The Pleasure of Shopping
by Phil Rose esq

This morning I went to Sainsburys to do my weekly shop. I decided that I would get myself a Reward card since I have reached a 'certain age.' I now have a savings account and an appointment to see a financial advisor with a view to getting myself a pension so I saw no reason to deny myself the pleasures of 200 bonus points when I buy 3 of something I don't actually want even one of. It was thus that I found myself being served by a harried woman in a nasty uniform. She was perfectly civil to me however and I was nice and polite in return. Nice as nice, nice to be nice, nice nice nice.
But behind me trouble was brewing. There was an old man of some seventy years. A big man or he was once, he now walked with a slight stoop and a stick and when he spoke he spoke excessively and pointedly loudly and with the plummy tones of someone convinced of their unquestionable importance.
This man amongst men turned to the woman behind him in the queue and said, "The prices in this store go up way too fast. Coffee was 99p last time I was here and now it is £1.12. That's a rise of 12%! Inflation stands at only 2% and I'm going to complain."
My service was not interrupted at all but I could see the poor woman's smile slip from natural to false and her perm sagged just a quarter of an inch. She was a Sainsburys rabbit and she was caught in the glare of oncoming traffic she was not allowed to sidestep. She was not even to question that traffic's right to flatten her like a bug.
I grimaced at her in a sympathetic manner, one worker in the public sector to another and stepped aside to fiddle with my bags and watch developments.
He stepped up safe in the knowledge that he Took On Rommel and therefore no buggering supermarket was going to intimidate him even though they obviously wanted to, goes without saying, they're all out to get you in the end. Just the way it is.
And this is what he said. "Can I see your store manager, please" The question mark is not missing it is unnecessary; this was not a question.
"I'm afraid he's in a meeting, can I help?" she replied.
"Yes you can. Your store has put up the price of coffee by 12% and I think it's a disgrace." He was already going purple with forged apoplexy, this was some performance.
"This has happened since yesterday?" This I recognised as retaliation, the deliberate attempt to throw the old despot slightly off his stride.
"…Yes" the pygmy Pinochet bravely lied "Now the rate of inflation is 2% and this is a rise at five times the rate of inflation."
Time for me to step in and do a bit of stride throwing of my own. "Six times" I said, as loudly as I dared.
He rounded on me. "You agree, do you, what?"
"No, I was just saying that if the inflation rate is 2% and they have raised the price by 12% then that is a rise at six times the rate of inflation."
All I got in response was a growl as he turned back to the prey he knew could not fight back. "Where's your head office? London? I shall write to them! Do they know what you're doing?"
This was beyond a joke. Did the little Hitler think that Blackhall branch was a pirate outlet, one that imposed it's own ludicrous price increases and to hell with head office? The time had come for action. The time had come to put the cretin straight. I screwed up my courage to save the poor woman who was now cowering beneath this onslaught, her hands tied by her contract.
"Excuse me!" I said in as commanding a voice as I could marshal. He turned, his eye melting as he prepared to have his ego massaged by another customer, another pillar of the community up there at the very pinnacle of the Sainsbury hierarchy of importance.
"I am going to say to you what she would like to say to you" I began "and what the store manager would like to say were he (or indeed, though it may come as a surprise to you she) not busy, and what head office would like to say to you and that is this. You need a hobby. Who cares if the coffee has gone up by thirteen new pence? Your problem is that you haven't enough to do. You are the old equivalent of a violent and hard drinking youth, bored through inactivity and therefore out looking for trouble and striking out at those who you know have no way of fighting back and would not dare to tell you what a deeply unpleasant and decidedly ludicrous figure you make.
You have failed to take into account how long it has been since the last price increase on the 99 pence pot of freeze dried shite you fancifully call coffee. If it only went up to 99 pence from 89 last Wednesday then I could perhaps see your pathetic little point but without this data at your fingertips your argument is invalid.
So what is going to happen now? You are going to refuse to pay their extortionate prices and you are going to storm out in a vile temper swearing to write to Sainsburys head office (you'll never get round to it) and then you will have to travel all the way down to Safeway only to find that their prices have also gone up and you have to part with your precious thirteen pence anyway. What you will not admit, probably due to the fact that you have done so well out of it thank you very much, is that the problem is not one member of staff. It is not one branch of Sainsburys. It is not even one chain of supermarkets. The problem is with international free market capitalism which allows companies to charge entirely what they like for the stupid bloody instant coffee and which means that One Absolute Truth exists. This One Absolute Truth is this (and I know you don't want to hear it.) You Don't Count. Indeed, to put it even more bluntly, you are Only A Customer. Sainsbury don't care what you think. You are one poxy old bully who is only in to buy a £1.12 pot of coffee and you're not even willing to pay that for it. It's not even as though you're filling your car with petrol. What the Sainsburys empire says is shoo! Begone! What care we for your blustering and your pathetic moaning, we have bigger fish to fry! Go to Safeway if you want, you'll not be missed. And they're right too. Have you a car? You have? Then be off and drive to the top of Arthur's seat, the view is fantastic and will enrich your soul so much more than making this poor woman's life a misery." And with that I turned on my heel and sashayed out of there.
Well I didn't say that but it would have been great if I had, eh? All I actually said was the bit about the six times the rate of inflation before I took the cowards way outside. Oh to have more of a spine to take arms against these people!
Phil Rose esq.