Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ma'm would you like to buy a bag?

It feels great to finally make it to the front of a queue. Especially if it is a busy counter of a food store at the supermarket. I took out sauces, pastes, seasonings and various other things from the shopping basket. Proudly put them into the chrome bay. It is a sign of marking the territory. To let everyone know that the counter, the cashier and the card swiping machine belong to you for the next 3 minutes.

So it came as a rude shock when the lady asked me, "Mam, would you like to buy a shopping bag?".

"No, thanks." I assumed she wanted to palm off one of those promotional bags with their logos.

She looked around and then stared at me for a few seconds. Very uncomfortable few seconds. I realised that I had no option but to buy a bag unless I magically sprouted 20 hands that very instant next to my own only two. I wasn't carrying anything except my wallet. I asked her, "How much?"

"Rupees 7 for the paper bag and Rupees 50 for the cloth bag."

I took a paper bag and made a hasty exit wondering whatever happened to the free shopping bags the stores provided.

The same thing happened again at Fabindia. "Ma'm would you like to buy a bag?". This time I didn't mind being shameless. "No, thanks." I said as I rolled up my purchase into a bundle and carried it out.

"Good days of taking a shopping bag to the market are back again", I thought to myself.

This time I intended to buy a lot of things at the food mall. I dusted and picked out one of my old shopping bags. I had stopped carrying it to the malls a long time back. I use them only when I go to Sarojininar or Karol Bagh markets.

"You cannot take the bag inside", the security guard stopped me.

"How will I carry the things out otherwise?"

"You can get the shopping cart back up to this point."

"Ok." I deposited my bag with him.

I was back again, to the front of the line at the check out counter. I proudly emptied all the contents from the cart and politely declined to buy any bag. When you buy a lot at a store, you feel an instant connection to the cashier. You imagine yourself as one of their favourite customers because you bring them so much profit. When they smile at you as they hand your credit card back, you think they are saying "thank you for buying so much". You are in a nice cozy feel good bubble.

My bubble burst when I turned around for my empty shopping cart. Eager customers behind me had pushed it away and towed their carts in its place instead. A helper boy was gladly wheeling it away to the entrance.

I looked at the queue behind me. My three minutes of ownership were over. They wanted me out of the line. Everybody had seen what just happened but I couldn't say anything to anyone. I turned to the counter. The sweet lady at the counter smiled "Ma'm would you like to buy a bag?". None of my imaginary 'you are a valued customer, I will give you a free bag' gesture followed.

"Yes please, a cloth one", I specified as I took out a 50 rupee note from my wallet. I needed a strong bag for all the maniacal shopping I had done.

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