Category Archives: Off-topic

Says so on the t-shirt

Someone I know once said of her annoyance over people who wear Che Guevara shirts without knowing who the man was. Upon reading her statement, I asked myself whether -I- really knew who Che Guevara was (despite the fact that I don’t own a shirt with a print of his face on it) and realising that I didn’t, hopped over to Wikipedia quick smart.

It seems that there are lots of people out there who wear things that they don’t know the meaning of or what they represent. Tattoos are a common one. I asked one customer what their tattoo symbolised – they had a chinese character inked on their bicep. They shrugged in response and said they didn’t know, which made me think of that joke about a man getting a tattoo which meant “I f–ked my mother” in some other language.

The Che Guevara remark came to mind last week when I served someone who could have easily been mistaken for a member of the West Coast Eagles (plus or minus the drugs). He was about six foot, well-built, and had one of those faces the average male would give an eye tooth for – or want to put a dent in. Given all this, I paid him little heed. And I’m not just saying this for Boyfriend’s benefit. Bronzed football-types just don’t do it for me.

Aside from the initial greeting, I didn’t say a word to Mr. Alpha Male. The supermarket is usually full of noise, the sound of other checkout scanners beeping, people walking, other movement and rustling, banging. In spite of all this, the immediate space around me somehow feels deathly quiet when I’m not talking to anyone.

While I waited for the credit slip to print out, I glanced at Alpha Male and my gaze came level with the writing on his shirt. On his shirt was one of those generic designs like that on a basketball or football jersey: a double-digit number (It’s never just an “8”, it’s always “08”) with a word of some sort above it. Alpha Male’s shirt read “Osaka”.

When Alpha Male had finished scrawling his signature on the slip and I went through the motions of checking the signature and printing out the receipt, I couldn’t resist testing whether “Osaka” meant anything to Alpha Male. So I asked him about it.

A shrug and a crooked grin. ‘I’m not sure what it means.’

‘I think it’s a city in Japan,’ I replied carefully. I suppressed the urge to make a comment about people who wear shirts bearing words and images they know nothing about.

Another easy grin. ‘Oh, okay.’
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You’ll never catch me wearing a top or other item of clothing emblazoned with a word that I don’t know the meaning or significance of, no siree.

But that may have something to do with how I don’t wear clothes with words on them.

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C for Incompetence

The mature thing to do would be to accept what had happened and to try to forget about it. However, because I’m too pissed off over the situation, I’m going to name names.

This morning I went to Coles to return a bottle of Coles mayonaise which I had purchased in January of this year. My father had warned me from buying Coles branded products because a block of Coles cheese that I’d bought several weeks back tasted disgusting so I only ate a sliver of it. I brushed him aside though, saying that cheese can be a very unreliable product. Ignoring his concerns, I promptly picked up a can of homebrand tuna and a bottle of Coles mayonaise.

The two products were paired together to create a mashed tuna and mayonaise combination which tasted rather good on buttered bread. I insisted to Boyfriend that he try some for himself, and after saying that he’d ask his mother to prepare him a tuna and mayonaise sandwich for lunch sometime, he ended up having the batch that I’d prepared, the day after Valentine’s Day.

The morning after Valentine’s, we sat at my dining table quietly chewing on our tuna and mayonaise on bread breakfasts. During our meal, Boyfriend told me to check the bottle of mayonaise sitting on the table for any discrepancies.

Glancing over the bottle, I shrugged, not finding anything out of the ordinary. But then, on closer inspection, I discovered that the expiration date on the Coles bottle read ‘Best Before 27/9/06’.

Mortified that I’d made Boyfriend eat out of date mayonaise, I apologized profusely. He just laughed it off and said that he was okay. In a more serious voice, however, he said that I should return the mayonaise to Coles, for it was almost certain that they would give me a refund. ‘They’ll be horrified that they sold an item that expired so long ago,’ he said. ‘I’m sure they’d rather refund a bottle of mayonaise than risk angering a customer.’

Come this morning, however, it appeared that I would not be getting my money back or getting a replacement for consuming their five months out of date product. The woman at the service desk peered at the mayonaise, told me that the bottle was almost empty (it was half empty – after all, I had been under the assumption that it was still in code), and said that because I didn’t have a receipt for the item, they would not refund me for it.

I mean, fair enough if Coles and other supermarkets have a particular refund policy which necessitates having a proof of purchase. But in some cases clear logic requires a different set of actions. Why on earth would I keep a bottle of mayonaise in my fridge for five months only to get a refund for it now? And, if the bottle is half-empty, that only further proves the danger that was posed to me in consuming a product that was so thoroughly expired.

