The Parable of the Supermarket Trolley
By Matthew Delooze (April 2009)
I was in the Tesco Supermarket in Burnley the other day looking for some batteries and a print cartridge for an important job I have to do. The supermarket operates an escalator ‘ramp’ system (See pic above) and whilst the trolleys are on the ramp they cannot move, something stops them from moving. The car park is below the supermarket so to speak so to actually get to the goods on sale you have to go up the escalator ramp. You literally grab a shopping trolley and place it on the escalator ramp and then stand there like a lemon whilst it takes you and your trolley up at about 2mph. I didn’t have a shopping trolley because I only wanted some camera batteries and a bloody print cartridge. But because of the way the system worked you couldn’t get passed the folk with trolleys in front of you so you just had to wait.
As we all approached the first floor on the ramp an automated voice said, “Please be prepared to push your trolley off the end of the conveyor”. (The trolleys work again when they reach the top or bottom of the ramp)
I eventually got to the ‘first floor’ of the supermarket and I saw all the folks filling their trolleys with food and household goods. It was a complete mad house of greed on the first floor. I thought I should abandon my mission after seeing such chaotic madness and greed. I was totally lost in the sheer size of this place. It was a monster. I eventually asked an assistant on that floor where I could get the goods I needed’. She looked downtrodden and depressed as she carried out her mundane and thankless duties. She looked at me and then said she wasn’t really qualified to assist me but she quitely added that although she wasn’t qualified she was sure I really needed to go up a floor higher, ‘to the specialist technical department’, to get the information I needed.
“I know there is nothing like that on this floor sir but there’s another escalator ramp up to the next level and you should find all you need up there”. She pointed me in the general direction of the automatic ramp and I eventually found my way to it. I would never have found the ramp without the help of the downtrodden looking assistant. I was now determined to get to things I needed, the batteries and the print cartridge.
Again I was stuck behind trolly pushing shoppers on the escalator ramp and indeed their shopping trolleys were full and overflowing with stuff, mostly crap, but they were still holding on to their trollies trying to get to the upper floor to get even more stuff. I didn’t have a trolly simply because I knew exactly what I wanted, but there was no way I could get past the slow shoppers on the ramp whilst they were holding on to their trollies and blocking the path. I had to stay stood behind them and all the goods in their trolleys didn’t allow them to move, therefore blocking my path even more. As I approached the end of my boring journey I started to hear the annoying automated voice again. “Please be prepared to push your trolley off the end of the conveyor”.
Just as I reached the end of the conveyor it suddenly came to a creaking halt and the automated voice slurred and stopped. It had broken down. Luckily, because I didn’t have a shopping trolly stuck on the ramp, and I had no obstacles left in front of me I was free to enter the specialist technical department and look around. I then managed to get the equipment I need to do the job I have to do.
On the way back down to the car park, on the ramp that was directly opposite to the one that had broken down, I saw that all the people were still stuck there with their piles of shopping in their trollies, waiting for help to get the conveyor going again.