My East Borneo Diary – Midnight madness


As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had the use of a car for a short period. On the final night, I visited a nearby superstore that stays open 24 hours a day. I’m up late, so this seemed like an excellent way to avoid the crowds and do some bulk winter shopping. So off I toddled, ‘round midnight.

I’ve done late-night grocery shopping in the States; did it the very first night I was there, in fact, in Virginia. Late-night shopping in the States is like day-time shopping, except that it’s dark outside. In the UK, it seems, late-night shopping is an invitation to hell.

For the first 75 aisles, there were no other shoppers. Handy, eh? Unfortunately, dozens of staff were restocking the shelves, each accompanied by a giant go-kart/container vehicle, blocking the merchandise from view and acquisition. You can’t blame them. It’s their job. They do it at night, because sales would decline if they clogged the place up during the day.

I did manage to find very cheap Diet Coke and bought enough to see me through the time when global warming leads to polar bears washing up in the English Channel. Right behind the soda aisle was Wine and Beer, where about 30 zombie-style human wrecks were making their alcoholic choices without any staff in sight at all. A few appeared to be drinking the products right there in the store. It was just like World War Z, but without Brad Pitt. And in Eastbourne.

Asda does not employ cashiers after dark. You have to use the machines instead of interacting with people, because machines are cheaper and don’t need pensions. I never use the machines, on principle. This time, I had to.

There is no way to register a multiple buy on the machines. That meant hauling each of the giant bottles of pop out of the cart. Trying to swipe the same one repeatedly led to alarms and a staff intervention. They’d have beaten me senseless if it were legal. In 2013, the retail mantra is: “The customer is always tasered”.

To my credit, I stayed calm, and spent ages picking up bottles and putting them in the bagging area. When I paused for a second to decide if I really wanted all this junk, a woman appeared with a fully-laden shopping cart, right behind me.

There were six or 10 empty machine lanes. She had her pick. She chose to unload a pile of crap only equalled in its awfulness by my pile of crap and start tut-tutting because I was delaying her life.

I had, just before leaving home, watched an extremely violent movie. I toyed for a moment with doing to her much of what had been done to other bad people in the film, but finally decided against. Asda doubtless employs in-store cameras. I wouldn’t have got as far as the pier.

The conclusion I have reached: pay full price for Diet Coke and never shop at Asda. The next person who tut-tuts me, however …

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