Embarrassing moments: at a supermarket

8 February 2010

Embarrassment is caused by social, cultural and personal circumstances. Certain situations cause embarrassment in certain cultures and societies, and the degree or acuteness of embarrassment depends on the person’s character. Quite often, embarrassment is caused by circumstances beyond the person’s control.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand why people feel embarrassed. This afternoon, I went to a supermarket and put a number of items in the basket, and queued up at the check-out. There were no problems, until one item could not be scanned. There was a barcode on the product, but it did not match with the database. Or something like that. So the cashier had to ask her colleague in the next aisle, but he did not know the price or the code. Therefore she made an announcement on the tannoy asking for assistance: cashier 3 requires assistance. For some reason, it made me a little embarrassed. The queue built up. There was an awkward moment, waiting for a supermarket employee to check the price and come back. What do you do in these circumstances? Strike up a conversation with the cashier or other shoppers? Embarrassment increased as the clock ticked. After a few long minutes, a member of the shelving staff came back with the price.

It was a matter of a few minutes, but I really felt not only awkward but somewhat embarrassed. I wonder why.