28 Comments

  1. I have been watching the 1975 miniseries “I, Claudius” (to follow along with John Hodgman’s podcast about it), and realized I knew very little about the early Roman Empire.

    In particular, it’s remarkable what an awful man Tiberius was! So that changes my impression of the nerd joy some fans seem to take in knowing that is Capt. Kirk’s middle name, and intoning “James Tiberius Kirk!”.

  2. It takes six redshirts to make a grocery store run — one to bag the groceries, one to pay for them, and four to die in the ambush in the parking lot.

  3. Over 50 years ago, six men were paid a minimal fee for a brief appearance on a low-budget sci-fi series, each of them probably making less than it cost the prop department to fabricate Kirk‘s phaser pistol, and all I can focus on is the idiot who capitalized “Supermarket”.

  4. @Kilby: that’s because it’s better than your average supermarket, but not as good as the SUPERmarket 😉 .
    In Italy, my sister and I inferred that the hyper/supermarket difference was that a hypermarket is twice the size of a supermarket because of the mirror wall in the back.

  5. @ Mitch4 – You can take comfort that “Tiberius” was not Kirk’s original middle name. Roddenberry had changed the initial “R.” to a “T.”, and later invented abstruse theories to provide an alibi for the prop department. The initial “T.” was not expanded into a name until the animated series, from whence it was retconned into the movies and later series.

  6. @ larK – In France there’s a company called “Système U” that has (in rough order by size) “U-Express”, “Utile”, “Marché-U”, “Super-U”, and “Hyper-U”, but you can’t expect the French to be “über”-anything. I really liked the “Hyper-U” stores, because you could pick out anything you needed without having to speak any French.

  7. It was in France of 1985 that I first encountered the old style system that pioneers like Selfridge worked to eliminate: you have to go to a floor walker, have them fill out a slip for the item you want, you then take that slip to the fulfillment window, where they send someone to pick up your item and wrap it for you; you also have to at some point either before or after this step pay for the item at yet another place, and then bring the receipt to pickup your item. We were silly teenagers with high school French, and having never before encountered this system, could not comprehend why we could not just take the scissors we needed and had found on the floor and just pay for them. The system resulted in a lost sale for the store, and us not having the scissors we needed, so I could see the desire of having a store like the Hyper-U you describe.
    (I subsequently saw many places with the archaic system described above still in use in Brasil, I think as recently as in the 2010s….)

  8. Decades ago in the U.S., I was in a cut-rate (electronics?) store that had one of each thing on display. To buy it, you filled out a slip, and someone went into the back to get one for you and you paid for it.

    It’s been a while for me, but don’t some items in Ikea still work like that?

  9. Well, at the drugstore, there are non-prescription but restricted sign-for items in the colds-and-allergy racks. The display racks in that aisle have pre-printed card-stock or plastic slips, with illustrations and names of the item. Nothing to fill out, but the slip is what you take up to the pharmacy window.

  10. Arthur: The few times I got something large at Ikea – a bookshelf, or a dresser – I went to a warehouse-like area and pulled it off the shelf myself. I’m sure an employee would have helped if I hadn’t been able to do it myself, but AFAIK, there wasn’t a separate back area.

  11. For certain fragile or awkward items IKEA does still work like that — you have to go to one of the kiosks downstairs, get someone to help you print out the order for the item you need, you take that slip to the cash register, then go wait in the pickup area for them to give you your item with the proof of payment stamped slip.
    But it really makes sense in this scenario for items you can’t really pick up yourself, or would be too prone to unacceptable levels of damage if they were left out for general pickup. To have to go through this rigamarole for pair of scissors you can see and maybe even pick up on the display floor doesn’t make much sense. The places in Brasil where this system is still in place, it is largely a bureaucratic method to deter theft and fraud by the store employees.

  12. They also do this for small costly items that might leave the store on their own. I notice razor blades are no longer on open shelves in many stores.

  13. There was a store when I was young called Service Merchandise that worked the way Arthur described.

  14. I recently bought a new drill chuck key at the hardware store (I expect the old ones to complete their practical joke and reappear soon) that was kept in a locked case. A sign on that stated that the item would be taken to the register for purchase, but the guy that unlocked it just handed it to me.

  15. @ Brian in StL – Welcome to geezerhood. I’ve discovered that store employees extend much more (bordering on unreasonable) amounts of trust to older customers. A teenager or 20-something trying to buy the same chuck key might not have had the same thing happen.

  16. I refer to it as the Old White Guy Pass. When I go to the Auto Show with my son (not this Spring, alas), everybody gets checked when they enter. I basically get waved through.

    My son gets a very cursory check, which I call the You’re With an Old White Guy Semi-Pass.

  17. A hundred years ago, you would go into a store — grocery store, drug store, or any other kind, it didn’t matter — and you would walk up to the clerk at the counter and ask for each item and the clerk would fetch it for you. You can see this at work in old movies. At some point someone realized you could save money on clerks by offloading the work onto the consumer — just as the dial telephone turned telephone users into telephone operators — and the supermarket was born. As for the capital S, you spell Superman with a capital S, so why not Supermarket?

  18. At work we refer to these as “Very Important Words.” The corporate world is rife with Very Important Word Syndrome.

    I’ve spent many hours over the last few weeks editing documents written by pricey consultants. They are very fond of their Very Important Words. Just capitalizing stuff all over the place that is in no way a proper noun. It’s a nuisance because you have to check if it represents the name of a product or service they offer and, therefore, is actually a proper noun.

  19. Mark in Boston – Brooklyn, 1950s – we would go across the street to the grocery store and mom would tell the grocer what she wanted and he would pick it out for her and bag it. Next door was the “fruit and vegetable” store where the fruit and vegetable man would do the same with his wares. I get confused after that and am not sure if the fish store or the kosher butcher was next – but I think the fish store was next (as I remember walking past the fish head with the cigar in mouth and we did not go there often so we must have passed it on the way to the butcher. Each of then would pick out what mom wanted – no self-serve.

    Even after we moved out to the suburbs in the 1960s and shopped in a supermarket – the produce section was an oval shape with a raised platform inside of the oval for the “fruit and vegetable” men to walk around and help shoppers from up there – one did not pick their own. Meat was not prepackaged and the butcher helped one with one wanted.

  20. larK – I sold fine jewelry while in college in a home items store – but the costume jewelry department worked the same way – one would pick out the item(s) wanted and the employee would take them out. When one made their choice the employee would hand write the receipt and give one the tear piece at the bottom and you and the item would separately go to the register to be paid for and gift wrapped (if one wanted same). Several of the other departments worked similarly.

  21. Ikea has a pickup area for large heavy items after one has gone through the checkout. It is the same area as the area to have items delivered (at a cost) to home. This is different than the area with huge warehouse shelves that one goes through to leave the store – one uses a special cart in this area to pickup smaller items than the other area – chairs, tables, bookshelves, and such are in the area where the carts are used. The carts use area merchandise is before the registers.

  22. I was viewing a video yesterday featuring a woman reading recipes aloud (never mind why she was or why I was viewing). One bit that cracked me up was:

    “‘On route pick up produce at roadside stands.’ Where do they think we live, Martha Stewart’s Universe?”

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