After jumping through the assorted hoops of four page application form complete with an eminently fakeable psych profiling with questions such as ‘do you prefer to work at your own pace or under time pressure?’, a two hour group assessment and finally an individual interview a local supermarket has decided that I am perfect checkout material. The girl assigned to interview me raved about her job and employer. In fact she was so good at selling it to me that my cynicism about the gap between what large corporations say and what they actually do evanesced into a bubbly kind of enthusiasm. Now however after my first induction day I think perhaps she may just have been raving.

To be fair the company are very straight about what they want. And staff and management have almost equally little freedom to choose what to wear. What you must look like is specified in minute detail. No pink hair or coloured nail varnish. Minimal jewellery – no bracelets, one necklace is permissible if it is hidden under clothing, small stud earrings only. I’ve not had so much restriction on my personal appearance since I was at high school. The corporate rationale, according to the blurb we are handed, is that to deviate from this is to be unacceptable to the majority of the public.

Nor is it the company’s fault that the public are so demanding. If they don’t want to be served at a till by someone with a visible piercing they can simply go elsewhere. And the company is perfectly correct when it says that it is customer spending that pays our wages. The abiding message is that customer demand must be met at all cost no matter how capricious. No matter what that impact is on the environment or employees or anything else. Staff serve and the customer is the master. We are no longer comfortable with service that is servile so the company requires its staff to smile. But lets not kid ourselves that much has changed. People still look down on people working frontline in the service industry. Fact is if I could afford not to, you wouldn’t see my heels for dust.