THE British and Japanese are known for their orderly, patient queuing, but I reckon they can’t be in the same league as us Aussies.
I’m jotting down this column after standing in a horrendously long queue in what is misleadingly called the “express” lane at my local supermarket. No one is going anywhere fast.
“It’s always like this dear,” a frail-looking pensioner with a walking frame comments behind me. “Every time I come here, I say to myself I’m never coming back, but really they have the things I need so what choice do I have?”
I wave her through in front of me only to notice the nice old guy leaning on his cane behind her. “I know to never come at lunch time,” he says grinning, “but I forgot the time today.
“I’m 87 you know,” he tells me proudly.
Of the four express checkouts, only one is operating in this peak period. The elderly gentleman is more difficult to convince to go ahead of me because, well, he’s a gentleman. But eventually I manage to manoeuvre him ahead.
“It’s shocking isn’t it?” comments the next lady in the queue, which was moving at a snail’s pace.
“Oh, it’s fine,” says the sweet old gentleman, who is insisting on manoeuvring himself back behind me with slow and painful purposeful progress, “I remember, during the war…”
About now I am regretting taking the express lane. I had only a lousy three items, far short of the maximum 12 that would have sent me to either the one other human-operated checkout that was open or the self-serve lanes, where there were equally horrendous queues thanks to the red fault lights flashing over most of the checkout machines.
Eventually we shuffled through and 25 minutes later I’m drinking a much-needed cappuccino in a nearby café feeling nostalgic for the days long ago when supermarkets employed lots of people, even folk who kindly packed your shopping bags and carried them out to the car.
Those days will probably never return, but I can’t help but think that Australia’s effective supermarket duopoly has allowed a real decline in service. It’s the same story pretty much everywhere. At the very least elderly or disabled consumers, who ought to be treated with just a bit more courtesy and consideration, shouldn’t have to wait in endless queues.