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Friday, May 21, 2010

A Different World

I had a most interesting experience today shopping for groceries at Shop N Save. I needed white button mushrooms early this morning and Cold Storage doesn't open till past 10 o'clock so I went to an unfamiliar supermarket.

The queues were far longer than I am used to at Cold Storage... and the cashiers were very focused on quickly processing one customer and then another. Their manner was brisk and no nonsense. Don't expect a "Good morning!" or a "Thank you." or a "Goodbye." Those cashiers are there to make sure you get out of that queue fast so that the someone behind you can get out fast too. Cashiers at Cold Storage move briskly... but a tad less briskly because they will make eye contact, smile and observe some other of the more refined social niceties. At least, the well-trained Cold Storage cashiers do that.

But you know, I don't think the clientele at Shop N Save cares for social niceties. There was a horde of people at the check out and I managed to find some sort of queue to join at the 9th place. As usual, Petunia dreams along as she queues along... after all, how challenging can queueing be right?

Wrong! It turned out to be more challenging than usual!

After 5 minutes of daydreaming, the old lady behind yells in Hokkien "Has the cashier gone to die? Maybe she has gone to the toilet to have diarrhoea? Where is that dead cashier? Stupid dead cashier!" (Note to all Singaporeans... translate this into Hokkien or Cantonese to get the full flavour ok?)

Nobody can daydream properly in all that ruckus... so Petunia started to pay attention. I left Little Boy in the queue and went to check the front. On the belt was a sign - "Counter Closed" and there was no cashier in sight. At the head of the queue was a very Unfriendly Woman who answered me when asked "Yes! Counter closed! So?!"

I announced to the rest of the queue that the counter was closed. The queue melted. I joined another queue at the 12th place. The very Unfriendly Woman at the start of the queue stayed put though!! In another 5 minutes, the counter opened and the Unfriendly Woman was first in line whilst I was 12th in another queue!! Aaaaargh! Stupid Petunia! A monologue began in my head "Stupid kiasu Singaporeans... rude and ungracious Singaporeans... this is a developed country with undeveloped manners!"

Mostly though, I was just a sore loser. And I had lost to that Unfriendly Woman. Hmmmmph!

So, imagine my gloating joy when the newly arrived cashier found that her counter was malfunctioning and therefore she opened the counter immediately to my left instead. I quickly hopped over there. This time, Petunia was 3rd in line. This time Petunia didn't daydream because she took the added precaution of leaving Little Boy in the queue at 12th place just in case this counter too malfunctioned. It's called hedging your bets and I learnt it in the stock market.

The Unpleasant Woman realized with consternation that she was now at 12th place. Willy nilly, she squeezed herself into the 1st place by sheer push and force. Nobody dared to tell her off. After all, I think many of us (at least I did) reckoned that she did have the foresight to stay at the initial closed counter till it opened ... and so she did somehow deserve to go first even if she was rather rude about it.

"Gosh! Did these people grow up in the same country that I did?!" I asked myself.

Oh well, never mind, I was somewhat comforted by my having found 4 pretty and large plastic storage boxes with lids and wheels. I squeezed through the hordes with my mushrooms and the huge storage boxes feeling very pleased. After all, I was 3rd in line instead of 12th... and I had found pretty plastic storage boxes. I felt like a winner.

Just then an old woman stopped me and asked for the little sticker stamps that supermarkets give out whenever you shop with them. Collect enough stamps and you get free cutlery, bags, pots, tea sets, porcelain ware etc... In the world I evolve in, it just is NOT DONE to accost complete strangers in order to despoil them of these little sticker stamps. It's such an embarassing thing to do!

An unflattering monologue began again in my head, but I smiled graciously and dug out all my stamps to give to the little old woman. I had bought about $100/= worth of stuff so there were many many stamps because I think most people there buy in smaller quantities each time. The little old lady smiled widely and thanked me very VERY loudly.

As if by magic, a gaggle of housewives formed around me. They pointed to my storage boxes and told me off (very warmly and helpfully) that I had been silly to pay full price... and that they could pass me coupons that would allow me to get each box for $6/= less. So, each of these ladies, dug into their ugly little purses, stuck the coupons under my nose and almost pushed me back into the queue to go get my discount.

The cashier said that since I had paid, it was too late. The entire gaggle of housewives shared in my sadness. I felt a bonding with them that I had never felt with the clientele at Cold Storage.

To top it off, one very tall and large lady with a pock-marked face walked with me to one of the counters and made me pick up a coupon book. She explained to me very loudly (though patiently and kindly ... as if to an idiot) that I should go home and cut out those coupons to make sure I get the discounts. Then she showed me her purse and explained how I should organise those coupons.

So you see... it isn't true that Singaporeans are un-gracious. Different people enact graciousness differently, that's all.

I am so going back to Shop N Save. These ladies have a thing or two to teach penny-pinching Petunia about her professional wife-lihood. It won't hurt to learn more ways to penny-pinch.


hunguptodry said...

really enjoyed this. only some of the milo stories are better.
ya, write more milo stories.

petunialee said...

Wow! Story request... Ok. More about Milo!

lemongrass said...

Wow! What a stark contrast.. Guess the clientele in Cold Storage are mostly from the upper class society and thus, they are more refined in their ways and less "cheapskate".. No offense to those aunties in Shop N Save though.. I must say they are penny-wise...

petunialee said...

lemongrass - Yeah... I guess less manners doesn't equal less heart. One can dispense with the manners as long as one has heart, I suppose.

Open Kitchen Concept said...

Nice post! hehee.. the joys of a housewife. I like Cold Storage.. and for some reason, I am ALWAYS in a hurry when I'm in a queue.. I don't know why, I just don't have the patience for queues.. even though I may have all the time in the world. Day dreaming is a good tip to pass time when queueing

Blur Ting said...

Interesting observation. Really a good mix of people in that supermarket - from gracious ones to bullies.

I shop quite frequently at the Shop and Save store (a big one) near my house. It's always pleasant because it is not crowded (not in a densely populated area) and the cashiers are efficient.

I aused to tell the cashiers I don't want the stamps until one time I collected and filled up 1 card which gave me a $9 discount off my purchase. Quite rewarding actually.

But you've got to redeem before the month ends or else it becomes useless.

petunialee said...

OKC - I am really good at this daydreaming business. Heh! Gets me to the back of the queue sometimes.

petunialee said...

Ting - I think it may be the neighbourhood.

My neighbourhood (where Shop N Save is located) is far from swanky, but I like to go to Cold Storage at King Albert Park because they stock stuff like herbs (oregano etc...) and they have good roasts (pork belly etc...) and salads (arugula... rocket).

petunialee said...

Ting - The Cold Storage sticky stamps are real keepers. I got myself a Rosenthal tea set, 1 Kappa back pack, 2 Kappa toiletry bags, a whole set of steak knives free.

Those from NTUC Fairprice, I never keep because you collect and then you still have to pay to buy the gifts... and it isn't really that you pay much less.

Blur Ting said...

Oh, I like the Cold Storage at King Albert Park too! I don't go there often cos it is so far away from my house. You must have spent ALOT to be able to redeem so many good stuff!

I'm not into collecting stamps because I shop everywhere (no loyalty) and never accumulate enough anywhere.

Nowadays I look forward to going to NTUC Finest Marine Parade Branch after my wednesday gardening session at the primary school. Finest stocks loads of nice stuff, I get carried away sometimes.

petunialee said...

Ting - I need to feed 7 at home you see. That eats a lot.