Wrong: Prices that don’t include tax

One thing I can guarantee when I go abroad on holiday is that within a week or so my trousers will be around my ankles. This is neither because of my irresistability to the local ladies, nor because I only wash my trousers once a week, although the wife can testify that one of those isn’t entirely false. No, dear friends, this is because my pockets are full of coins. Like anyone else trapped in a world where they can’t add up coin values at speed, I am forced to hand over notes in shops and I never manage to get rid of my change.

I moved to the U.S. two years ago, and even now my pockets are full of change. But why? I understand how to add up the coins now. Well, I was contemplating this in a bar the other day and it dawned upon me what the problem was. The problem is that Americans quote prices without sales tax, so it is physically impossible to sit in the queue at the supermarket waiting to buy milk and idly put together the exact money it’s going to cost you. Although it says clearly on it “99c”, it’s not going to be 99c. It’s going to be 99c plus sales tax, which is not something worth bothering to idly work out in the supermarket queue.

Why? Why must this happen? Are there that many people that will be reclaiming the tax from baby formula or plastic cutlery? Are the stores thinking that you won’t realise the price of a banana until you’re standing at the checkout and it’s too late? Are they trying to show how little profit they’re collecting, on the assumption that most customers are well-versed with the wholesale price of bread?

Right: Supermarket trolleys with fixed rear wheels

Some bright supermarket proprietor, many moons ago, realised that it would be much easier for people to shop at his supermarket if they had some sort of hand-propelled vehicle in which to pile up their shopping. He doubtless came up with a few different ideas and eventually settled on some sort of neo-cuboidal wireframe device with a handle at one end.

But then, something happened. Somehow the world managed to agree on the design so far, but something was to cause something of a schism in the realm of supermarket improvement.

If this was a Discovery documentary, there would now be a commercial break.

Somehow, the mechanism of steering a supermarket trolley in the United States ended up being different to that used in Europe. The Americans opted to have the rear wheels fixed on their vertical axis and the front wheels able to laterally rotate, much like the type of steering mechanism used on a car, or any other goddamned wheeled vehicle. The Europeans, however, elected to have all four wheels steer. This has the great benefit of making the device able to travel sideways, or diagonally, or through time, or across dimensions, with the only side effect that it cannot be deliberately moved in any direction whatsoever. The only way to steer a European shopping trolley is to crouch down behind it, stretch your arms down the entire length of its sides and rotate it using a shuffling motion like some sort of Russian dancer with an early Communist kidney dialysis machine. It is a common site in Europe to see old ladies, drawn and haggard, being led down the street by errant supermarket trolleys on journeys that had originated in a supermarket, sometimes one in the next town.

Wrong: Capital Punishment

Capital punishment seems to me to be a fairly crap idea. It seems foolhardy to dispense any sort of justice that can’t be at least partially reversed.

That said, I can see why some societies choose to have a death penalty. It is, as they themselves say, one fucker of a deterrent. And I can even see why some of those countries impose it for rape, or armed robbery, or spitting in public. If you believe those things are wrong, why not impose the death penalty? Why not sacrifice one person every so often in return for the happiness of millions? I can see where they’re going with that.

What I cannot understand is the way the death penalty exists in America. Deterrent my fat ass. If you’re sentenced to death in America it really just means twenty years of buggering around waiting for appeals and counter-appeals. The worst part of the death penalty in the US is the sex.

If the Americans are set on having capital punishment, at least make it a deterrent. This means actually enacting sentences, and it means public beheadings. Why not turn it into a primetime show? Popular television celebrities could each suggest an interesting method of beheading, and then the public could phone in their votes. Straight after the 8:45pm advertisement break, the assembled millions will get to watch a convicted criminal being beheaded by a plastic model of Nancy Reagan, fired across a football field by a large ceremonial cannon, lit by the winner of Fame Academy. Doesn’t she look great?