Having said that she wouldn’t refund my purchase, she added that Coles have a very good system of stock rotation, something which I almost snorted at. Silently, I thought, ‘I have it on good authority that you most certainly do not rotate stock properly.’

The Coles mayonaise being one fine example of poor stock rotation, I was also treated to many tales by Insider of employees not bothering to rotate stock. If ever stock rotation was performed, it was in the perishables department. But because grocery items have a longer expiration period, nobody stocking grocery products conducts stock rotation.

I did not say any of this out loud, however. It’s tragic: you watch countless shows about empowered women who have smart mouths and quick wits, yet in the moments when you are required to defend yourself, all your viewings abandon you. All that you want to say in retort simply evaporates.

After the person at the service desk said flatly that she was sorry but nothing could be done, I replied, ‘Ok then’, and walked off. Fuming, but also on the brink of tears at having been dealt such an unfair hand, I threw the Coles mayonaise in a bin that I passed. The dumping was my sole visible gesture of defiance.

It was then that I vowed to boycott all Coles branded products and, also, never to shop at Coles again. If I can help it, at least. The next that I return, it will be to scour their shelves for expired products to dump at their service desk to demonstrate that their stock rotation performance is appalling and that their supermarket is a disgrace.

Stand by for a report on Coles’ persistent ineptitude.

Shoe biz

As a rule, I only ever buy shoes that I can run in.

Unlike the average girl, I own very few pairs of shoes. Six pairs, in fact. Included in this collection are a pair of fuck-me-boots, stiletto knee-high leather boots, and a pair of really delicate heels.

Oddly, the only pair of shoes that I don’t think I could run in are my most conservative ones – my work shoes. My work shoes are black leather pumps with low heels. They don’t sound so bad, but if I tried to run while wearing them my heels would just slip out. They already do that sometimes when I walk.

At the end of my shifts on my first three days on checkout, the soles of my shoes were covered in reduced stickers. See, my supermarket has a policy that whenever we process an item that has a reduced sticker on it, we have to peel it off before it can leave the store. What you do with the sticker is up to you. In the first week I madly ripped off sticker after sticker and dumped them on the ground. There is a small disposal unit at each checkout, but it takes too long to throw in each individual sticker as you peel it off. By the second week, however, I tired of my shoes looking like a two year old’s paper collage, so I started sticking the redundant stickers to one spot of my checkout instead, dumping the pile when I had time or whenever it had grown to the size of a tuberose.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting flats. My work shoes often make me hobble a bit after I’ve worn them for four hours. The first week was the worst – I got pins and needles in my feet after I eased out of the heels and into a pair of thongs.

So far, I’ve noticed three people at my store who wear the same shoes. Flat, black, rounded toes, with a thin black line over the front end of the open part of the shoe. They’re probably super comfy, but they don’t look very pretty.

But who am I to talk? My shoes aren’t particularly gorgeous or practical. Standing behind a checkout, however, at least no one can see my feet.

This mess we’re in

I’m concerned about the future of Australian supermarkets and what it will mean for consumers. I’ve been troubled by this ever since the two major supermarket chains started to unleash with a frenzy their own branded products and replace familiar branded items with crude copies.

Years ago there was only really the basic homebrand range, with its products packaged in ubiquitous black and white or black and gold. I had never given much consideration to the homebrand range and its origins; I simply thought that it was produced by a private company. It was only when Insider started working at a supermarket that I learned that homebrand ranges are actually commissioned and owned by supermarkets but are produced by the supermarkets’ suppliers.

Last year, when I started working at the place I am now, I took a greater interest in all of this and in the behind the scenes details of supermarkets. Various sources informed me that what supermarkets do is they make their suppliers bid for the privilege/job of producing their homebrand products. So for instance, Brownes might bid against Harvey Fresh to be awarded the contract of producing supermarket X’s homebrand milk. The end result is that the winning supplier ends up competing against itself: the homebrand product they’ve produced sits on the shelf alongside their own labeled product, with each battling to be purchased by the consumer.

While it’s an undesirable situation for a supplier to compete with itself, the worse scenario is for a different supplier to be awarded the contract. Although it’s not totally in the supplier’s favour to produce homebrand items for a supermarket, they are at least creating another source of revenue. Better that it competes against itself than with another supplier that has “two” brands: its own and homebrand.

