Rachel's Blog: Stupormarkets

Tue, 03 Apr 2007

Have you ever noticed the incredible amount of energy you have to expend in order to go to the supermarket? There's so much activity necessary to complete such a seemingly straighforward, not to mention essential, task.

At first glance supermarkets seem ideal - all your day-to-day items in one place for you to select from and take home.

It's a false sense though. Despite all those kilometres of shelving, (a rough mental calcuation suggests around 2.5km at my local store) selection is limited. You're restricted to the items that sell well, have a recognisable brand name and a certain price-point. Take the example of Woolworths who recently pulled an "environmentally friendly" nappy from the shelves because they weren't selling. Oh, wait, they were selling and sales were on the rise, but not fast enough. Sorry, that line has been deleted.

But back to the energy expenditure. First you have to go to the store. Which means driving. They're not equipped with thousands of carparking spaces so you can easily walk there. Even if you do walk, pedestrian access is a laugh. It's even worse if the supermarket is within a mall. Even more walking to get to and from the one available parking space at the far end of the architectural monstrosity.

Next is the finding of the trolley. This alone would be worthy of a computer game, with the end of level boss represented by the trolley jockey and his Massive Trailer of Carpark Havoc Doom! (That's after you've wrestled all the exercise deficient women who need an entire trolley to cart their handbag around in.)

But say you've achieved all that and you've made it into the supermarket with the trolley and, because you're having a good day, you've even got a list to work from. Here's what you have to do:

  1. Walk every aisle. It doesn't matter what you're looking for. That one slightly unusual item you need is never where you would have put it. (For the record - bicarb of soda is with the baking goods, bulk vinegar is in the cleaning aisle.)
  2. Load your trolley. I hope even if the steering is wonky that at least it doesn't squeak.
  3. Find the checkout with the shortest* line.
  4. Read a magazine (Do NOT purchase it.)
  5. Unload your trolley onto the conveyor.
  6. Wince as your items are inexpertly packed. Hope the grapes aren't squashed.
  7. Pay for goods.
  8. Reload trolley.
  9. Return to car.
  10. Unload trolley.
  11. Return trolley to bay.

*Shortest is relative. In my experience it doesn't matter which queue you choose, it will still take the same amount of time. In a longer line where people have fewer items you'll be inching forward, in a shorter line where shoppers have full trolleys, you get to stand still.

Note that in this scenario you're so busy unloading for the convenience of the store, which is absolutely not offering you any customer service, that you cannot observe the screen that is placed for the specific purpose of allowing you to check the pricing of the goods you are purchasing. Thus your faith must remain with the store; you miss any opportunity to catch errors; the store has fulfilled its legal obligations.

Where are the self-checking trolleys? Why is online supermarket shopping such a painful and expensive experience? Where are the employees that are specifically rostered on to help you locate items and get them safely through the maze of activity to your vehicle? Naïve? Yes.

I confess that there can be something comforting about the ritual, but there are so many ways that the pains of this weekly errand can be eased. That is why I fully support and endorse Supermarket 2.0

(via Boing Boing)