nov-2016-tbrI’m experimenting with single book reviews for a few days to see if people like those more than the doubles – if you are interested in one book but not the other, does it put you off reading the post and/or commenting? I’d love to know. Anyway, I also started a substantial book today so there might not be another one to review for a few days, so here’s my reaction to a book in a genre I enjoy (is that the right word), where someone goes undercover to explore a different life or experience to the one they’re used to. What would you call that – social experiment books? Quest books? I did hop ahead in the TBR for this one as I started it when I had a bit of a cold and wanted something easy and not too taxing on the brain.

Tazeen Ahmad – “Checkout Girl”

(11 July 2016 – charity shop in Bridlington)

A journalist goes undercover during the early days of the recession to see first-hand the effect it’s having on people’s lives and spending habits. As it’s a Friday Project book, I assume it was based on a blog, but it’s well put together and reads coherently, which is refreshing.

It’s a warts-and-all but seemingly fair and balanced description of both behind the scenes and in the customer front line working at Sainsburys. She’s honest about her own struggles with the amount of customer interaction she’s supposed to do, the complicated transactions and processes and the different personalities of her colleagues and supervisors. I was saddened – but not surprised – to read about the attitudes of customers – I’ve certainly been guilty of carrying on my own life (and, dare I say it, bickering with Mr Liz) as I pass by the till, but I do make an effort to be polite! In fact, when I was talking to a lady in our Sainsburys, I confirm that although I do place my items on the belt in the order I want to pack them, I also do it so they’re close to her and the right way round (she said she doesn’t notice but I bet she does). I will be extra polite and supportive in future (in fact, I and a friend both told off someone who swore at the lady in the cafe the other day when she needed to check their large-denomination bank note, so hopefully I’m already walking the walk there).

I have to say that my checkout lady said they weren’t actually told to talk to every single customer, but I’m sure stores differ, and this book was published a few years ago now. I’d be interested to read an update on whether the redundancies started to diminish and people moved back from Basics to branded items, for example.

A well-written book which had a lot to recommend it and a human interest story as well as an economic exploration.