in fact, trying to get close enough to find out what was actually happening.

As near as I could tell, a chap who was having his groceries scanned by the assistant was engaged in a particularly unpleasant exchange with the woman who was next in the queue. He was saying, quite loudly, something about “bloody women who always expect ??? and moan and groan when they don't get it”.

Could this be a case of queue-jumping (an almost unheard of faux pas in Britain)?

I never did get to the bottom of the struggle as I was in a bit of a hurry to get home before the rugby started.

I should have dallied for all the good it did me.

At the booze aisle, I was completely screwed, blued and tattooed – all in one smooth movement.

This aisle is particularly narrow. There were four people already in the aisle, so I stepped in and stood, patiently, behind them with my basket in front of me. Both sets of Norfolk Numpties had a trolley with them which they had strategically placed against the wares on offer whilst they stood either side of the trolley.

Now here is where the fun began. I could see the small bottle of Bannock Brae which I required on the bottom shelf. There was no way to get to it.

The smeg-heads on the left were carefully examining the brandy. Every bottle of brandy, and with each examination there ensued a conversation about the relative merits of the drink in question. It appeared that they had never bought a bottle of brandy before. (What, my lucky day!)

The gherkin-brains on the right, meanwhile were attempting to buy a bottle of whiskey as, I learned from just standing near them, a present for a relative.

Gentle reader this went on for some time – I mean some time – without and real progress being made.

This scenario went on and on. The most amazing part of the whole fiasco was the two pairs of saddos were completely unaware of the chaos they were causing. I firmly believe that British people lack what the rest of the world takes for granted – a sense of empathy. Most of them just do not even consider what effect their idiotic and selfish behaviour is having on others. It's a fact – no matter how unpleasant.

I missed the beginning of the rugby match by at least 10 minutes. The 10 minute job became a 40 minute one!

Ordinarily, at this stage I would be offering some kind of advice or solution.

I just give up.

I have none.

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