it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Especially in a supermarket on a Saturday.

Saturdays are usually our busiest days, it's the main family shopping day, which is one reason I'm glad I only work every second one.
When I was on checkout, I rarely worked Saturdays, only coming in if someone else called in sick and couldn't make it, or during really busy seasons such as December and Easter.

Now, my roster has me working every second Saturday and it hasn't been so bad, I'm getting used to the routine.

But it's getting closer to Christmas, so people are going a little crazy. Not only are they coming in shopping, but they're bringing friends. And relatives. And half of Melbourne. Some of Perth too perhaps. (yes, I'm exaggerating a little).

Today I'm sure there must have been a million people in the store, every department calling for help from every other department, to keep the customers flowing instead of bottlenecked.

In the aisles, along the front of them, we have Christmassy banners displayed, obscuring the aisle number. No big deal, there are numbers displayed further down, big letters, easy enough to see. Yet some people had a bit of trouble locating aisles....."which way is aisle 7 dearie?"

The congestion in some aisles! People who hadn't seen each other, oh forever! you know, since yesterday...stopped to catch up and tell each other their life stories. In reality probably discussing their Christmas plans, I didn't stop to find out.

I spent most of the day retrieving stock from the bin at the express checkouts, where items are put when people change their minds and no longer want the item(s). Go there, fill a basket, roam the aisles putting them back on the shelves.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Oh my feet!

But get this! While I'm walking around returning stuff, what do I see? Other items that people just shove into the nearest shelf when they decide they don't want or need this thing after all.

Regular grocery items? Not so bad. Pop them in my basket and continue returning them.

But *deli meats? Left in the toilet paper stacks?
*Cheese? Left in amongst the dog food?
A bag of mushrooms tossed behind the crisps.
A loaf of bread sitting on top of packets of laundry powder.
An open carton of juice, half empty, in with the soft drinks.
(If *these items aren't found on the same day, they go "off" very quickly, smelling out the area).

But it's December. Getting close to Christmas. So customers have other things on their minds. They're too busy to walk 2 aisles back to where they were and put something back where they got it from. We'll forgive them.

I spent a little time today dodging two small boys who were running up and down a clear area of floor, now and again they would break routine and roll along the floor instead. They were having a great time. Dad was nearby watching over them, I think Mum was trawling the aisles, free to shop without having to keep an eye on two boisterous boys.

Keeping the basket rack filled kept me hopping too. When customers are finished with their basket, it gets left at the front of each checkout. When time permits, any staffer not currently busy will collect these and return them to the rack at the entrance. A few times a day is usually enough. But today? Roughly every 20 minutes, the baskets stacked at checkouts were almost fence height, (slight exaggeration there), meaning somebody had to do the "basket run".

Since everyone else was busy, busy, busy serving those millions of people, I did the basket runs.

In between these tasks, I helped customers find items they couldn't find. Not as easy as it sounds. While I know where most things are, we have some new items and I have no idea where to find them. Asking the customer about the item helps here. Is it a shelf item or refrigerated? What is it used for? This gives an indication of which section of the store to search.
I don't mind at all helping people find things as I also learn where things are this way and the next time someone wants that particular item, I can take them straight to it.

All in all, it's been a very busy Saturday and bound to get even busier closer to Christmas.

I should sleep well tonight.


  1. Top form of exercise though. And I often see some weird items stashed furtively amongst other, non-related items. It's like litter: really selfish, utterly lazy and we all end up paying for it in the end.

  2. Oh, I have been known to leave things on a random supermarket shelf when I find better or on special. But I certainly wouldn't leave anything perishable. That is amazing. Somewhere I recently read, well yesterday I think, about the lack of baskets at Woolworths entrances. I had never experienced this.....until today and what happened, no baskets at the entrance. It is only the middle of November, surely there can't be a christmas rush yet. Our supermarket check out staff are nearly all Indian now and most are quite pleasant, but today it was an Anglo chick and they normally have attitude, but she was extra nice. Supermarkets are quite interesting places to observe people in action, from both staff and customer perspectives. While I have never worked in one, I have spent a lot of time watching the way checkout and other staff interact with customers. Generally I conclude customers are idiots and staff are ok.

  3. Kath; by the time I got home today, I felt like I'd done my 6km walk, my feet were on fire and my varicosed leg was really aching hard, so no extra walk. But I'll make up for it tomorrow.
    The stuff I find that annoys me most, is empty wrappers and other empty packaging, usually stashed under or behind stuff, because that means someone has stolen the item.

    Andrew; We have a few new checkout girls who have only done 3-4 shifts so far, and even with today's rush of customers, they were coping really well, staying calm and being polite, even cheerful. It helps a lot if customers are nice. I haven't experienced much rudeness myself, (1 customer in 7 years), but I've heard of customer rage that has sent a checkout operator off her line in tears just recently.
    Next time there's no baskets, just have a quick look around and see how many people are carrying one, if there aren't many, ask the front end manager why there is a shortage?

  4. Actually since knowing you, I have a new found respect for those who work in retail. Never leave an item in the wrong place, don't overload my green bags and make sure that they're spotless. Don't want to end up on someone's blog as a bad shopper hahaha!

  5. Picking on checkout girls. What a low act.

  6. I like that you post about your job, River. Shop staff are seriously undervalued by the average shopper.

  7. Baino; Thank you from checkout girls everywhere, for cleaning up your act.

    R.H. Most of us behind the counter understand that when frustration boils over the nearest person usually gets the overflow. And we cope accordingly. But when a customer is deliberately rude or unjustified in his/her level of anger, sometimes it gets to us.

    Toni; I think more people these days are more aware that we are actually people, not just minions whose sole purpose is to do their bidding.


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