As I mentioned, in the past there was only really one homebrand range for each major supermarket. This single homebrand variety didn’t pose much of a threat to the other brands as it was clearly marketed as the cheapest, lowest quality alternative. In the past year, however, and particularly in the last six months, the two major supermarkets have innundated their stores with their own products. Not only does the range extend to nearly every type of item – from biscuits, to toilet paper, to fruit juice – but they have also released different tiers of homebrand goods. In addition to the cheap homebrand alternative, supermarkets now have a mid-range variety. In the near future, they will be releasing a third, top-quality variety as well. And because the supermarkets are not burdened with costs such as advertising for their homebrand items, they can afford to sell each tier of homebrand goods at markedly lower prices than the other branded items. This undercutting essentially allows supermarkets to dominate the market.

And that is what worries me. Scares me, even, at the aggressiveness and ruthlessness of the marketplace.

In the short term, the battle between the supermarkets and their suppliers will be beneficial to consumers. Competition – limited demand plus strong supply – assures that products will be cheaper than they otherwise would be if there were less competition. In the long run, however, supermarkets will overcome their suppliers and homebrand items will dominate. The basic logic of consumerism will lead to this outcome. Consumers will, and do, buy the cheaper alternative to a product that offers the same quality at a higher price. Soon enough, companies will be squeezed out of the market, and as they are, homebrand will be ready to fill the empty shelf space.

Once the supermarkets have complete dominance over their own supply, they will raise prices. By then, consumers will have no other option but to pay these prices because there will be no other alternative to homebrands.

What troubles me most is that there is very little that can be done to stop this from happening. While it is possible to predict what will happen in the future, we as consumers still act on a very short-term level. As I mentioned, the logic of consumerism drives us to continue buying the cheaper alternative, and as we do, we are steadfastly helping the supermarkets to achieve their goal: total control over their supplies – our products.

It’s a doomsday scenario if I ever saw one.

Just add water

On Saturday night, I came home to find a wrapped present on my desk in my bedroom.

The contents of the package were a set of watercolour pencils, a pad of perforated paper, and a single paintbrush.

On Sunday afternoon, I created this:

starry_final.jpg

Pre-water:

starry.jpg

You may not have been bowled over by the resemblance, but it was supposed to be an imitation of van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone.

Hodge podge

Tonight:

– Paid a visit to a local (within 8km) shopping centre.
– Ate badly made sushi. It fell apart way too easily and no amount of soy sauce could make it palatable. Also, it was supposed to be tuna sushi, but rice and lettuce seemed to be the dominant ingredients (80%).
– Read bits of The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour in Big W.
– Bought groceries from the supermarket chain I am employed by (I don’t make a habit of it).
– Filed away for future reference the visual difference between a gold sweet potato and a red sweet potato. (Have given up on trying to distinguish yellow nectarines from white ones. Have elected to simply guess when required to do so.)
– Back at home and putting things away, found myself muttering mentally, ‘Why on earth did she (checkout operator) partner my instant noodles with the vegetables, separate those instant noodles from a different packet, and put the apples in a separate bag from the rest of the fruit and vegetables?’
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As I was leaving the shopping complex and heading towards the exit/entrance, I caught a whiff of something. I inhaled more deeply. It was one of my favourite scents. Weirdly, this scent is that of particular department stores’ air-conditioning. There’s a Dymocks in the CBD which has that peculiar smell as well. Subways in Hong Kong smell that way too.

I also like the scent of apples.

Birds of a feather

I just realized something. My Fischer’s lovebirds’ plumage corresponds with all the different shades of capsicums.

Firstly, their rouge-coloured beaks are indicative of red capsicums at their finest.

The dark green of their backs mirrors that of the green capsicum in any season.

Their yellow and orange breasts reflect perfectly the yellow and orange capsicums.

The light yellowy-green fluffy down of their bellies is the exact shade of a type of bullhorn capsicum.

Their heads, capped mustard brown, are the colour capsicums turn as they get old.

The small patch of grey-white on the tail of one of the lovebirds is the colour of the white mould that can grow on capsicums if they’ve been cooked then left in the fridge for a month and a half. (Or, alternatively and for a quicker result, at room temperature for three weeks.)

And, finally, the black tip of the tail of my other lovebird is the same charcoal black of a capsicum that has been charred on a barbeque or over a flame. Any colour capsicum would do for this one.

A lovebird:
agapornis_fiseri.jpg

Capsicums:
capsicum-final.jpg