Cowboy BBQ Chicken and Rice: A True Story
Written by Alan Hancock
I’d broken my own rule. Never go to the supermarket between 4pm and 7pm. That’s when they’re out in force. The Bargain Hunters. Trouble is, I’d promised Nachos for dinner and I didn’t have any of the ingredients. You can’t just say to someone “We’re going to have crisps and cheese for tea” and then not deliver. I had to brave it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging people for their thriftiness; if that’s how people save their money, all power to them but, for me, there’s something about the tensity of the atmosphere that puts me on edge. Groups of people stalking the reduction trolley making it feel like you’re walking through a bad neighbourhood late at night. I’d just rather not be the innocent bystander in that scenario.
The reduced items are prized. They’re a rarity, sought after and poached like game. The people that search them out are driven, focussed and determined. They’re prepared to fight to the death if it means saving an extra fifteen pence on egg fried rice. These people are professionals, they have a sixth sense, a radar for the yellow labels and they seek them out on a veracious search and/or destroy mission. They grudgingly respect only one person and that’s the customer assistant pushing the trolley and wielding the scanner. They are master and commander when it comes to further reductions, they are the arbiter of disputes and the giver of savings. I avoid that person at all costs, I never want to get caught up in the maelstrom of hands that accompanies the display of a freshly cut yellow labels.
On this occasion, I had what I needed for the Nachos, I was in and on my way out in record time when, ahead of me, I stumbled upon the reduction trolley; this time with only four people around it. The assistant, and two veterans. Elderly women fully versed in the art of bargain hunting and as I discovered; war.
Products were going down in price so I held back, not wanting to get involved but with a morbid curiosity as to how this was going to go down. The item in question was a Cowboy BBQ Chicken and Rice children’s ready meal; they knew it was going for a pittance and they waited with baited breath, bumping each other’s elbows and shoulders in a passive aggressive jostle to maintain position almost like footballers awaiting a corner into the box. The assistant picked up the meal, scanned the barcode, printed the ticket and attached the label, the air ripe with anticipation. No sooner had the product been returned to the shelf, they pounced. One was quickest on the draw, wholly deserving of the BBQ meal for Cowboys (with rice). But the other, not to be outdone, clasped a hold of her wrist with a death grip and they tussled back and forth with knuckles as white as their hair, scuffling like little boys with little toys.
No one wants to see that. You don’t want to pop to the shop after work and watch two grown ladies go toe to toe over the “yellow”. The assistant dropped his head and shook it as if to say “really? this again?” seemingly familiar with how this routine plays out and with his own tried and tested strategy to resolve it.
Eventually one of them relented and an argument ensued about the fairness of one person having more savings in their basket than the other. The assistant was immediately put on the spot; he was now the judge and jury of this dispute. A moment ago he was just a customer assistant, now he was King Solomon of the Supermarket embroiled in a conflict over a ready meal. It was time for him to show his wisdom.
He would have been well within his rights to chastise the pair of them in no uncertain terms for their outrageous behaviour; if he had told them they were both old enough to know better and that it was down to them to set an example but that’s not what he did. Rather than enflame the situation further with his own temper, he calmed the situation displaying a deftness for diplomacy, reminding them politely that this was a public space; accommodating the egos of both of the customers and ensuring that another fight didn’t break out further down the line probably with thoughts of “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this” racing through his head. But he dealt with it anyway. Of course, neither of them were satisfied but I was impressed.
If I had to come into the shop for last minute Nachos again, I might just find that guy and follow him around like he was my own personal bodyguard protecting me from the gangs of over 60’s that roam the aisles. That’d be the very definition of going above and beyond.