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Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Supermarket shopping

I had reason to go into a supermarket, the other day. It's not one of my favourite activities but I had run out of beluga and the staff were on strike, again.

There was a long queue (line) at the checkout. Rather than read the facile headlines in the tabloid newspapers, I had lots of time to observe the behaviour of shoppers in front of me. I also remembered an article I had read about how much more efficient women were at supermarket shopping than their male kith and kin. I thought this a good opportunity to see how accurate this generalisation was.

Here is my highly subjective report on checkout behaviour. Firstly women: they seem to be quite efficient at sorting and packing the produce, but the problem comes afterwards, when the bill is presented. If they haven't finished packing, they ignore the bill until the packing is finished. Invariably, this is what they do next: take shoulder bag off shoulder; open main compartment; remove purse; rummage through purse, getting nothing out. Open another compartment in shoulder bag; rummage in there for ages; try another compartment without success; revert to purse; take card or cash out and present it to the cashier. You get the picture?

Not only does such inconsiderate behaviour delay and inconvenience the cashier, it holds up the rest of us. What are the silly moos playing at? Is it a demonstration to the world at large that they don't know where their money is themselves so there's no point in mugging them? Or is it an unconscious expression of contempt for everyone else in the queue? In my mostly feminist moments, I had thought of women as the more considerate sex and that they were better at multi-tasking. Should I reconsider?

Contrast this with male behaviour: produce payment instrument before starting to pack. What's wrong with that? Honestly, the solution evades me. Have I been very unlucky or is this difference in behaviour truly a tertiary sexual characteristic?

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