Check out the cham­pi­ons

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Imag­ine if the Rugby Sevens was held in a tightly con­fined space – sim­i­lar to say, the Abbey’s Au­di­to­rium on Cen­ten­nial Dr.

Talk about party at­mos­phere! It’s colourful and it’s noisy.

There is loud mu­sic, a mul­ti­me­dia screen and coloured robo-light­ing.

‘‘Su­per­heroes’’ fill the seat­ing. The cozzied crime-fight­ing com­pany are armed with ban­ners, mas­cots, hoot­ers, toot­ers and thun­der-sticks and their com­bined lung-power is some­thing to (ahem) be-hear.

Mild-man­nered su­per­mar­ket staff by day, on Mon­day night they burst out of their tele­phone boxes and bat-caves in sup­port of some 90 check-out op­er­a­tors com­pet­ing on­stage for the re­gional cham­pion Checker of the Year ti­tle, and a shot at the North Is­land ti­tle.

Hugely an­tic­i­pated by staff, the fun event, which has been en­cour­ag­ing friendly com­pe­ti­tion be­tween stores for over 40 years, has its se­ri­ous side.

Rep­re­sent­ing 14 Food­stuffs su­per­mar­kets from Horowhenua, Whanganui, Ran­gi­tikei, Wairarapa, Tararua, Manawatu and Palmer­ston North the com­pe­ti­tion was con­ducted over 22 heats on four real check-outs set up on stage.

Judged by a team of eight se­nior staff for speed, pre­sen­ta­tion, cus­tomer ser­vice and ac­cu­racy, the com­peti­tors had to scan 30 items as fast as pos­si­ble, while stay­ing friendly and com­posed.

There may be self-check­ing ma­chines now in most su­per­mar­kets, but that hasn’t less­ened the art and craft of be­ing a great check-out op­er­a­tor. Food­stuff’s em­cee Paul Ben­nett refers to the check­ers as ‘‘the back­bone of our busi­ness’’ who ‘‘help com­plete the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

Be­tween the heats there were out­breaks of im­promptu danc­ing, though the ex­u­ber­ance had to be curbed dur­ing each ses­sion so the op­er­a­tors could con­verse with the judges mas­querad­ing as cus­tomers, and con­cen­trate on their task.

Af­ter all the fun and games and elec­tronic peep­ing came the real re­sults. Levin New World’s Me­gan McKen­zie and Ash­ley Hu­runui were first and third re­spec­tively, with New World Pi­o­neer’s Sa­man­tha Neemia in sec­ond place. How­ever, five of the city su­per­mar­ket’s op­er­a­tors made the top 12, earn­ing New World Pi­o­neer the win­ning store award, with the crew from New World Fox­ton named best sup­port­ing team.

Me­gan will rep­re­sent the re­gion at the North Is­land awards in Septem­ber.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The city’s Pi­o­neer New World su­per­mar­ket team cel­e­brates win­ning the re­gional store award at Mon­day night’s re­gional Food­stuffs Checker of the Year com­pe­ti­tion. Sec­ond-placed check-out op­er­a­tor Sa­man­tha Neemia is at the far right.

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