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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


I manage the checkouts at a large supermarket, ensuring that our purchasing and packing service meets our customers’ every need.

It has become commonplace for checkout operatives to greet shoppers with a cheery ‘Hello’. Customer research indicates, however, that five percent of shoppers are experiencing hangovers, four percent migraines, three percent have suffered recent bereavements and two percent are in the depths of clinical depression. Such customers abhor greeting and, in the case of the latter group, bonhomie can contribute to the increasing trend of ‘checkout suicide’. We therefore designate one till at which customers can be assured of indifference, or even, by request, hostility. This egress is also favoured by ultra-Orthodox Jews. Identified by their beards and black attire, they are often seen despondently leaving the store, empty handed, having discovered once more that Entenmann's cakes are still not approved as Kosher.

One checkout is dedicated to those who unload their trolleys very slowly, pack with no sense of urgency, present the checkout operative with a large variety of money-off coupons, and pay the balance partially with cash and partially with a slowly written cheque from a chequebook which takes minutes to recover from the bottom of a bag. All this while engaging the checkout operative in trivial conversation.

Should such customers present at other than the ‘Stupid Irritating Bastards Who Can’t See That Other People Are In A Hurry’ till, security frog-march them to the car park. Here they are stood against a wall and shot, the cost of the bullets being deducted from their loyalty card points. This innovation has proved very popular with most shoppers, who are only too willing to contribute a few minutes of their time to join a firing squad.

Increased emphasis on health and safety has led to the exclusive use of extra-wide checkouts for those customers who are clinically obese. Discreet, under-floor scales at the other checkouts identify such people who are then tactfully directed by store security to the correct till. This allows the confiscation and return to the shelves of any high calorie products, hence avoiding health risks to the customers and subsequent litigation against the store.

Those bringing more than nine items through the ‘nine items or less’ checkout are also identified. Due to their inability to count to ten, they fail to notice overcharging. Such profits finance many of the store’s special offers. They are also targeted for purchases where innumeracy is crucial - such as lottery tickets or double glazing offers.

Fear that deliveries might be interrupted during the 2001 petrol protest led to panic buying. The excitement and competition of this activity has led to ‘panic purchase of the week’. One product is kept in short supply so shoppers can arrive early in the morning, load trolleys to capacity and then queue for hours at the single ‘panic purchase point’. This has also allowed sale of much unwanted stock, highlighting, once more, the vital importance of checkout management.