Loo Roll Logic, or How to Have Fun at the Supermarket.

I am a serial “people spotter”, and supermarkets are a permanent source of amusement for me. Earth Daddy (the free-trade father), Zero Percent (the manically depressed low fat/sugar/carb freak), YFSM (Young Free & Single Male) and the rest of the Saturday Shopper crew have me rolling in the supermarket aisles every time.

This week, I decided to embrace the zen attitude of the weekday lunchtime shop, and met a completely different shopping population. The store was quiet and strangely devoid of the usual screaming toddlers teetering over the brink of the trolley with torrents of snot and half-chewed cookie drooling down their chins.

1953--shop as a family--by Bill Fleming

Earth Daddy, Wonder Woman and their irreproachable offspring shopping at Intermarché, where Earth Daddy finally found the rat poison he needed to deal with the neighbour’s cat. (Photo credit: x-ray delta one)

I coasted through the aisles with my squeaky trolley and played “Shopper’s I spy”. Retired lady with headscarf sifting through the cut-price bargains on the bottom shelf of the deli section? Check. Night-shift workers with bags under their eyes hunting down their brunch? Check. Spotty teens playing truant from the local school? Check. Zero Percent reading the small print on the diet yoghurt pot? Check.

I ambled over to the fruit and veg section in hope of a blog-worthy sight, and was rewarded by the sight of a well-dressed gent who was picking cucumbers off the display one after the other. He prodded them and eyed them suspiciously before waving one of them at his wife, who acquiesced with a brief nod of the head and went back to rummaging feverishly through the bags of salad.

It was at that moment that I was distracted by a supermarket sound I love more than any other – the sound of someone singing along to the tannoy system. From behind the lettuce display, a deep voice with a strong French accent was purring:

“And eef you ‘ave a minoot whay don’t wee goh…?

Tolk abowt eet, zomwear onli wee noh?

Ziiiiis cood be zee end of everysii-ing

Zo whay don’t wee goh

Zomwear onli wee noh?”

Peering through the foliage, I spotted the vegetable virtuoso. The bearded young man was serenading the bunches of radishes as he inspected them one by one, happily oblivious to the fact that the entire store could hear him. His version of Coldplay made the song, as well as grocery shopping, a damn sight sexier. He bounded away with his radishes and dropped them into his basket before pointing in the air and informing his girlfriend: “Let’s go. I hate love songs in supermarkets.” His secret would be safe with me – once I’d put it on my blog.

Woman wearing gas mask in chamber

Gladys realized that her lotus flower-scented loo roll was no match for the collateral damage caused by Roger’s Vindaloo take-away. (Photo credit: State Library of Victoria Collections)

I mooched off to the toilet paper aisle for the weekly truckload of toilet paper and raised a perplexed eyebrow at the range of vile colours on offer. I just don’t get the point of the insipid pastel shades of pink, apricot, blue and green, which remind me of hand-knitted cardigans at the local old people’s home. There is nothing delicate or elegant about the role of the roll. And as for perfumed loo roll… Depending on who has just vacated the premises, you would have to insert an entire roll up each nostril to even notice the fragrance.

Just as I was leaving with my monster pack of bog standard white, my jaw unhinged at the sight of transparent twin packs of individually wrapped toilet rolls. In MM’s humble abode, a twin pack of bog roll would have the life expectancy of a Mars bar tossed on to the raft of the Medusa. Squinting closer, I discovered that these porcelain potty pin-ups weren’t just soft, strong and very long: you could roll this stuff out at Cannes to replace the red carpet. More importantly, these ultra-cushioned stars of the sanitaires beat the crap out of their pale pink neighbours with the raciest colours I have ever seen for the wee pee pew, including apple green, velvet-black and… dark brown.

Who on earth buys brown toilet paper? My curiosity was piqued. I parked up, grabbed a box of washing powder and pretended to read the back of it as people came and went, impatient to see who the mystery buyer could be. If my loo-roll logic was correct, it would be a high-earning, middle-aged bachelor who lives in a minimalist designer flat and reads philosophy on his spotlessly clean toilet, before carefully tearing a single sheet of paper from the Stark bog roll holder gleaming on the wall.

