Monday, 30 March 2009

Just a Great Big, Forty-Six Year-Old Child

My other half and I went to the supermarket today and, amongst all the usual stuff, picked up four packs of over-the-counter painkillers. No, we're not some kind of tablet-munching hypochondriacs, by the way: we both happen to like a different type of painkiller and both like to have a pack handy at work and at home, so that's four, Ok, OK?.

Anyway, we got to the checkout, only to be told that we could not buy all four packs at once as the store was not allowed to sell more than two packs at once to any one customer.

"But there are two of us," my other half protested, "So that's four packs, which we have got here." Do you ever have one of those times when you just know that you are not going to win, but you just have to put up a feeble struggle anyway for the look of the thing? Well, this was one of those times.

The checkout assistant, however, was apologetic but unwavering.

She rang through two of the packs and put the other two next to the cash register. The rest of our shopping flowed through uncensored, I'm happy to say - not so much as a raised eyebrow at what was surely a life-threatening amount of chewing-gum (5 packs). Then, right at the end, after we'd packed and paid, the assistant asked us if we still wanted the other two packets of tablets. Slightly baffled, we said we did.

So she rang them up and we paid for them.

"It's OK," she said by way of explanation, "This is a separate transaction so I can sell them to you now."

Just exactly what was the store trying to achieve by limiting the number of packs of painkillers that can be purchased in one go in the first place? I'm assuming the idea is to stop people buying enough pills at one time to do themselves harm.

Now, I don't know about you, but if I was having a sufficiently bad time of it to contemplate doing myself in with headache pills, I don't think the minor inconvenience of having to buy them in a couple of separate transactions instead of just one is really going to stop me.

Can you imagine it: a suicidal customer turns up at the till with his four packs of paracetamol. The cashier tells him he can only have two. "Oh, right," he says, "Well, I was going to kill myself with them, but I guess I just can't be bothered now. Just give me the razorblades and the drain cleaner then."

It's not as if we even had to go out of the store and come back in again, half an hour later, heavily disguised: we were able to buy the second lot right there and then!

And if supermarkets are so damn keen on looking after the health of their customers, why on earth did they allow that obnoxious, scruffy bloke and his morbidly obese wife just in front of us to waddle out of the store with a trolley crammed full of junk food and alcohol? There was no "I'm sorry, only one case of beer per customer allowed" then, was there?

OK, I'm being disingenuous: I know perfectly well it's not the supermarket's fault: they're just following the Government's edicts.

Now, this is a government that's perfectly happy to engage in wars of extremely dubious legality, that is happy to hand out billions of pounds to prop up the businesses of incompetent and greedy bankers, that has allowed our once fine National Health Service to go to rack and ruin (Oh dear, I'm ranting again), but is apparently so concerned that I might kill myself with headache tablets that it insists I have to spend five more minutes than necessary buying them!

Perhaps I'm being childish but then, you see, I'm obviously just a great big forty-six year-old child.


  1. I get this sometimes when i buy bottles of wine - the person selling has to wait to get permission to sell the customer alcohol. As you say though - should we be stopping the 40 stone bloke buying nothing but pizza and lager and saying "i really think you should be buying veg?" - might work better than the scheme to pay people to lose weight.

    My personal favourite recently was when i bought two cds from a supermarket: nothing else, just two cds. The chap serving me went into blank automaton mode and asked if i wanted help packing.

    For two cds???

    But of course he had to say it - because its part of the mind-washing technique when you start

  2.'s ridiculous. Very. But...apparently some cold medication can be used to make I guess it's many medications that they knock on that list...and people who are buying shady amounts of over-the-counter drugs are supposed to somehow be deterred.

    When I worked in a supermarket we only REALLY enforced those kinds of rules with people who were extrememly rude or REALLY shady-looking...and I'm sure that's profiling and judging, but we were tranied that way.....

    I'm glad I'm out of that environment now...

  3. Guess what guys, it could be worse!
    Here in the US any meds that still contain the "active ingredients" that actually will stop a cough, or reduce sinus pressure, have to be requested at the pharmacy counter. We have to show our drivers license and have it and our signatures entered in a ledger. I don't understand why we are trying to prevent druggies from killing themselves, it will not only remove them from our environs but boost local economies through cold medication sales. A perfect world it is not. Nanny State is our technical term for it.

  4. @Pixies - I think we all have those "brain on autopilot" moments, I know I do.

    @Viewtiful_Justin - I always make a point not to p$ss off anyone who a) touches my food b) looks after my money or c) can screw up my whole day. I think we're all profiling and judging all the time, whether we're aware of it or not.

    @English_Rider - We call it the nanny state here too. I wouldn't mind if they applied these things sensibly. So they don't want me to buy more than x amount of tablets? Fine, so don't let me! I think people still have to sign for "poisons" if they want them here in GB, but there's enough everyday stuff around that's toxic, so I doubt anyone would bother going to the chemists to get them.

  5. That's a good thing: being a child in an adult's body. (I sensed a tone of play in this piece).

  6. Michael, you're absolutely right, I like to think of myself as a fully paid-up member of the species Homo Ludens.


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