Friday, 11 February 2011

Them's the Rules

They're everywhere! Everywhere I tells ya!


Jobsworths, that's who!

Now I'm happy enough with rules in general, they do keep things rubbing along well enough, but when people just accept them at face value without attempting to understand the purpose of said rule...then I start to go a bit shouty-crackers.

Let me illustrate.

The other day, a friend and  I were in Marks and Sparks.  We each purchased a few items and proceeded to the express tills, it being lunch-break and all.

As it turned out, a till became free for my friend first and off he went.  As he was getting his items scanned, he suggested I add my items to his and have all of them processed in one transaction.  So I stepped up to the counter and added my few bits and the cashier started to scan them.  He then turned to my friend and I and said quite sternly "I should point out that this till is for five items or less, but I'll let it go this time."

Now, fair enough, he had us bang to rights, but....

Let's do some maths.

I had four items and my friend had four.  Four plus four equals eight.  There were two of us.  Eight divided by two equals four. So it would seem that we each had less than the stipulated five items.

My friend paid by credit card, a transaction which took about half a minute.  Had I been paying for my own purchases separately, I too would have paid by card, adding another half minute to the proceedings.

Also, if credit card companies charge per transaction, by combining our purchases, we had just saved the shop the cost of a transaction.

Now, I know perfectly well why they have an item limit on the express checkouts: to stop people rocking up with great big trolley loads of stuff and gumming up the well-oiled machinery of commerce.

But, by my calculations, we had actually made things more efficient and cheaper for the shop.

Too much analysis?


  1. yeah - i was in the bank today and they were calling people through who only had deposits so the lady who was BEHIND me in the queue made a big fuss when i insisted that actually, i was next (very politely) because i hadn't said anything when the two people before me had jumped out of the queue

    Difference being that they were in FRONT of me, whereas she was BEHIND

    So i guess shop etiquete does matter after all


  2. Too much analysis? A little. But still worth it.

  3. Well, I'm sure you can't count on a flunky at a cash register thinking about it that deeply - BUT you were three items over the limit - I think it was a waste of breath making a deal out of it!

  4. Personally, I think she should have called Security and had you ejected from the shop. The nerve of you!!

  5. DFTP, we do seem to have lost the noble art of queueing in the country of late.

    Michael, thanks. As a follow-up, I was in the same shop today and encountered the same assistant. He obviously remembered me because, even though I had just two items this time, he was really snippy.

    Bug, I agree and I would normally be first to tut and mutter about someone abusing the system. In this case I don't really think we were, in that we actually got a part of the queue moving more quickly than it otherwise would have.

    Peter, I would never have done it on my own!

  6. That's all very well, you know, but you did break the rules. And rules is rules.
    Perhaps you should have taken up some of the cashier's time by pointing out your reasoning, as demonstrated here; s/he would probably have called the store police.

  7. Frill, yes we were breaking the letter of the law, but not the spirit and, yes, I did fancy trying to explain my reasoning, but he didn't look like he would have appreciated the subtleties of my logic. Security may have been called.

  8. Hmm....
    I'm sorry Argent, but I will have to side with the cashier. I lean towards the belief that you broke both the spirit and the letter of the law.

    Yes, you each had less than the stipulated 5 items. But you didn't ring the items up individually, you wanted to ring up 8 items, in the 5 item or less line.

    I'm not sure the cost of a credit card transaction is his concern (although it would be nice of him to consider it). His job is to keep a steady line of transactions with 5 items or less, more for the efficiency of keeping business coming in, not for the efficiency of saving you the credit card charge.

  9. But I believe I will steal the term "shouty-crackers" and start using it for the rest of this year in an attempt to get it into New York lingo, as I find it hilarious.

  10. Clandestine Samuarai - I still think we broke the letter, not the spirit. The credit card charge is paid by the shop not us, so not a worry for us but, crucially, the time to process 2 customers' items was reduced as there was only one overall transaction (no need to repeat the usual hi, how are you, do you want a bag?/do you want help packing? bit). I maintain we kept the line moving quicker on that day. Obviously, this would not work if everybody did it.

    The phrase shouty-crackers was one I read in a book by an english journalist called Toby Young, who attributed it to the actor Hugh Grant. It's a great phrase though, isn't it?


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