Monday, 12 September 2011

Down, Down

Have you ever been waiting (for what seems like an eternity) in the 12 items and less queue at a supermarket, that happens also to be the check-out closest to the 'service' desk, when someone starts waiting at the 'service' desk? And instead of you being served, the check out 'operator' serves them first?

Seeing as this has happened to me many times, I am assuming that it is not just me, and that it in actual fact happens fairly frequently.

Now, I know that most of us are probably glad that some of the major supermarkets have 'service' checkouts for the times when something might go wrong, like buying out of date products.

However, most of the people I see at the 'service' counter, are in fact buying cigarette and tobacco related products.

OK, ok, I am trying really hard not to make this a rant.


I happened to go to a major supermarket last night at around 6pm to buy some bread. I had a toddler with me. She was getting hungry and tired. I had 3 bread items, and joined the 12 items or less queue. A while after we had joined the queue, a man (I'm guessing in his 50s) appeared at the service counter. The check-out attendant finished serving the customer in front of me and then served the man at the service counter. He bought cigarettes and a lighter.

I actually didn't feel cross about someone being served in front of me in this way, because it has happened countless times before. It is just how they do it.

But it got me thinking, and I couldn't help think that it was wrong. That a man alone in his 50s buying a cancer causing, addictive, luxury item would get priority over a mother with a toddler buying bread on a Sunday night at dinner time.

I know they can't 'afford' for staff to solely attend the service counter, they barely seem to have enough staff to serve on the registers, but why don't people buying cigarettes have to line up in the queue? 

Am I being a bit petty in feeling that this is an issue? Or do you think that people buying tobacco related products should have to join one of the regular lines, even if they are only buying cigarettes?

Honestly, I would love if they also served milk and bread from the front counter, so I didn't have to line up. Or maybe chocolate for that late night craving? It might even make me buy more..


  1. I hear ya on that one!
    I love the idea of bread and milk at the front counter. I've often thought of starting a drive through bread and milk business! Would probably also sell chocolate.

  2. Hi Sannah,
    That is the most AMAZING AND CORRECT suggestion I have heard in years - seriously!!!
    All tobacco item people should have to enter a store - like the rest of us and line up! Why not? Or is the service counter the express lane for death??

    Great post - thank you


  3. Warning! Comment by smoker ahead :) The supermarkets don't allow cigarettes to be sold from each register - only at the service counter or via the 12 items or less registers which are next to the service counter. Its supermarket policy and the smokers don't get a say. Which, for a smoker, like myself, is also pretty inconvenient. I would much prefer to buy cigarettes in the same register as I am paying for my groceries but I have to do two transactions instead. Its probably a government policy to make it more of a pain in the ass to buy cigarettes. Unfortunately it also makes it a pain in the ass for mothers with tired grumpy children who are waiting in line. Then again, if we were to penalise everyone for buying 'cancer causing, luxury, addictive products' - whether you are 50 years old or not - you wouldn't be able to buy diet coke or a mobile phone :)

  4. I agree completely. It irks me no end when I've been waiting for what seems like ages, but the person wanting to buy cigarettes gets served before me! It seems to be store policy to not keep anyone waiting at the service counter...I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the markup on the cigarettes, therefore that customer being more important. Who knows!

  5. @Jen, I LOVE the idea of a bread and milk drive through! I'd be a frequent customer :)

    @ Loulou, Jodi, and Kathryn, I'm so glad that you agree, and don't feel I am just being petty, I wasn't sure.

    @Eloise, thank you for giving a smoker's point of view. We have quite a few smokers in the family, and I was wondering what their opinion would be. And it seems from what you are saying, that being sold from the service counter doesn't suit smokers either, at least some of the time - sounds like a bad policy all round.

    My post wasn't aimed against smokers, and I hope it didn't come across that way. Obviously cigarettes are a known carcinogen, but I am all for people being able to make their own decisions. My suggestion was not to penalise people for buying them, just to not give them priority either. I think that the checkout girl who was on duty should have been able to make the call to serve first a mother with a young child who had been waiting longer; whereas as Kathryn says it seems to be store policy not to keep the people waiting at the service counter too long. Even if it had been reversed and I the one buying cigarettes with a toddler, I don't think I should get priority over the people who have been waiting in the queue. That was the point I was trying to make.

    It seems to be that their should be a better system, and perhaps the supermarkets should ditch selling them from the service counter, and go back to selling them through all the checkouts.

    On the other hand, I was reading a suggestion yesterday asking why tobacco related products are sold at supermarkets at all, and why they aren't restricted in the same way liquor is? Interesting idea...(although I am fairly sure the liquor rules vary from state to state).

  6. Are our supermarkets that poor that they can't put someone at the service counter to help with enquiries and sell cigarettes? It's a nightmare if you don't have a gold coin for your trolley. When I was 15 I sold cigarettes at Safeway - there was only one checkout you could buy them from and the smokers had to queue with the 8 items or less people. Lots of huffing and puffing from everyone on a Saturday as the queue went on forever.