"I LOVE it when you write stuff that I get cross about but never speak about," says Jodie, my very calm, 50-something friend, who eats green seaweed for breakfast, has no bad karma and looks 25.
Well, that's a rag to a bull and I'm not getting any awards for this gripe, but seriously, supermarkets have a lot to answer for in their quest to squeeze blood money from my credit card.
When I was wee, going to the shops was a gently inane experience. Squashed between one-ply loo rolls, Jik and a week's supply of family-sized mince, I was lucky to score two Chappie chewing gums for a couple of cents at the end of the ride.
That was good enough for me. Shop and cafe owners were just old-fashioned businessmen back then. Kids kept quiet and got a handful of sweeties for their trouble: multi-coloured, juicy globs of jewelled goodies stuffed into the world's fattest plastic jar at the check-out counter.
Then marketing bunnies took over the running of retail shops – who knows when? Perhaps in the '90s, when I was a student and broke? – and all hedonist hell broke loose.
The first casualties of this battle for the consumer buck were mothers. It's always the mothers – the ones who stomp the aisles with a budget and crumpled, fisted grocery list, trying to divinely inspire themselves into creating seven square suppers from one trolley-load of over-priced, GMO-suspect goods.
First, the sweetie aisles grew in height, colour and variety.
I remember perhaps two variants of Simba chips and one favourite chocolate from childhood. But now? There's a pitch-sized shelf of the stuff, gathered from the darkest reaches of Aghkazistan, Paris and Pofadder – and placed, just so, in reach of little hands which refused their lunch an hour ago.
Savvy, mothers are, so it was relatively easy to accelerate past the devil's delights in aisle four and sharp right into the cat food section, or whisk a left into frozen goods, where the chill silenced kids into numbed stares for a short time, giving their frazzled drivers a few moments to re-group.
But, as marketers know, food and people are a match made in profit heaven.
And thus was born the check-out aisle: the one where mothers, bless us, can't win. That long, snaking tunnel lined with stuff; where there's always a million people ahead of you, so you're forced to stop in front of the caramel popcorn and cherry sherbet.
I first encountered one of these salary-sapping subways of temptation at Woolies, which throws the most bloody delicious and pointless snacks, magazines and treats at you all at once, so that you will – yes, without doubt – buy at least one. And then feel smug because you resisted 389 other pointless snacks, magazines and treats before reaching the check-out counter.
I was okay with Woolies doing this, as it's a grown-up, smart shop for grown-up, smart people like me.
But when my local supermarket started hammering together the same thing a few years ago, I was puce with anger.
Spoke to the manager, another good friend, and he shrugged.
Nothing he could do about company policy.
But I do wonder, sometimes, how giant retailers sleep at night (on a bed of bank notes, perhaps?), knowing that they're breeding a generation of moms who're forced to become ace negotiators, harsh-whispering drill sergeants and wild-eyed speed freaks as they try to pick their way through a minefield of unhealthy, rubbishy products with a screaming, excited and confused three-year-old, who can see only one thing quite clearly: he's suddenly a kid in a sweet shop.
Jodie doesn't have kids, but she was a professional protester in her day. She reckons moms should simply free their kids from trolleys once they hit these check-out tunnels and encourage them to re-pack the shelves, top to bottom.
Perhaps if enough of us mess with the corporate marketing brain, we'll go back to the way things were – when two Chappies at the end of a milk-and-bread run was enough.