MM’s Supermarket Showdown.

I wouldn’t like to be a supermarket cashier. It must be a boring job, day after day. But today, any compassion I had for cashiers disappeared in a puff of half-price supermarket smoke.

Bigfoot, Little My and I were at the “grown-up” supermarket, the one where you bump into people like Earth Daddy and the Dinkies (more about them here). We were on a mission for Perrier and shampoo. As carrying packs of water does nasty things to your fingers, I took a shopping trolley and wheeled it around the store.

We got our handful of items collected off the shelves in no time at all, and got to the tills to discover queues that were depressingly reminiscent of Heathrow’s immigration control. Then I saw it: the oasis of sanity, the spanking-new “scan your own” section. It was gleaming invitingly at the end of the store, its four pristine tills waiting patiently for customers to cheer up their lonely existence. We scooted over to it and started scanning our items with an enthusiastic Little My as chef d’orchestre. Each time she flashed the bar code in front of the optic sensor, she was rewarded with a loud and satisfying “bleep”. I felt warm inside to see how happy she was, and was wondering how we adults lose sight of these small thrills in life when my maternal nirvana was interrupted by a loud scream of horror.

An indignant voice shouted out, “Ah, NON, Madame!!!!!” I lifted my head from the depths of the shopping trolley to find out which poor Madame had committed a sin worthy of such vehement hostility. Had someone tried to leave the supermarket with a saucisson stuffed up each sleeve and a honeydew melon craftily hidden in each cup of a FF cup bra? Was Super Cashier about to save us from a terrorist who was on the point of stealing the day’s haul of money-off tokens?

Calamity Jane (album)

Remove the smile and imagine purple overalls, and you have the ardent defender of scan-your-own territory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t have time to see much, as my field of vision was immediately blocked by a faceful of purple overalls with an official badge pinned over a heavy boob. A pair of hands firmly grabbed my pack of Perrier and launched it unceremoniously back into my trolley. “Madame” was none other than little old me, who had apparently just committed the most heinous sin of the shopper’s universe. Meet MM the criminal, aka Materfamilias la Maudite.

A pair of hostile blue eyes drilled into mine from below disapproving eyebrows. The hands settled at hip level, Calamity Jane-style. Her fingers were twitching, no doubt ready to whip a hand-held scanner from the depths of each pocket and code-bar me into submission if I moved a muscle. “NO TROLLEYS IN THIS AREA, Madame!” the purple lone-ranger yelled at me. “Take your shopping elsewhere! Honestly, some people….”

My children looked on anxiously as my infamous “ancient camel dung” expression slowly appeared on my face. The kids know that this bodes no good for the recipient of my wrath. I levelled with the prison-warder-come-cashier. “Oh, yeah? Says you and whose army?”

“Says Le Règlement, Madame. No trolleys here. It says so here”. She bristled with self-importance and pointed triumphantly at a drooping sheet of paper that was forlornly taped to a sweets display above our heads. Its corners were at half mast, clearly in mourning for the cardboard support that didn’t make it on the long journey from the administration office.

I smiled at her and informed her that the “notice” in question must have been taped there by the Green Giant – she could probably understand that even for a tall person such as MM, it was too high to see, let alone read. I savoured the sight of my vertically challenged aggressor looking up at the sign before she spat “No trolleys!” at me for the second time.

Bigfoot was remarkably elegant, telling Madame that we only had 14 items, and that the recently discovered notice gave an upper limit of 15. Madame said yes, but in a basket, not in a trolley.

English: Carrinho de supermercado adaptado par...

Shopping trolley complete with get-away vehicle for supermarket sinners (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By this point, the mustard was really getting up my nose. Excuse the pun, but I was inches from going off my trolley. Forget Attila the Hun, this was Attila no Fun. She pulled her special badge out of her pocket, waved it ostentatiously across the screen as if it was a VIP pass to the backstage door at Cannes film festival, and stabbed evilly at “cancel” with a nail-bitten index finger.

“I thought this system had been put here to make shopping easier for customers, and for yourselves. Why do you have this rule, anyway?” I enquired. MM lethal humour was bristling on the end of my tongue, ready to be deployed.

She flared her nostrils like a silverback on crack, and bellowed: “Because it’s the rule! We don’t ask why! We obey the rules! That is all! No trolleys, Madame!” She had obviously  been promoted from the status of cashier to the vertiginous heights of Queen of the Scan-your-own Kingdom, yet didn’t feel any need to understand the rules that she enforced with so much breast-beating. She accepted the rules passively without questioning. She had been given power, and she was wielding it as coldly and methodically as Genghis Khan.

I took a deep breath. This conversation was going nowhere, fast. It was time to wrap up and go before the ice cream melted.  “Here’s a little advice for you, sweetheart: if you want to enforce a rule, it’s good to at least know why it exists. It’s healthy to question things – give it a try. Oh, and I’m sure that the little old lady who has to take a shopping trolley for three packs of water will be delighted when she keels over in a queue because you’re too small-minded to bend the rules you can’t explain. Have a good day”.

