It’s been a while since last I blogged and in that time the world has gone from being predominantly concerned with a pandemic to being predominantly concerned with a war. This is hardly an improvement all things considered.
Indeed so horrendous is the current status quo, that I need to acknowledge, from the outset, that this diatribe is evidently self-indulgent and in no way an indication that I have any real problems whatsoever. But these things happened, they annoyed me, and currently the only recourse I have is to moan about them on this blog. Which I’m about to do.
Sunday the 20th March started as so many Sundays do Chez Proclaims with Little Proclaims and I heading off to our nearest swimming pool for her weekly swimming lesson. It was slightly unusual in that we had to go swimming in pyjamas, but that was the theme of the week. It was our first time entering the pool in nightwear, but apparently a thing our swimming school of choice likes to introduce occasionally as a way of teaching the kids how to cope should they fall into a body of water fully clothed. I’m not sure how prepared Little Proclaims now is for that eventuality, but she did enjoy the novelty of wearing her unicorn pyjamas in the pool and so the day started off with much laughter and amusement.
Next on the agenda was our weekly trip to the supermarket, which, as the title of this post has no doubt already revealed, was not quite so positive an experience. Even that started quite well though. It has, for some weeks, been a tradition of ours to follow up our morning swim with a visit to the supermarket café, which opens a full 30 minutes before the shop itself. It’s reasonably priced with perfectly acceptable fare, but normally the service is a little lacking. On this visit though, the service was nothing short of exemplary. Indeed I was quite convinced at this stage, that Sunday the 20th of March was going to be a good day.
Alas I was too quick in my assessment, for it was not long before the downward spiral began. We left the café to embark on the mission of filling our trolley. Little Proclaims likes to ride in the trolley and dictate affairs, while I take on the more perfunctory role of pushing her metal chariot through the aisles. For a while now we have elected to use the ‘scan as you shop’ option, which entails carrying a handheld scanner around with us (which also serves as a phone, laser gun and a multitude of other functions limited only by the fertile imagination of my offspring), and which normally reduces the time taken to pay at the end of the experience (and also limits the amount of human interaction I have to tolerate). On occasion, though, using this system does mean that one is subjected to a random security check by a member of the store staff, presumably to ensure that customers are not tempted to try and sneak items through without paying for them. I have been subjected to a few of these checks, and while they are a minor inconvenience, they never take too long and as I’ve always been scrupulously honest, I’ve never known what the consequences would be if I had accidently forgotten to scan an item in my trolley. But this Sunday I did forget to scan an item. My scanner told me I had £108 worth of goods in my basket, when I did, in fact, have items to the value of £113. I had managed not to scan a bottle of sun cream and as luck would have it, said bottle was one of the items that was selected in the random check.
As criminal enterprises go, attempting to augment the value of one’s shopping by less than 5% does not strike me as the most lucrative or worthwhile of schemes, but it seems the consequences of such a misdemeanour are quite serious. It was not simply a case of adding the miscellaneous item to my bill, as might seem the proportionate response to someone who had managed to scan all of the other goods in the basket. No, clearly such a hardened criminal as this needed to have his entire trolley rescanned by a member of staff, in full view of all of the other shoppers, while his confused child sat in said trolley proclaiming loudly “but I thought we were going home daddy”.
Once a thorough assessment of my trolley had indeed proven that the only item I had forgotten to scan was the aforementioned UV protection, I was permitted to pay for my goods. I did (because in spite of all available evidence I am scrupulously honest) point out that the shop assistant had actually failed to scan an item of even greater value (a princely sum of £13) than that which I had overlooked, thus offering proof that my original discretion might also have been human error, rather than an attempt to build an illegal sunscreen empire. I departed the shop feeling somewhat irritated, but keen to get my now quite animated child home as soon as possible.
Alas my misfortunes did not end there, for as I was reversing out of my parking space I collided with a car that was pulling out of a parking space behind me. Both vehicles were moving, albeit slowly, but as the other car was moving forwards and clearly hit me with more force that I hit it, I was minded to believe that it was the other driver’s fault. He did not agree, viewing it as more of a 50:50 split in terms of responsibility but the fact he didn’t blame me outright suggests that deep down he did know it was his fault. I must confess, though I tried to remain quite polite, I may have descended into rudeness, but it had been quite a trying 20 minutes or so. We exchanged details though I’m not sure how it will pan out – my insurance company is not open to enquiries on Sundays. The damage to my car was relatively minor, but it is quite a new car (indeed one that I acquired not three weeks ago) and thus I’m more sensitive to minor bumps than I might be normally.
I returned home with my shopping in something of a state. I’m not sure whether it was the ‘security check’ or the carpark incident but I felt quite unsettled and needed to restore balance to my world. Alas the insurance company’s reluctance to take phone calls on Sundays meant that that would remain unresolved for a further 24 hours, but I felt I should make the supermarket aware of my chagrin at being treated like a criminal.
Normally I register my displeasure at companies through a passive aggressive email. The act of writing it offers me some release and I normally get a suitably fawning response from the company which, while almost certainly insincere, allows me to get suitable closure. But this company, which has remained nameless thus far, but shall now be named as Tesco, does not provide an opportunity for customers to register their displeasure in writing. So I phoned them. And I spoke to a customer service representative who acknowledged my concerns that a public shaming over a 5% indiscretion was probably not appropriate but who nonetheless repeatedly kept pointing out that it was standard procedure. She assured me that she would let the store in question know about my dissatisfaction but was unable to offer me any assurance as to how that information might be received by the store.
I explained that while I accepted that I had, indeed, erred in failing to scan the sun cream, I did still feel that the matter could have been dealt with more discreetly and proportionately and wondered what follow up there might be in terms of the store acknowledging my concerns. She advised that there would be no follow-up and that if I wanted to speak to the store manager I should have done so while I was in the store. I politely explained that while I did not blame her personally for anything that had transpired, I felt this response to my initial dissatisfaction was also unsatisfactory. With an edge in her voice she suggested that she had done everything she could to help me and that she wasn’t sure what else I wanted. I replied that I too did not know what else I wanted but that, as I remained unhappy, there perhaps should be a further step that she could offer me. With ill-disguised irritation she suggested that she could get her supervisor to call me back. I agreed that this should probably happen.
A few hours later the supervisor called me. He apologised profusely and promised faithfully that he will personally communicate with the store manager to ensure systems are examined to avoid this kind of thing happening again. He and I know that nothing will change with regards Tesco’s operations as a result of our conversation. He and I also know that I will continue to shop at Tesco because it is my nearest supermarket and therefore annoyingly convenient. But he fawned and that is what I needed to find closure so I can now let the matter rest.
On a happier note, the £13 item that the shop assistant almost let me steal was a Disney princess costume that Little Proclaims has delighted in wearing non-stop since we acquired it. And it’s hard to be too downhearted when your three-year-old daughter is running around the house declaring that she is a princess.