on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at speed

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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Thu, 18 May 2006

The joy of supermarket queues

There’s something about queues in supermarkets that seems to bring out gloriously aberrant behaviour in what otherwise appear to be normal people.

The local supermarket must have had a few no-shows amongst their checkout staff this morning. So there were only 3 registers operating and each had a queue. I chose one, not quite at random—I had previous experience with the operator and knew she was quick. The first person was through quite quickly. The next customer, however, had managed to pick an extraordinary number of broken packages and items that had no prices—resulting in a huge delay while staff were summoned to replace the broken items, one by one, and to price the unpriced and unscannable items, one by one.

Finally, we moved up to the middle-aged woman in front of me. She had been showing some signs of impatience over the slow progress with the previous customer and I certainly sympathised with her. My sympathy lasted right up till the moment when the register ticked up a fraction over $30, when she told the operator to stop so she could pay for that part of her purchases.

Coles supermarkets have a system of providing a discount voucher for fuel if you spend $30 or more in a single transaction. This woman had decided to get her money’s worth of discount vouchers. Not only that, but she decided to pay for each $30 transaction with a credit card. Perhaps because of such overuse, her card was hard to read. Each transaction required 10 to 12 attempts to swipe the card, followed by the wait for the docket to be printed, for her to check it, and for her to carefully perform her elaborate signature.

She had over $200 worth of goods in her trolley, so we got to endure this nonsense seven times. And, naturally, all the queues were growing apace while this was going on. The checkout operator apologised to me when it was my turn, but the woman with the seven discount vouchers didn’t even look mildly embarrassed.