After ten minutes, I gave up waiting for confirmation. In my haste, I had overlooked the fact that someone who pays nearly two euros per individually wrapped chocolate-brown loo roll 1) wouldn’t be shopping until much later that evening, and 2) probably doesn’t buy loo roll very often, because he spends all his time working to pay for the bloody stuff. Never mind. Better luck next week.

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77 thoughts on “Loo Roll Logic, or How to Have Fun at the Supermarket.

    • I was a bit concerned about Cucumber Man’s intentions, to be honest – he kept looking at the cucumbers, prodding them and looking at his wife before putting them down and inspecting another one. Brrr.

  1. Oh God, I am crying!!!

    And she’s back!! 😀

    Some designer twerp somewhere will have brown coloured bog roll to compliment his ridiculously expensive apartment…it’s truly frightening.

    If they printed books on the stuff I reckon we’d never get our men out of the bloody room.

    I particularly like the line “Retired lady with headscarf sifting through the cut-price bargains on the bottom shelf of the deli section?”, she seems to be a requirement for EVERY supermarket and I see her often…do you reckon it’s the same woman who gets paid to do that job the world over?! 😉

    • Hmm. Good point, Welly Girl. I think this requires a worldwide supermarket sociology study. A bit like “Where’s Wally” but at the deli section across the world. I’ll deal with the brown loo paper mystery shopper, he sounds like a dangerous type.

  2. I’ve gotten to the age where midday grocery shopping on a weekday is perfect decadence …. I felt myself walking down the aisles with you as I read this while sipping on my Saturday morning coffee and (yes, I swear) preparing my grocery list 🙂
    Brown toilet paper is just so wrong on so many levels … I’ve always been wary of colored toilet paper; that color has got to seep somewhere, and it’s kind of hard to personally check some of those somewheres, so I’d prefer a simple roll of white, thank you very much!
    So happy to have you back!

  3. I also love to people watch as much as I love to study animals of the wild kind… people are very similar in their ways specially in super markets… the wild interactions and snotty kids chewing on sweet that I often wonder if ever paid for… but I have never studied the paper that finishes off the job in the loo… maybe I need to spend more time in that aisle… I normally pick up the biggest bag (18) and embarrassingly carry it to the till… whilst doing that I picture all who see me thinking hell he sh ts a lot… but my philosophy is get the cheapest, that “eye” needs a clean and couldn’t give a damn on colour or texture, as long as its soft and does the required job… I love your posts, always gives me a great start to my day…

    • 😀 Glad you enjoyed it. People are fascinating, wherever they go – and we ARE similar in our ways to animals because we are animals, and because our social behaviour is similar to those of some other species (for example, many other primates have democratic procedures for leadership).
      But back to bog roll. I like those huge 18 packs – I think the guy who piles them up must feel like he has grown-up lego.

  4. You cracked me up with this one! (Loo rolls, pun intended). The French penchant for multicolored crapper wrappers always floors me, too. I’m with you on the white, un-perfumed variety. And why shop with the family? The French shop in herds and don’t seem to mind when they clog up the aisles. I’m the evil-eyed maniac who’s on a mission – keep out of my way!

    • French family shopping is mesmerising – there are so many variations on the same theme. You have the parents who unashamedly use their kids to get the shop finished quickly (like PF and I), the parents who feed their kid at the supermarket’s expense (as Bulldog points out above), the ones who hold high level negotiations with their offspring in front of the cereal display and the ones who have bigger melt downs than their kids. I just LOVE IT.

    • Oooh, LIDL. They have good bread if you fancy a change from the staid old baguette.
      The supermarket I describe above is the “grown-up” supermarket. I usually only go there to get certain bits and bobs when I’m organized – I get the rest from ALDI, the local market and butcher. But when I’m swamped down with work, I get everything there and hate myself afterwards.
      Which is by the by. Brown toilet roll is indeed very fucked up. How do you check everything’s spick and span? The poor guy must like going to work with a philosophical attitude – to smell, or not to smell, that is the question… 😀

  5. The only thing I can think about with the brown loo paper, is…erm…how do they know when they are done wiping? People watching is the best isn’t it, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, but I lived there for four and a half years, and it is THE best place to people watch.