As a responsible, caring citizen, I felt it necessary to warn the (pleasant) cashier who took care of our shopping afterwards that there was a Rottweiler on the loose without a muzzle and wearing a shop uniform at the scan-your-own section. You can never be too careful: dogs aren’t allowed in supermarkets. It’s no doubt written somewhere in Le Règlement….


23 thoughts on “MM’s Supermarket Showdown.

  1. Haha! In this country where the rules seem to apply only as very loose guidelines to be interpreted as you wish I think it is amazing that you have managed to find a Frenchie who has gone to the other extreme! Either she is not really french or has a genetic mutation! 😉

    • The French only seem to insist on rules when they are the ones imposing them. A good example of this was the gendarme who overtook PF on the right, over a white line, with no sirens or flashing lights. If I’d done that, I would have lost my licence for good! You’re right about the genetic mutation- she was half human, half Godzilla.

  2. hi hi hi go get her girl,,, I must admit I get excited at playing with the blip blip machines when I am in the UK. It is a pity they don’t them over here.

    As to obeying the rules, Italians aren’t very good at it, so the sign would be wasted on them.

    • Her face is printed on my memory board, and I have decided that if I ever shop there again I will be taking the entire food budget in 5 centime coins for her till. If it had actually looked like a sign, maybe I would have seen it…. they have so many pieces of paper hanging aroun the place theat if you stopped to read them all you’d have to take a packed lunch with you.

  3. Ah, nothing like having your knuckles severely rapped by a power crazy supermarket employee…..I have been there more times than I care to mention and not being eloquent enough in French to put them right back in their place without stooping to their extremely rude level only upsets me even more. I envy you your ability to stand up to them!! I have no idea whatsoever how the staff at our local supermarket’s customer service desk were ever deemed pleasant enough to warrant a postion there – they would make the rottweiler at your local seem like an adorable puppy….why we keep going back there is a mystery to us all 😉

  4. I hope you really said all those things and weren’t just making them up to amuse us. You did make me laugh. Blogging has a purpose then. It makes you look at a horrible situation and find humour in it. Then you can look back fondly on your supermarket encounter!

    • It’s all 100% MM material, served up with a dose of humour for relish. The lady on the check-out laughed when I told her there was a Rottie on the loose – I think that my “friend” has a reputation in the shop for being a tyrant. I’m not sure I’d say I look back fondly on the experience, though; I’m furious because I don’t want to shop there again, but it’s the only supermarket for branded goods in a 20km radius: 😦

      • Grumpy Gertie, I like it! She’d probably get on with Rotty like a house on fire 🙂 Next time I will wear a paréo, put the water on my head and sashay up to Rotty’s till, singing “Kirikou” at the top of my voice 🙂

      • PS I have just read my first answer and realised that it looks like I made up the comments: everything was said as related in the text. Even if I don’t think she was ready to tazer me with her scanning gun.

  5. I wasn’t disappointed with the morning chuckles! 😀 Here you get the moans and disapproving looks from other customers if you’re merrily bleeping through the contents of a small trolley at the self check outs… they huff and puff because they’re standing there with a basket and feel you shouldn’t use them with a trolley… never mind that you have less (if somewhat heavier) items in your trolley than their overflowing baskets!

    I would’ve stood there deliberately and sent Bigfoot off to get a basket and then set up a chain with you and the trolley first, taking each item out one at a time, handing it to Bigfoot with his basket who puts it in then takes it out and hands it to Little My to bleep through the scanner! That would’ve wound up the Rottweiler quite satisfactorily I think! 😀

    • Funny you should say that, because it's what we had planned to do. Then I thought it would be conforming to what she asked, and i wasn't going to boost her ego. So we went to another till and enquired why we had been shouted at and why trolley weren't allowed. The other lady knew; it's because there isn't enough room for four trolleys. There was only one trolley there, but they don't want us consumer getting into bad habit so we were ousted so that we don't think we can get away with it next time. Charming!

  6. You have baskets in your supermarket, MM? Here our SuperU only has trolleys, because it has newspaper and magazine stands at the tills, where other supermarkets let customers leave their baskets. 🙂 How very daft to design a feature to speed things up, but not leave enough room for it to be used by all. Sigh….

    I wish I could have been a fly on the notice above your encounter. 🙂

  7. I never darkened the doors of a local supermarket when they started putting up to ridiculous levels the price of the international food products, in particular the Brit food. I wrote and complained to the manager, said I would not be spending more money there, didn’t get a reply so never went back.

    I did all my supermarket shopping there too, so that was quite a monthly sum. Guy didn’t care so I didn’t go back. Stuff ‘im.

    • I agree with you – I was amazed to find baked beans described as “exotic produce” in Leclerc once, and the price was exotic too. One tin for the price of a pack of four in Tesco’s…. bugger that for a game of soliders, as my granny used to say. I’ve switched from digestives to petit beurres for cheesecakes, too, ‘cos the humble digestive costs a mint. Pfft.

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