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The pain of shopping

  • 14 November 2023
As Christmas (aka for many the season of shopping) fast approaches, it’s perhaps time to articulate an unpleasant truth: shopping is not a relaxing or pleasurable experience. In fact, it can be downright masochistic.

It’s not just that the percentage price rise of goods bears little reality to the percentage price rise of salaries (and no reality to those on below-poverty-line Centrelink benefits). No, it’s more that somehow as consumers we’ve been conned into accepting that all large stores need to do is be the repository for goods for sale. The work of shopping falls to the individual. It’s the shopper that locates the goods, carries them around in increasingly laden baskets or loaded into wayward trolleys, make their way to unmanned scanners where they weigh, measure, pack, pay and carry goods to the car, with the only human face to see is their own in the cameras that now have become ubiquitous in supermarkets.

But this is not new, why the whinge now? Well for me it is new. Until an injury in the family thrust me into the role of weekly shopper, my relationship with supermarkets has been tangential. It was a place I’d drop in to pick up a couple of items that I needed or were missed off the shopping list. It was quick and relatively painless.

Painless is not an adjective one can apply to the weekly grocery shop. It is an exercise in logistics and planning. You have to find a time where it is not too busy, but not late at night because you want the shelves to be relatively well stocked. So early morning before work seems ideal. Except if you go too early there will not be one manned checkout so what would have taken 5 to 10 minutes and a short pleasant conversation is now 25 minutes because you’re the one struggling with trying to decipher what brand of mandarins you’ve chosen, dealing with items that won’t scan, bags that are full but you can’t move them off the counter because you haven’t finished your transactions, being yelled at by a machine because of unexpected item in the bagging area and a myriad other petty irritations. And all these need to be fixed by the lone grumpy staff member who is increasingly depressed by the fact that she meets only irritated customers.


'In our mechanised and technological world it seems that every time something new is