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A shudder as Dingwall supermarket sweep throws up traumatic memories of Christmas past


By Karen Anderson

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The Tesco in Dingwall.
The Tesco in Dingwall.

It’s the evening of Christmas Eve I think I am all organised. 6am - sneaked out of the house under cover of darkness and did a trolley dash round Tesco while there was still fresh fruit available and the aisles were relatively clear. Triumphant at 7.30am, I called into Cockburn’s for our pork joint and pies for the in between days then off home by 8am feeling chuffed to have got that bit done fairly stress-free.

I did ten years working nights in Tesco’s when the boy was younger and we had to tag team his care around our jobs. I remember when the frozen turkeys started filling up the storage in September and the frustration when the boxes of these heavy, slippery birds were stacked floor to ceiling and you had to work around them.

But nothing could prepare you for the horror that was the week before both Christmas and New Year. Coming in to start shelf stacking to a scene of devastation with empty spaces of course, but also the waste of customers having got to the freezer section last and then deciding that they no longer wanted something picked up earlier in their shop just dumping it in the icy depths.

When found, these discarded items have to be thrown away as they were usually never meant to have been frozen, or if they could have been, it would only be after purchase.

The cost of laziness or lack of awareness – they could even have given it to someone on the till and asked for it to be put back and we might have saved it. I’ve found tins of veg, dried pasta, toys, and even socks in the polar regions before now and I could never work out the train of thought which resulted in the ideal place to return unwanted socks being beside ice creams!

Then there’s the queues at the tills who are simmering quietly while trying to master a freakish mind control technique to wordlessly convince the folk ahead of them that they don’t need their food after all, or that they need to go get something else and lose their place. It’s very daunting for staff to see that morass of faces in front of you and all it takes is one person who is perceived to be a little slow being processed through or for a member of staff to exchange a few chatty words and the mood can change in a heartbeat.

The huffing is the first sign, then the heads start to turn looking for someone else to share an eye roll with, then the first mutterings which if taken up by a few, can become outright aggression before you can get it back from the brink.

And for what? The shop closes for one day. Then come Boxing Day its back at it to get another mountain of food and drink in for New Year. There’s no let up. Many of my previous colleagues are still there and this morning they were in Christmas jumpers and onesies looking very festive but with the unmistakeable haunted look that comes from over seven days of this madness.

But remember, they are also key-workers and they have been through two years of toilet rolls wars, stripped shelves with no warning, re-supply issues and fear of Covid too. So when you are picking up your trolley, wear a mask and smile at the staff – it will show in your eyes and it might just change the mood in your queue.

Karen is Mum to an autistic teenager and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on twitter @Karen4Carers.

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