I’m not accusing you all of been Peeping Toms or cheating on exams, but I’m sure there’s very few of you who haven’t surreptitiously glanced at the contents of someone else’s supermarket trolley.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is the saying, but I believe there should be another one: “Never judge someone by their supermarket trolley.”
Any non-judgmental ideologies we may hold go flying out of the window when we bump into someone we know while out doing a food shop.
In the same way as your eyes are drawn to a huge spot on the end of someone’s nose when you’re desperately trying to pretend you haven’t noticed it, you just can’t seem to avert your eyes from the contents of their shopping trolley.
Let’s face it, it’s just pure nosiness. But some people also feel a touch of smug judgmentalness creeping in as they manoeuvre their way through the aisles peeking at people’s food choices.
In a similar vein, some people find themselves furtively pushing your trolley to one side when they see someone they recognise almost as if they had something to be ashamed of.
Food shopping can be a bit of a nightmare at the best of times – all those long aisles of food seductively calling out: “Pick me, pick me, forget my calorie content!” without the added burden of wondering what our fellow shoppers will think of our choices.
You can even stereotypically put people into certain categories or label them with a nickname based on their supermarket buying habits.
I myself fall into the “Noah’s Ark” style of shopping, That is to say most of my buys come in twos as I am Queen of the Multibuys and can never resist a Buy One Get One Free. It’s free food after all, I tell myself as I cram my trolley full of pairs of items I’m not even sure we needed one of.
The problem arises when you unpack your shopping and find your cupboards crammed with jars of coffee and pots of cheese spread only to realise you forgot to buy any bread or milk.
There are those who shiftily try to hide their trolley away from prying eyes for fear of being thought of as a cheapskate.
These are the shoppers with lots of Value and No Frills items in their trolley as well as a succession of yellow reduced sticker bargains.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of thriftiness, but judging by the startled reaction of some of these shoppers when they spy someone they know, anyone would think they’d been caught shoplifting or smuggling heroin.
Then there’s those who seem to love their pets more than themselves. Their trolley is sky high with indulgent treats and gourmet pet food … and just a meagre microwave meal for themselves.
There are plenty of people who go for the easy option of jars, tins and ready meals, but guiltily fear being judged for not creating meals from scratch.
One doctor friend confessed she dreads seeing any of her patients when doing a food shop for fear of people thinking: “She’s a doctor, she shouldn’t be buying frozen chips.”
My least favourite kind of shoppers are the healthy do-gooder food freaks who usually shop in their gym clothes and skulk around the health food section with a trolley laden with celery, organic carrots and seeds which look like bird feed.
I’m sure these people are only planted in supermarkets to make the rest of us feel guilty for buying Jaffa Cakes and Kettle Chips.
But shopping trolleys aren’t a window to the soul and just a snapshot of what a person is like.
The worst of it is, the judgment doesn’t even stop when you get to the checkout as even the till operators are at it.
“Ooh are you having a party?” asked one friendly checkout woman as she scanned several pizzas and a few multi-bags of crisps through.
“Er, no. I just like pizza and crisps.”
One friend was asked if she was having a party as she stocked up on wine and beer and felt like snapping: “No, I’m a raging alcoholic. This is just for tonight.”
With so many critics out there, maybe next time you go for a food shop, you should ask yourself: “To buy or not to buy, that is the question.”