    • Las Vegas must be a prime destination for people-watching – you must have culture clashes between people who are not only from different wolds, but entirely different planets! Cannes is fascinating too – I’ll be blogging about that one day soon.
      I agree with you on the cleanliness risks of buying brown loo roll. Although given the price of the stuff, maybe the consumer in question has one of those singing, dancing loos that washes and dries after every delivery, so the loo roll is just for decoration purposes?

      • Oh I would love to go to Cannes! Actually I think I did go as a child when I lived in France for a couple of years, but not during film festival time, and I can’t remember it. I have a part in a short film that they are hoping to get to Cannes next year (although I know millions of films “hope” to get to Cannes!), anyway, I think it has a reasonable chance, so you never know, I might get to come!

      • Oh, wow! Can we go for an ice-cream together on the croisette and paddle in the sea for the paparazzi? I’ll ask you for an autograph and tell everyone that you are famous. Then I’ll take you to Hermes to show you the most expensive crap I have ever clapped eyes on 🙂

  6. That was me in the deli section looking for bargains! I wish you’d come over to say ‘bonjour! I was having a bad hair day hence the head scarf. Maybe you didn’t regognise me. Loved the singing. I wonder if my French sounds as good as that to a Frenchman? Went into Scottsdale yesterday for lunch where the botoxed, lifted and fillered come out to play. Popped into Lululemon (whose founder recently resigned for saying fat people shouldn’t wear his yoga pants) and was too fascinated by the clientele to look at the clothes. You would have had a field day!

  7. I was tempted by a loo roll covered in daisies once, but it was for show only, no one was allowed to use it. I’m sure those that buy designer loo rolls send their staff to acquire them, you’d be unlikely to catch sight of theses rare species doing their own shopping.

    • I know someone who has a toilet brush that is for show only – there’s a “bog standard” one lurking in the broom cupboard for the duty work. I can’t imagine loo roll with daisies on it – adds a whole new dimension to fertilizing the plants 🙂
      I agree that the people would probably send their minions to do the dirty work and buy the bog roll. That will mess up my survey statistics. Arse. So to speak…

  8. Ah, the joy of the weekly trip to the supermarket! You make it sound like it was fun, but I never really enjoyed it. This is because I grew up in a small village and I hated the fact that everybody knew what we were having for dinner. Not nice. As for the brown toilet paper, well, it is really odd. I wonder what’s next…

    • It IS fun, Mumu – I promise. You just have to look in the right places for amusement. The fact that you noticed me pole checking out the contents of your baskets means that you have the eye for people spotting – get stuck in! Maybe you could hide out at M&S and do a Mumu survey on who buys those brown knickers??

  9. It’s a quiet Sunday morning and I’m half awake with a giant cup of coffee, then my attention is captured by your treatise on supermarket shoppers and toilet paper. That must have been you I saw lurking in the toilet paper aisle! Wait – I haven’t seen coloured toilet paper in Canada since the eighties!! All the same characters, just on a different continent … right down to the singer in the vegetable department 🙂
    Then reading all the witty comments was just as entertaining! Only you could make a trip to the supermarket hilarious! 😀

    • Dammit. Yet I was sure I was well camouflaged in the kitchen towel display. No coloured loo roll? The aisle must look like the Northern face of Mount Everest 🙂 I’m sure that the accent of the vegetable virtuoso must be refreshingly different in Canada – maybe we should have a “guess the song and the accent” competition, with entries from supermarkets all over the world?
      Glad you enjoyed it. I went to vote this morning – it was almost as much fun as shopping.

