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Troublesome Trolley

by Cornelia 

Posted: 24 May 2011
Word Count: 1057
Summary: The latest advance in supermarket trolley technology

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‘Excuse me, Madam. I see you chose our ‘Nutrinet’ trolley this morning. Could you spare a few minutes to complete a performance survey?’

The chirpy voice of the young woman with a clipboard was almost drowned out by random beeps from the checkout tills and the rattle of metal baskets.

Enid was heading for the Customer Services desk, but it would be much quicker to talk to the young woman - Kim, according to her name badge.

‘Yes, of course.’

‘It’s just a few questions.’ Kim smiled and flipped pages on her clip-board. Enid decided to humour her – it would still be quicker than the service desk.

‘Now then, could I ask where you collected your trolley? Was it: a) in the car park b) near the lifts or c) in the store itself?’

‘Inside’, Enid replied. It had taken so long to find a trolley that she hadn’t bothered to read the instruction chart on the wall. Besides, a trolley was a trolley. How complicated could it be?

‘And what attracted you to this particular model? Was it a) size b) accessories, such as child seat or shopping list support (please specify) or c) appearance’

‘Appearance’, said Enid. She’d liked the little line of sparkly loops around the top, like a tiny fence round a flower bed, and the small keypad with a swipe groove and speaker. That must be for shoppers to key in their car numbers and then swipe their loyalty cards. Parking space was limited, so people shouldn't leave their cars too long. If loud reminders embarrassed them, it was just too bad.

It was when she started shopping that the trouble began.

As her husband Jack had been so good about her hosting her grandson's birthday party, Enid decided to treat him to a packet of his favourite chocolate chip cookies.

But when she tried to put the packet in the trolley there was a loud beep and a section in the bottom of the trolley flipped up. If a little net hadn’t shot out from the handle, the packet would have landed on the floor. As soon as she removed the biscuits the net disappeared.

‘On a scale of one to five, in which one would be the lowest score, how would you rate the performance of the sensor device?’

‘You mean the flipper? Well, five, if you mean how good it was at knowing what it didn’t want, but less than one if you mean was I happy at the way it flung the goods into the net.’

‘I’ll put that down as a three. ’

Enid opened her mouth but no words came out.

‘Now, how would you rate the wheel performance? Were they: a) smooth and manageable b) inclined to pull to one side or c) difficult to manage?

‘They were fine. But …’

‘I’ll put that down as ) smooth and manageable. If you could just bear with me – only a few more questions and then on to general comments’

It wasn’t just the chocolate chip cookies, either. She’d tried chocolate digestives, caramel wafers and custard creams, all with the same result. A loud beep came from the speaker, the item flipped out and so did the net. So she’d given up and moved to the drinks section.

‘Now then,’ the assistant continued, ‘Trolley capacity. Was it a) sufficient for your needs; b) not big enough or c) too generously proportioned?

‘Excuse me, dear, but have you looked into my trolley?’

‘Oh, it’s nearly empty; just apples and celery, skimmed milk and porridge oats; very healthy. Now, if you wouldn’t mind answering two more questions, we can deal with issues arising.’

It had been the same story throughout the store: every time she tried for something a little bit special, she couldn’t have it. People started staring, as she tried for whisky, then sherry and finally a bottle of wine; all were rejected. She evan failed with a six-pack of Guinness, although the trolley struggled to hold it in the net. Jack wouldn’t think it a treat to be offered crisp breads washed down with sparkling water!

‘Now, how easy did you find it to programme your trolley? Was it a) straightforward b) not very easy or c) difficult ‘

‘Programme? Do you mean key in my car number?’

‘Madam, the keypad was for dietary restrictions, as indicated on the chart. Could I ask you what you did key in?

Enid told her the car number: NFA 3SG

‘Oh, dear, I can see the problem. You asked the trolley to eliminate items with fat or alcohol content over 3 % and anything with sugar or gluten.’

‘So that’s the reason? I put in my car number and the trolley thought it was a code?’

‘ That and the card-swipe link with the national database and previous purchases. You’ve exceeded the RWA – recommended weekly allowance.’

‘But it’s only Tuesday! I agree I may need to lose a few pounds, but what’s that to do with a database?

Kim pursed her lips and frowned at Enid.

‘It’s the burden on the NHS, Madam. All the measures so far, like the ‘five-a-day’ scheme, ‘traffic-light’ food labels and Jamie Oliver’s efforts, have failed. As a leading UK retailer we’ve been appointed Private Sector Provider. Trolleys are the first line of defence, for a trial period.’

Enid tightened her grip on the handle.

‘But what about when my son and his family come for the football on TV? I can’t give them fruit juice instead of lager, or low fat crisps when they’re expecting sausage rolls.’

Kim paused, looked round and leaned forward, dropping her voice to a reassuring whisper.

‘Don’t worry; our manager’s modified the controls ; he was worried about the effect on sales. See this little button in the end of the handle? It’s a combined over-ride and reset button. Just press it whenever you like.’

