I recently visited Sainsbury’s in a Sussex market town on a Sunday to return some boys shorts bought the previous day which had been incorrectly labeled and were, therefore, the wrong size.
I had done a major shop the previous day and didn’t need to purchase anything else other than about £5 of milk etc.
When I paid the cashier I asked her to ‘swipe’ my car park entry card in order to allow me out of the car park because I had probably been in the store for very slightly more than the half hour allowed for ‘free’ parking.
Without swiping the card I would have incurred a parking fee of £10 for the privilege of being forced to return a faulty product and make a minor purchase of less than the minimum of £10, below which you have to pay extortionate parking charges if shopping has taken more than half an hour.
The cashier made the assumption that because I had bought such a small number of items I must have been in the store less than half an hour. When I told her I had also spend a considerable time dealing with my exchange of shorts she held on to her mindset of me being within the half hour.
She refused to swipe the card, saying she ‘couldn’t’ swipe it if I had been less than half an hour and ‘couldn’t’ swipe it if I had been more than half an hour because I had only spent about £5 and not the minimum of ten pounds.
Never the less, I asked her to swipe the card because should I have been in the store for just slightly more than half an hour I would be refused exit without paying a ten pound fee, and I would have blocked the exit to the car park for all the other exiting shoppers while I either paid the fee or had the unpleasant experience of arguing the matter with the intransigent Sainsbury’s staff.
Although this discussion was ludicrous, there was no personal difficulty or rancour in the discussion other than the cashier explaining to me her wish to obey her management instructions not to swipe cards in my sort of circumstances.
The cashier then hailed a passing ‘supervisor’ and asked her to take the card to the customer service point to have it swiped. An amicably reasonable solution to the utter lack of initiative the Sainsbury’s management deprive cashiers of using.
I would stress that despite my slightly acid description of events, there had been no unpleasant exchanges between the cashier and me. I recognised she was following the management instructions to her and our exchange was perfectly polite and civilised in every way.
I merely told her I insisted the card must be swiped as I did not want to block the car park exit. And It seemed complete lunacy to gamble on whether I had been in the store 29 minutes and would be freed, or 31 minutes and would be trapped causing every other exiting shopper to also be trapped behind my blocked car.
There had been no disruption or ‘argument’. It was a perfectly normal exchange, with a perfectly amicable solution as the cashier instructed the supervisor who gaily tripped off to swipe the card without further ado.
Unfortunately, just as the supervisor walked off with the card, a hatchet faced woman with a Sainsbury’s uniform and with a filthy expression of intense anger on her face shrieked at the top of her voice to me ‘You’ve been barred from the store.’
At the same time she slammed her hand on a ‘panic’ button to set off a loud alarm and shouted for security staff to forcibly remove me from the store.
Amazed and utterly nonplussed, I replied to her that I had not been banned. The supervisor taking my card to be swiped turned around and handed the card back to the cashier who then handed it to me, unswiped. I handed it back to the supervisor in a dazed state as the screaming harpy was continuing to shriek loudly at me that I was banned and shouldn’t be shopping at the store at all.
This was news to me as I have been shopping at the store every few days for five years uninterrupted by any ‘banning orders’ imposed by screaming harpies shouting abuse at me at the top of their voices.
The supervisor with my card walked with me to the customer service point where the card was swiped by her without comment.
Meanwhile, a burly security guard appeared who told me I couldn’t leave the store. He kept shuffling up to within a very few inches of my face every time I tried to keep a reasonably normal distance from him, breathing his foetid breath straight into my nostrils as he followed his training instructions to intimidate people by ‘invading their personal space’ in an overtly threatening manner by standing abnormally close to them.
I was a prisoner of Sainsbury’s, not allowed to leave the premises by this threatening security guard.
I was completely stunned at being screamed at for absolutely no reason at all by this maniac of a hatchet faced harpy woman employed by Sainsbury’s, and then kept prisoner and prevented from leaving by a threatening ’security guard’ who clearly implied he would use violence to prevent me going about my lawful business.
Meanwhile, my nine year old son appeared to be in a state of increasing terror at what was happening to his Father.
A duty manager, then appeared and asked the security guard what was going on. The guard replied he had no idea other than the shrieking Sainsbury employee has said I was banned from the store and had asked him to throw me out.
A slightly unnecessary procedure as, armed with my now swiped card, and having paid for my shopping, I was more than anxious to remove myself from this screaming madhouse where the Sainsbury employee’s continued shrieking had attracted a wide audience of at least a hundred people looking to see what the fracas was all about.
The manager did not speak to me, indeed refused to do so as he asked the security guard what the fuss was about. I was insolently and rudely told to be quiet by the manager when I greeted him as a possible saviour from this growing insanity and attempted to start explaining to him what had taken place. I imagined that, naturally, the manager would wish to speak to the polite and diffident customer being kept prisoner and prevented from leaving the store by a security guard.
Not so. When the security guard had finished telling the Duty Manager he had no idea what was going on, the manager simply refused to speak to me and told me brusquely to leave. I replied that was what I was being prevented from doing.
The manager’s response was to behave in an extremely confrontational and aggressive way, and also following his training on how to deal with violence, proceeded to do the same as the security guard and shoved his face within inches of mine. Together the manager and the security guard ‘herded‘ me out of the store in a brutally uncivilised and unnecessary manner, not allowing me to leave normally and willingly as I was entirely intent on doing.
It occurred to me the pair of them must have been watching too many American Los Angeles Cop and Car chase type TV films and were completely confused about what was American television fantasy and what was real life in a quiet Sussex market town as a sixty year old, inoffensive, middle class resident went about the daily business of domestic shopping with his nine year old son.
I was followed into the car park by the security guard at a distance who waited to see which car I approached. He then wrote my car number in biro on his hand in a thoroughly dramatic manner, no doubt still living the fantasy and taking his cue from all those America Cop movies he watched when not harassing innocent shoppers in the local supermarket for a living.