Trolley pirates in the supermarket aisles of Croydon

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The Independent Culture
A most extraordinary trial is going on in the High Court at the moment, in which a Mrs Wishart is suing a Mrs Willoughby for the theft of her supermarket trolley. Of course, trolleys belong to the supermarket, not to private individuals, but what Mrs Wishart is getting at is that... well, perhaps a verbatim extract from the trial will give you a better idea.

Counsel: Now, Mrs Wishart, you were wheeling a trolley round the SpendKwik superstore in Croydon on 19 July...

Wishart: I was.

Counsel: Can you describe this trolley?

Wishart: Yes. It was exactly the same as any SpendKwik trolley.

Counsel: Exactly the same?

Wishart: Yes. When you pushed it, it went sideways, made a horrible squeak and hit oncoming trolleys. Also, the wheel rubbed so that it was hard to push.

Counsel: I see. Could you describe the contents of this trolley?

Wishart: I would think it was about 90 per cent steel, 5 per cent plastic trimmings and 5 per cent rubber from the wheels.

Counsel: I was really thinking of the contents chosen by you...

Wishart: Ah. The shopping which I had amassed included a packet of salmon, some coriander, some limes and a bottle of vermouth. I also had some fresh yeast and some bread flour.

Counsel: And this is the trolley which you claim Mrs Willoughby stole from you?

Wishart: Claim? I saw her do it! Counsel: Can you think of any reason she might have taken a trolley?

Wishart: Certainly.

Counsel: You think she might have wanted to melt it down for its iron and plastic content?

Wishart: Certainly not. There is no need to be heavily sarcastic. She would have taken it for its temporary contents. My shopping.

Counsel: Well, of course, even if she had, the contents of the trolley did not strictly speaking belong to you. You had not yet paid for them.

Wishart: That is ridiculous hair-splitting. They were mine although not yet paid for. The electricity and gas I use in my house is mine, thought I have not yet paid for it.

Counsel: Then why do you think Mrs Willoughby took your trolley? Can you think of a reason?

Wishart: Certainly. Half a dozen.

Counsel: One will do.

Wishart: She liked the unusual look of my selection of groceries and decided to take it, rather than go round collecting everything herself. She was guilty of theft of copyright!

Counsel: Try another reason.

Wishart: She realised I had taken the last bag of coriander on display and decided to nick mine.

Counsel: Try another.

Wishart: She knew that it sometimes takes ages and ages queuing at the bakery counter to get fresh yeast, and decided to nick mine.

Counsel: Try another.

Judge: Is there any reason for badgering the witness in this way? After all, you said one reason would do, and now you are asking her for a fourth...

Counsel: Yes, my Lord. I am trying to upset her and get her all confused, after which I can make emotional mincemeat of her.

Judge: Excellent!

Counsel: Also, she said she could provide half a dozen reasons, my Lord. I think I should hold her to her word.

Judge: Quite right, too. Carry on.

Counsel: Mrs Wishart, can you think of a fourth reason why she might have taken your trolley?

Wishart: Yes. Supermarkets like to reorganise the placing of their shelves from time to time so that regular customers can no longer find produce in the expected place. Such a reorganisation had recently taken place at the Croydon SpendKwik, and it is quite possible that Mrs Willoughby had spent an increasingly frustrated half an hour searching for coriander or limes, had seen mine, and decided to nick it.

Counsel: Fine. And your fifth reason?

Judge: Look, wouldn't it be simpler to ask Mrs Willoughby why she took the trolley?

Counsel: And so I will in due course, my Lord, but I think Mrs Wishart should complete her payment at the legal check-out first, so to speak.

Judge: Very nicely put.

Counsel: So, Mrs Wishart, a fifth reason?

Wishart: It is quite possible that Mrs Willoughby is one of these animal rights activists and disapproves of salmon farming. She may have thought my purchase of salmon was farmed, and was determined to liberate it.

Counsel: How can you liberate a piece of dead salmon ?

Wishart: Don't ask me. Ask Mrs Willoughby.

The case continues.

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