‘You mean it’ll stop things being lobbed into the net?’

‘Absolutely.’ Kim straightened up. ‘Now, is there anything else I can help you with, Madam?’

‘Thank you, no. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get some things for my husband’s tea.’

With her finger firmly on the over-ride button, Enid headed towards the back of the store, enticed by the aroma of fresh-baked doughnuts that drifted down the aisle.

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Comments by other Members

dharker at 17:27 on 24 May 2011  Report this post
Love this Sheila! Great dialogue and I love the description (and the whole idea)of the self censoring trolley! Brilliantly done!


Cornelia at 19:36 on 24 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Dharker. Glad you like it. I just wonder if it's too whimsical for Woman's Weekly. Maybe not.


Account Closed at 11:27 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Tee hee, i really liked this, Sheila, and think it would be perfect for The Weekly News!

I liked the override button!

Just a few things that i think you need to make clearer:

Too many people left their cars and shopped for ages. So it was a good idea to have people swipe their loyalty cards and key in their car numbers. If loud reminders embarrassed them, it was just too bad.

I wasn't sure about this - why would they key in their car numbers? (i know she wasn't meant to anyway, but i think you need to explain the logic here).

Who's Harry? Jack's son? If so, why should he be rewarded for hosting the party? Is it the son who's going to come around to watch football? I think you need to make it clearer.

Trolleys are the first line of defence

That made me chuckle!

A nice read.


Cornelia at 12:51 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks very much for reading and for suggesting the changes Petal.

I hope I've made it clearer that Enid just assumed she knew what the keypad was for, and I've said that Harry had hosted the grandson's birthday party with good grace, instead of grumbling or making himself scarce like some men would.

I'll have another read-through before checking the length for submitting. I already submitted it to The Weekly News by email eleven months ago and never got a reply, even though I sent a reminder. Should I try again, I wonder?


Katerina at 13:21 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
hello Sheila,

I remember this from before, but it still made me laugh.

I can actually imagine this happening, lol it would be so funny to see stuff being thrown out again and the look on peoples' faces!

Glad there's an override button, I'd be using it all the time.

I love this story and I think Jill at TWN would laugh at it too

Kat x

Cornelia at 13:38 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Kat, I'm glad you are able to keep an eye on things despite your cat-watching duties. We once looked after a cat on a house-swap holiday and it refused to eat - just sat there in a sulk making growling noises. Fortunately it was only for a week-end.

I'm glad you think Jill would like it, as I've just emailed it to her. I got the automated reply which at least reassures me I got the address right.

It was inspired by an ad that depicted two supermarket trolley having a conversation -I think they were promoting Tesco insurance. Maybe my trolley should have had a little jingle promoting healthy eating!


Katerina at 14:27 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
I think some trolleys ought to have jingles to warn people they are coming! The amount of times I've been bashed by someone who is pushing their trolley and looking in another direction! Lol.

Let us know how you get on with Jill - I'd love you to sell a story, it would boost your confidence so much!

Kat x

Account Closed at 14:50 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Yes, you certainly deserve to, Sheila.

I think trollies have a mind of their own, anyway. A bit like computers


Cornelia at 16:09 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Well, yes, that's why there's a question about performance. I'm sure that will bring back many an unhappy memory. Another thing that intrigues me is how the trolleys know the boundary line for how far they are allowed to go beyond the shop doorway.

Kat, thank you for your kind wishes. I was pleased to have a story accepted by the Pygmy Giant website recently, but I'm determined to I'll get a womag story accepted or die in the attempt.

My stories seem to fall into a black hole with Jill. I first sent this one to her last July but didn't hear anything, despite a prompt at Christmas. Her recent missive to the womag blog hints at some problem in the office. She rejected in October something I sent in August, which makes me think Troublesome Trolley was overlooked. I'll revamp one rejected in October, called 'There's Something I need to tell you', and repost it for comment here - maybe it will suit TAB better. Last October I sent her one called 'A Book at Bedtime' and the following month 'November Light' (from one of your prompts) but I haven't heard back about either one.


fluffyduffy at 20:45 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I too remember this and It still makes me chuckle. Its a great idea for a story, the dialogue is believable and everything flows smoothly. I did have a few comments but as you've already sent this off to Jill I'm not sure if they will be relevant now but I'll say it anyway, if that's all right.

Enid was heading for the Customer Services deskbut it would be much quicker to talk to the young woman

This is more of a personal thing but I would be inclined to re-word this slightly to:
Enid had been heading for the Customer Service Desk but perhaps it would be quicker to talk to this young woman...

As her husband Jack had been so good about her hosting her grandson's birthday party

the word 'her' should be 'their' as it's Jack's grandson as well.

Apart this I thought it was perfect. I do wish you the best of luck with Jill, I think she would really enjoy this


Cornelia at 20:53 on 25 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Alana, and you're right about the rephrasing but I hope it's not too glaring to Jill or that maybe she'll make the changes.


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