Supermarket Etiquette

BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN

The War Office sent me up to Lidl last Sunday in search of a tub of mango sorbet – only sold there – which she needed to accompany a post-roast pudding. She insisted that I return before half ten as I was needed for rugby matchday taxi duties for my eleven-year-old. Guests were coming for lunch, and we were running a tight schedule.

Such are the joys of Sundays these days.

I now look back as ancient history on Sundays past – of waking in a drunken haze at midday in my flat off Oxford Street only to discover whoever the girlfriend was back then rifling through my trouser pockets for evidence of any misdemeanours and having to explain away a bunch of indecipherable numbers written on the back of a Bar Madrid entry ticket. I remember once waking up to a very jealous Dutch girl I used to date actually attempting to weigh the family jewels. Now I am not sure which kind of Sundays I prefer. Current Sundays are better for one’s blood pressure – those now growing fainter in memory seem like a series of exuberant trials and errors through which, peradventure, one grows and mellows.  

I arrived at Lidl at a quarter to ten that sunny morning, expecting to sit in the car for fifteen minutes as the store opening time on the Web said ten o’clock. But the supermarket was open. At least the doors were open, and people were grabbing trolleys and entering the store. So, I joined them and – with a pound – detached a small trolley myself.

I put a few bits and bobs in my trolley then went to pay but the tills were not open. A Lidl virgin, it was then that I deciphered that you could fill a trolley before ten but not use the tills until ten. So I pottered around and snapped up some bargains in ‘compost corner’ as it is known. Then I sifted through the lucky dip tat in the ‘Lidl Middle’ aisle and found a Parker fountain pen for my daughter for a remarkable one pound and fifty pence. There was an old lady there who engaged in idle chatter with me about the low-quality Crocs she had once acquired from the middle aisle. I looked at what Crocs were selling for and doubted her grounds for complaint – if you can get shod for less than the price of a family packet of cheese curls then any sound judge would surely consider any such complaint redundant.

I looked at my watch. It was two minutes to ten so headed to the till but there were still no signs of cashiers – just a bizarre twenty-man queue developing on till one. So, I went into the pet aisle and grabbed some dog food and then pottered around the corner to see if I could find a box of Maltesers. At this point till one opened.

“Till 5 will now be opening” the voice on the public address system sounded. I looked up. I was standing just next to till 5. So I started loading my shopping onto the conveyor belt. What good fortune! But it was then that I heard the booming voice behind me:

“There is a queue, you know. You can’t just jump in front of us without queueing.”

I turned around to see a massive bloke with long white hair. He looked like that fat fellow off Eggheads. He had emerged from the great long queue at till one. He looked as angry as the December 2019 Labour Party YouTube comments section.

I measured the situation. The long queue was staring across at me, as were the cashiers and the store security guard. They did not look angry, but I was sure that silence would affirm an unwarranted guilt. There was a need for an immediate response even though I’d not consciously queue barged.

“Ah, but I was queueing,” I shouted back, “just intelligently at till 5, you overgrown muppet.”

There were a few chuckles from the silly, long queue. I don’t think they expected a quick retort on a lazy Sunday morning. My cashier was trying not to smirk. She greeted me with a ‘Good Morning’ and then she started beeping through my shopping as I put it into bags, as I carefully watched the seething great oaf with the long white hair – now a few trolleys behind me – in case he decided to lob a tin of chopped tomatoes in my direction. He clearly had anger management issues.

The cashier was charming enough. She talked about the weather and how she hoped to get one last mow in before the winter weather came. I remarked on how the sunsets were stunning at this time of year and how lucky we were living in the area, remarking on how nice most people were.

Then, just as I was leaving, I received another dose of abuse from the oaf:

“Think you’re clever do you? You may be first out but you’re just a lousy queue jumper. Hope you get stuck in a traffic jam!”  

“On a Sunday?” I replied instantly. Again, more chuckles from the Lidl crowd. He looked even more infuriated. His head seemed ready to explode. At which point I blew him a kiss and departed the store.

After ditching my trolley and dumping the shopping in the boot of my car, I drove out of the car park and spotted the oaf heading towards his beat-up Rover. I drove past. He didn’t seem to notice me.

I was half a mile away from the supermarket and heading home feeling somewhat smug. The car was purring away, and I was enjoying listening to some music. Whatever the unwritten etiquette of Lidl shopping, I had certainly edged the verbal skirmish with the great oaf – I had won the crowd even if I’d unintentionally snuck ahead of the poor sods.

Then it dawned on me.

Really, pride does come before a fall…

I’d forgotten the wretched mango sorbet.

Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.