Jews, queues and a point of law

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Gary Con­way

IWAS US­ING the Sains­bury’s cash point near to High­bury Corner Mag­is­trates Court when the per­son in the queue be­hind me, who was clearly a lawyer, threw a huge tantrum. He was ag­grieved that I was us­ing two debit cards in­stead of one. He ex­plained that I was “self­ish” and had “poor cash ma­chine eti­quette”. He went on to ex­plain that the cor­rect ap­proach would have been for me to have used the first card, then joined the back of the queue to use the sec­ond one, there­fore al­low­ing the queue to move at a steady pace.

In re­sponse, I ex­plained that by his logic I should go into Sains­bury’s, pur­chase my sand­wich, join the queue again to pur­chase my Ribena and re­peat the process for my ap­ple. He told me that my com­par­i­son was in­con­gru­ous, as peo­ple in the queue in Sains­bury’s can see the items I in­tend to pur­chase and then make an in­formed decision over whether to join the queue I am in or opt for a dif­fer­ent queue, mak­ing a rough cal­cu­la­tion as to the likely wait­ing time based on the num­ber of items in the trol­ley. He added that there is a le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion that peo­ple will pur­chase more than one item of food at a su­per­mar­ket check­out, yet there is also an ex­pec­ta­tion that only one credit or debit card will be used at a cash point.

He did con­cede, how­ever, that a per­son who had a full trol­ley dur­ing rush hour was equally as in­con­sid­er­ate, par­tic­u­larly when on­line shop­ping was so read­ily avail­able. To sup­port his ar­gu­ment he cited the ex­am­ple of the “max­i­mum 10 items” aisle.

I pointed out that this aisle was ex­clu­sively for bas­kets and not trol­leys, mak­ing this ref­er­ence point ir­rel­e­vant. He ex­plained that Sains­bury’s would ex­tend this to cover max­i­mum items for trol­leys in prin­ci­ple, but for lo­gis­ti­cal and en­force­abil­ity is­sues. He would also need clar­i­fi­ca­tion as to whether two of the ex­act same prod­uct would con­sti­tute one or two items.

I then pointed out the cen­tral flaw in his ar­gu­ment. His is­sue with my con­duct was prin­ci­pally with the length of time it took at the cash point, which was not nec­es­sar­ily a re­flec­tion on the num­ber of cards used. To high­light my point I ref­er­enced the el­derly lady who used the cash point be­fore me. She used only one card but as she printed a mini state­ment and took a while to re­mem­ber her pin num­ber, she took twice as long as I did.

I em­pha­sised that the real is­sue was there­fore the pur­pose the cash ma­chine was be­ing used for and, crit­i­cally, the length of time spent at the cash point rather than the num­ber of cards used or trans­ac­tions made. Ac­cord­ingly he had mis­in­ter­preted the def­i­ni­tion of cash ma­chine eti­quette, if such a con­cept ex­isted.

We both agreed that a sen­si­ble so­lu­tion could be as fol­lows: (a) Con­sis­tency and trans­parency on a na­tional level on the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of cash ma­chine eti­quette, with a se­lect com­mit­tee to look into the is­sue, pri­mary leg­is­la­tion and the use of ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns and so on; (b) En­force­abil­ity at lo­cal level, for ex­am­ple the use of signs at in­di­vid­ual cash ma­chines, pam­phle­teer­ing, an in­crease in the num­ber of cash ma­chine where ap­pli­ca­ble; (c) A ref­er­ence to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice over whether there is a Euro­pean Union di­rec­tive al­ready in place deal­ing with this is­sue.

While this dis­cus­sion took place the per­son at the back of the queue com­plained that he had been wait­ing 24 min­utes to use the cash ma­chine. The irony was not lost on ei­ther of us.

Gary Con­way is a crim­i­nal solic­i­tor

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