      • Yes – the assortment of accents in my neighbourhood would definitely add to an interesting guessing game 🙂
        We go the polls in a few more weeks for a new provincial leader. It does feel a bit like an exercise in futility sometimes 😦

      • Too right. 35% of the French turned out yesterday and managed to put the far right in first position for the European Parliament. I am trying to find some solace in the fact that whist they got nearly a quarter of the votes, the remaining three quarters of voters voted for someone else… 😦

  10. Brown bog roll to create the illusion that your emissions are colourless perhaps?

    I’ve never seen the point in coloured toiltet roll. Or the kind with little pictures on. Why would I want to wipe my arse on wales? One of the shops here even has special kids toilet roll with pictures of dragons on…

    • I did wonder – it must be less disagreeable to look at when checking on progress, but not knowing if you’re clean or not must be problematic.
      The only printed stuff that I would be tempted to use is some of the political propaganda that’s come through my letter box recently. Athough I would be scared of catching something nasty.

  11. Very funny, I’ll be paying more attention in the supermarket from now on! So funny that the brown loo roll is the hot topic in the comments!! I would have to agree with everyone though – how do you know when to stop wiping?? I do have a fondness for the loo roll I buy here which has pretty leaves and flowers, it makes me smile whenever I tear off a sheet (yep, I’m easily amused). I was disappointed, however, when I discovered that Asso was a brand of kitchen towel rather than loo paper 😦

    • ASSO? 😀 Excellent! Italian loo rolls has flowers, huh? I’m all for useful bog roll with reminders for the user. Messages could include “Flush then Brush!”, “Put the seat down and save a Mum’s Bum”, or “Use the spray and make my day”.

  12. 🙂 🙂 Pink loo roll is my pet hate! And as for brown…..well, where do you shop MM? Haven’t seen any other colours other than pastel pink or blue here! Glad to see I’m not alone in favouring the boring old white.
    People watching is one of my favourite things!! Funny how I can recognise every single one of your subjects….maybe they flit from region to region enteraining us all. One thing I’ve particularly noticed here is how lone French shoppers talk out very loudly..to themselves!! Always makes me chuckle!

    • Crossword puzzles are a definite no-no in our stool stand. I think my men spend long enough on the loo as it is. Maybe we could train them to do something more useful, like planning their week or writing the shopping list…

  13. Oh what I’ve been missing! I barely notice other shoppers, but now I think I need to play your game. Much more interesting. And I’m fascinated with all the colorful toilet paper. We don’t have these options, at least not as far as I know! I wouldn’t want the brown, but you could talk me into pink. 🙂

    • Deborah, you live in a world without pink loo roll too? Lucky, lucky girl.
      Here is the link to a page on the color loo roll manufacturer’s page. The bright red looks like an awful idea. The mystery brown loo roll shopper is holding it in his hands in the picture on the right when you scroll down 🙂
      Now off you go and get people spotting. Check out the DINKIES – Dual Income No KIddIES. You must have lots of them – they mountaineer up the shelves for the rare breeds of Italian Spaghetti that breed on the top shelf.

  14. How do you make even a trip to the supermarket funny?? I’m going to have to start giving my fellow shoppers names now. And as for the brown loo roll…who ever thought that was a good idea?!

    • I’m a head case – but hey, I’m happy this way. Happily you are not in the fraught parent category – Bee is still tiny and still attracts “Awww, how cute” when she cries. You are in the “Daddy who attracts women like flies because he has a baby strapped to him” category. Has your wife trained up to do Super market Pulp Fiction fights yet? I had to fight other women off with packets of spaghetti when PF had Little My tacked to his front.

  15. The French seem to love pink loo rolls. It was often the only colour available when I first came to France. I buy the ones in white that you can flush the tube down the loo because it’s the only way not to build up a collection of loo roll tubes, and we’re too old to want them for Santas at Christmas!

    At my 50th party, we held it in a friend’s house where they had turquoise loo roll. Another friend thought it would make a fine bandanna, so came out of the loo with it wrapped around his neck. Looked quite snazzy actually… for an emergency accessory!

    • I had to buy pink today cos all the white had sold out. Now that IS telling evidence that the French are tiring of the coloured variety 🙂 I’ve never dared to try the flushable loo-roll tubes because our pipes are the diametre of drinking straws.
      I think that the bandana idea is brilliant – maybe we should do a loo roll catwalk and model all the colors available at LeClerc. I bags the brown.

