A pound in the slot releases the trolley. It rattles excitedly as it wheels across the crowded car park and over the zebra crossing.
A man and woman pause outside the open doors to the shopping Mecca. They glance at each other knowingly, fingers twitching, list at the ready. What lies ahead is a battle between the hunter-gatherer and the nurturer. Both completely different in their approach to shopping. Both absolutely certain their way is the best way.
Unless you are one of these lucky couples who find serenity in the supermarkets, compromise so you both leave the cashier feeling content with your purchases and all without a bead of sweat on your foreheads, then you will know that shopping with your other half is about as tranquil as shopping with a three-year-old. The struggle begins with the simple task of writing a shopping list. There are the everyday things that cause no arguments – milk, bread, cheese, toilet paper – but when it comes to deciding whether you should get the usual sausages, or try something different for a change, all hell brakes loose.
He grabs the trolley and commands that I keep an eye on the list. But before I can even check what we had scribbled down together, he’s off down the aisle with a trolley half full of goodness knows what. He hasn’t checked the labels for content, sourced the best bargains or thoroughly tested for the ripe avocado. In goes the bumper family packet of bacon, cheap pizzas for those lazy nights, 20 cans of chopped tomatoes and baked beans, a packet of 12 chicken breasts, “they can go in the freezer for later” he calls, and the most important item of all - tomato ketchup.
Meanwhile, I’m floundering around, dithering over whether to ignore him, take my time and saunter leisurely down the herbs section, or try desperately to keep up with him and check what he’s spending our money on.
The whole painful scenario is over in 20 minutes flat, and that includes queuing at the checkout. That’s because it’s the rules of our psyche.
Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College London, sheds some light on what happens when we go shopping.
“Women spend more time shopping than men. Women advise, consult and talk, whereas men get on with it…they go for the quick kill”.
According to Professor Furnham, men need to know what brand, colour, size and style they are looking for before they start shopping in order to spend as little time in the supermarket as possible. Men even “inhibit women shoppers. Women accompanied by men spend half the time than if accompanied by other women”.
One thing I love about male shoppers is they don’t get in the way. Many of them avoid irritating habits like leaving their trolleys floating in the middle of the aisle for hot-headed shoppers to squeeze past – something that countless women are guilty of. Men are less inclined to linger and are scarcely distracted by the new supermarket deli, promotions on cleaning products and just aren’t interested in what is on offer in the ever expanding home department. As far as they are concerned, you are supposed to be shopping for food, not for new bathroom towels and scented candles.
“There are shopper types:” says Professor Furnham, “adventure shoppers, shopaholics and shopaphobics, economic shoppers and price-insensitive Johnnies, bargain hunters and sociable shoppers.”
Which ever category you or your man can relate to the most, the chances are you rarely feel comfortable shopping together. Here are a few suggestions to help you overcome the squabbles and stresses of shopping with your other half:
Never shop when you are hungry. You want to buy more than you need and this can provoke arguments, especially if you get moody on an empty stomach.
Make sure you have control of the trolley and he has the list. If he wants to race around the supermarket then fine. But he can’t start paying before you are finished.
Don’t interfere and deny each other a few luxuries. If he wants to buy a multi-pack of 24 crisps then let him. Don’t moan. When you start pondering over which cereal to try out he will be more forgiving. Try to stick to a shopping list. That way he won’t be agonising over how long the shopping drama is going to last. He can see how many items are left to get.
If you want to buy decorative household goods then save it for another time, when you’re on your own or with a friend. Stick to those tips and your shopping trolley will rattle happily back to the car, and hopefully the affectionate feelings you had for your bloke before you embarked on the shopping adventure will remain untainted. You will have mastered the art of shopping with your other half. Shopping with your children, however, is another story.