The oddest thing happened at work the other day. We were discussing this article we had come across in our textbooks regarding Honesty Boxes. Apparently, this big newsagent in the UK, WHSmith, tried out this new idea of having newsstands at busy places, only without the till. Instead you have an Honesty Box in which you place the correct amount of change, grab your newspaper, and head out.
In response, this TV programme did a little test to survey how honest people actually were. In one situation they had the cashiers, at a large supermarket and at a small shop, give back extra change. The results were that more people gave the money back at the small shops than the large stores.
Why, you may wonder? Well, personally, I thought that it might have had to do with the intimacy of a small shop as opposed to the anonymousness of large supermarket. I’ve worked at both a small shop and a large department store, and the interaction between client and cashier clearly differs in either situation. The article also pointed out that people tend to have a “They can afford it attitude” towards large banks and companies.
But what did the students think? Get this: my students agreed that it’s because people who shop at large supermarkets are much richer than those that shop at smaller stores, and are therefore less likely to count their change as they leave, as opposed to the poorer people that shop at the smaller shops!!
I swear, I felt like I’d been hit on the head with a blunt object. And when the shock of hearing something so totally absurd and unexpected wore off I laughed really, really hard. But then the truth sank in, and I felt like crying. When, in God’s good name, did shopping at a large supermarket become a sign of wealth? In Syria, that’s where.
I remember the good ol’ days, where supermarkets were generally cheaper than small shops, where you could buy in bulk, and where you didn’t get dressed up like you were going for a night out to go grocery shopping. So, I tried as best as I could to explain to them that this concept existed exclusively in Syria, and, quite possibly, other countries in the Mid East.
Allah yerham iyamak ya Superstore, Co-op, and Safeway. Oh, how I miss thee.