Lynne Mortimer: Shop local is not just about what’s on the shelves

PUBLISHED: 12:30 15 October 2020

In Lynne's Suffolkated world this would say something like, 'Yool ha' t' git in the next queue, bor'. Image: Getty Images

In Lynne's Suffolkated world this would say something like, 'Yool ha' t' git in the next queue, bor'. Image: Getty Images

Archant

What if people in all our shops – even the big chains – talked to us in our own, local Suffolk accent? Wouldn’t that make us all feel at home and a bit more comfortable?

Let’s have a bit more Suffolk in our lives.

With the nation becoming more regional – in terms of profiling and testing – perhaps it is time to differentiate along our high streets and in our supermarkets. Most big high streets have the presence of national chains – most of us have the likes of M&S, Boots, Primark, Body Shop etc. Sadly, there are fewer names than there were this time last year.

If you talk to the people who work in shops, you’ll get some great local accents – and this is what makes us feel at home and comfortable with buying even if your store is not strictly Suffolk.

There is nothing quite as reassuring as train information announced in local (that’s “lowcull” to you, Suffolk) dialect. If the 8.44am to London Liverpool Street is delayed, I would much rather be told simply that it had been held up at Stoomarkit than be given some convoluted story devised by an algorithm (see 2020 A-level results) designed to throw me off the scent.

But there is an area that has signally failed to take account of local differences and that is the self-service check-out.

While I understand that I may have put an “unexpected item in the bagging area”, I would much rather be upbraided: “What ha’ yew gone and put in they-er, then, huh? That h’ent gone threw.”

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I once had the embarrassment of discovering that an unexpected item was my middle grandson, Wil. He was then two-years-old and liked to lean against the weight-sensitive bagging area. When challenged he set off down the frozen foods aisle and a patient, if bemused, shop assistant completed my purchase while I ran off and managed to apprehend Wil as he turned towards confectionery and biscuits.

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A Suffolk check-out would undoubtedly challenge your shopping choices. “Dew yew want to be getting all that choc’late?” (The answer of course, is yes).

Once you get all the items through, having grappled with selecting the key-in items – is a croissant a roll or a bun? Oh, it’s a pastry – you have to negotiate a number of options such as whether you have used a bag, whether you want to take advantage of a special price on chocolate, and if you have a loyalty card before you finally get to pay.

Then you tap your debit card, only to find the machine has decided you’ve tapped it too often and it wants you to insert it (the card). With the current danger of germs, I am using the un-nibbed end of a ball-point pen to enter my PIN. So I burrow into my handbag to find a pen. Meanwhile, The Voice is fed-up with waiting: “Do you wish to continue with your purchase?” it intones in with a hint of haughty disapproval.

This is when most people forget they are dealing with a machine and simply reply. “Yes, all right, just hang on a sec.” How much nicer if it said: “Yew going t’buy that lot or what?”

Finally, you complete the transaction and unravel your compact shopping bag, only to be challenged: “Please, take your items,” as if you had considered simply leaving them behind. More sarcastic muttering ensues, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” – from the shopper, that is.

What is needed here is a soupcon of Suffolk levity from the machine voice: “Howald yew hard – don’t fergit ter take yer stuff.”

So, come on, retailers, social regionalism is the way forward or should that be “f’ord”.

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