  16. I don’t know what it is about your posts but I feel like a kid waving wildly here. I love to watch people although they are not so “exotic” in my neighborhood. I would blindly follow a young French singer with reckless abandon. It’s genetic.

    I was going through my mom’s old Country Living Magazines from 1998 − 2000 and I was really drawn to these ad’s of colored toilet paper . Peach, blue, minty green…clearly in ’98 my mind was somewhere else because this trend went right over my head. Last Sunday however I wanted colored TP. It inspired me and I even goggled it. I ripped the ads right out of the magazine. This was 2 days before your post. WHY NOT have colored TP. Sets the stage and the mood. I could say more but I will refrain. Black or brown seems counter productive. The next time you stalk the shoppers , please visit the TP aisle and send me a couple of Brand names ? Somehow I think I won’t be finding this colorful luxury in NL.

    Hugs, K.

    • I can see you waving! Yoo hoooooo, I’m over here!!!
      How strange that you were hit by coloured bog roll nostalgia just days before I posted this. We must be on the same wavelength!
      Here’s a link (honest) to mail order any color you want – yellow, green, red, purple…. the company is called RENOVA – a Spanish group who are doing very well with their products in France.
      They even have a competition on for instagram – take a pic of their loo roll in your home and win a kilometer of toilet roll the same color. Sometimes I think we Europeans are off our (shopping) trollies.

  17. Hear hear 🙂 I am, too, a people spotter. And if the people where I shop were able to understand French, they would actually know why what they are buying is crap – particularly fertiggericht (huh in English, “pre-cooked meals”?) – because my comment is voiced live. The hardest part is to remember that when I am in France, I should better comment in German.

    Regarding the brown TP: for having used one in the past, trust me, you know when you are finished. Only, I won’t extend on the subject, this is one of my “traumatismes d’enfance” – merci maman 😉

    • Hello, kipkool! You must be a fascinating people spotter for another people spotter to spot – airing your views in another language makes you a very rare sighting. I hate industrial meals – and I just don’t understand how the French can buy the stuff, let alone eat it – they are the ones with the gastronomic reputation!
      So you tried brown loo roll and you really CAN see when you’re done? It obviously affected you if you still remember 🙂

  18. Hilarious! I’m a serial people-watcher too! Except here, I mainly see leopard print 😉 The French guy sounded like a bit of a treat – and I enjoyed trying to sing along with your lyrics in a French accent! 🙂 Linda.

    • People-watching is the cheapest and most entertaining hobby by far. Leopard print, huh? As in “Miaow”? Or is it more of a mature and botoxed growl like we get in the South of France?
      Leeseneeng to zat maneu singingeu in eegleesh waz zutch a naice expeurerience. Work on your accent and get on stage, girl!

      • Ha ha! And the leopard print is on everyone – I even met a Finnish stag in a leopard print onesie! Though usually it’s the women!

      • I’m happy I found you – thank YOU for signing up for regular doses of my tripe. I was busy reading about Latvian portals (or would that be portaloos?) using your posts for a bit of hate mongering amongst the locals. How cute can you get? These people really must learn to write their own stuff rather than pinching other people’s work.

      • Portaloo is probably more appropriate 😉 They’ve turned me into some sort of celeb/hate figure here – all because of my tripe! Funny people – not funny ha ha 😉

  19. Brown loo paper? I shan’t sleep tonight for trying to imagine who on earth would buy it – and indeed who in earth first thought of making it! We’re firm fans of Lidl’s best loo paper – much softer, stronger and probably longer than Andrex and half the price. 🙂 As for French supermarket shopping, late morning is the best time, when all the French housewives have headed home to make lunch and the place is practically deserted.

    • I haven’t tried out Lidl’s stuff yet. We can have a worldwide loo roll survey! Hey, bloggers unite! The “blog bog roll trophy” is awarded to…… 🙂
      I don’t like it when the place is empty. I get bored if there’s none to watch 🙂

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