Things I’m Tired of Hearing At The Supermarket Checkout
Old people are rubbish
Most people would not be naturally drawn to nihilism. For the majority, love, food and cat memes are enough to sustain their mental state above the ‘there is no meaning’ threshold.
However, these people have not worked on a supermarket checkout. It may be different for a Waitrose worker in Kensington, where you are quite likely to at some point serve Jose Mourinho, but it does not take long to come around to the unbearable shiteness of being when you are providing the average Briton with their Daily Mail for a living.
Vice magazine have a cult following for their ‘Big Night Out’ feature, where their writer assesses British pop culture through the filter of its nightlife. His theory is that we can learn the most about our society when we are drunk.
He may be on to something, but I could make a pretty good case for supermarkets revealing better than any other staple of British life the vacuum that is the ordinary human’s life in this country.
Supermarket staff are asked if they get bored of saying the same things to customers hour after hour, day after day. The truth is that it is far more infuriating to hear the same things again and again.
For some reason entry into the local Tesco instils a very specific conformity on usually independent, free-willed human beings. Individuals from all backgrounds, ages and points on the boring/interesting continuum suddenly become identical drones loaded with nothing but five catchphrases and an insatiable desire to buy more than they need.
Here are the travails of a minimum wage worker, and indeed the whole of Britain, as encapsulated by those aforementioned consumer catchphrases.
‘I only came in for bread and milk’
For the uninitiated, it is beyond comprehension just how many times this gleeful submission to consumerism is uttered in the space of one working day. From a middle-aged parent who has foregone collecting their child to take advantage of a 2 for 3 deal on Pringles to an old lady who has spent their entire pension on Topshop gift vouchers, no one seems capable of just buying what they need.
Then again, nothing says modern Britain quite like buying useless things with money you don’t have because a John Lewis advert made you cry.
‘Oh I forgot my bags for life in the car!’
Everyone makes mistakes, and the act of forgetting your reusable carrier bags is hardly a cardinal sin. Much more serious is the need for forgiveness from a complete strange who is paid to be nice to you.
The Tumblr generation is lambasted by previous ones for being self-indulgent, pathetic and in constant need of validation, but to me nothing says ‘needy’ quite like a 40-year old sales worker begging for empathy from a part-time cashier.
‘Do you need my ID? HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA’
At least one in two bearded, lager-swigging blokes makes this joke and while the first one was not funny in the slightest, by the three hundred and ninth the joke starts to resemble the retail equivalent of waterboarding.
It may come from a well-meaning attempt to offer respite from the monotony of bleeps and seasonally relevant parting comments, but, as we saw with #Kony2k12, good intentions can sometimes do more harm than good.
‘Do you think I’m thirsty?!’
This is an interesting one as it comes from the widest demographic: the culprit could be a well-to-do Vectra driver capitalising on the 3 for £10 deal on new world wines, or it could be that guy having his ‘breakfast can’ of Smart Price lager.
The desired effect of the phrase also differs greatly depending on the customer: A moderately successful local business owner flaunting his above average income, a rugby player showing off his ability to hold his liquor or a recently clocked-off colleague’s cry for help.
Whatever the motive for this exclamation, the checkout assistant will invariably be uninterested.
‘Can’t wait for Christmas to be over and done with.’
If ever there was a signal that consumerism had won, it’s in the modern parent’s attitude towards Christmas. The festive period is no longer a time to gather with your family, get drunk and fall out with them. Instead people spend a month’s wages on Amazon so that they can replace conversation with their children with a Kindle.
This one is often spoken with a resignation, as if it is not a person’s choice to get into huge debt, but an obligation, like taxes or liking the new Beyonce album.
The ‘young people these days…’ cliché is trotted out pretty often by our parents’ generation, but the way I see it they have far more to answer for: the financial crash, all those paedophiles and uniformly terrible checkout chat. If that’s what middle age looks like, then I reckon Alphaville had a point.