I took my 90 year old mother shopping today.  We visited a new local supermarket (which shall remain nameless) that had just opened its doors a week ago.  Everything was bright, shiny and new.  The trolleys didn’t squeak or want to head off in a different direction and the shelves were neatly stacked, but all the staff seemed rather harassed.  I know it’s leading up to Christmas, but the shop floor didn’t seem too overcrowded, and as I queued up at the checkout I forgot about shopping for a moment and let my mind wander a bit to what I would be writing in the next chapter of my novel.

As the checkout girl started to put my goods through the till, I absent-mindedly began to put them in a bag.  However, the girl then shook her head, turned to me and glowered, and the conversation went something like this:

Girl:  “Can you back the trolley up to the conveyor belt please.”

Me: “Why?”

Girl: “You have to put the goods straight into the trolley, and then put them in a bag over there in the packing area later on.”  She indicated towards the designated area.

Me:  “Why can’t I put them in the bag now?”

Girl:  “It’s fine if you can keep up with me, but if you can’t you have to go over there.  We have targets to meet.”

Me: “Targets?  What targets?”

Girl:  “We have to get at least one thousand items through the tills every day. If you’re slow you’re holding everything up.”

Me: “What happens if you don’t meet your target then?”

Girl:  “Then the bosses aren’t very pleased.”

In all my years I’ve never seen anything like this. The poor girl was stressed out in trying to meet her target of 1000 items.  My mother takes 3 years to pack a bag, and the girl was looking at her despondently.  Luckily I am still quick enough to pack a bag at a reasonable speed, but apparently this isn’t fast enough any more.  The goods have to virtually fly though the checkout so the girls can meet their targets.

What kind of world are we living in where even checkout girls now have to meet targets?  Do the CCTV cameras now record shelf-stackers as they stack a certain number of tins every day?  Do the store cleaners have to apply so many sweeps of the broom?  What happens if it’s a quiet day and not many people visit the shop?  It’s madness, and all I know is that the staff of this particular supermarket did not appear to be enjoying their work at all.  There was no idle chit-chat between the checkout girls and the customers, and after only one visit this particular customer will definitely not be going back there either……….