Now, Spanish designers have thought up the unthinkable: the trendy trolley. Aimed at young shoppers, of course. Keep an eye open for sleek, jazzy- coloured wheelies that look as if they would prefer to carry golf clubs rather than budgerigar seed.
If you can bring yourself to test-drive one, you will get a pleasant surprise - they are astonishingly light and manoeuverable, with rubber wheels five times the size of those horrid little castors whose characteristic hollow-sounding rumble-clunk on the pavement signals the advance of a shopper of advanced age.
In the past couple of years, the travel goods importer Melvyn Smallman of Hendon has sold over 5,000 trendy trolleys - aluminium-framed ones made by the Spanish Rolser company, for whom he is sole distributor in the UK and Ireland. He supplies about 40 UK stockists.
As a market test, Mr Smallman lent a two-wheeled Mountain model (pounds 45) to a friend of mine, Nicola Gavin, who put on a smart trouser suit like the Spanish models in Rolser's promotional brochures, stuffed a couple of pillow cases into its draw-string bag, and did a series of stylish burn-ups on the pavement outside the trendiest supermarket in the cosmos - Safeway, in King's Road, west London.
Alas, despite its two design medals, one Swiss, one Spanish, and a livery of "Berdi" tartan that looks suspiciously like Burberry's, the trendy trolley encountered some resistance. "No way!" chorused a thirtysomething couple in designer denim. A puzzled young man in corduroy and face stubble said, "I don't know what it's trying to get at," and backed off it, nervously. But a hint of latent man-appeal came from a husband whose wife called it "horrible". He turned and retorted defiantly, "I like it!", as she led him away.
Two women in their twenties, building society employees, considered it thoughtfully. "I wouldn't use it," said one, "I mean, you've still got to push it, haven't you." The other confessed, revealingly, "After all, we're car drivers."
Ms Gavin, a 33-year-old sound assistant at the UK Living television studios, does not own a car. It is plastic bags for her, not the careless cascade of groceries from supermarket wire trolley into Volvo. Which helps to explain why she refused to give back her test trolley. "It's really light and easy to move around," she said, "great for a single person like me who can end up being dragged down by two bags of shopping in each hand. I find it even slides alongside a seat on the bus. It looks ace, too - not like those old granny trolleys. And so far I've run over only one person's foot."
After a week, the housekeeper of her block of flats, 57-year-old Rosa Rilla took a shine to Ms Gavin's new trolley and appropriated it. She has given it a parking place hooked up over her bath, where it drips after shopping in the rain. She has also found it compact enough to hook on to supermarket trolleys as she makes her round of the shelves. "I used to have one of those horrible big square ones," she said, "but it broke. This one is strong but easy to manage."
Her only regret: "I used to go shopping with Olga from flat seven. She would help me carry back seven or eight plastic bags full of shopping. But there is no need for her any more. I think she's a bit disappointed."
It takes a fiftysomething shopper to test a newfangled trolley to destruction. Sylvia Durbin, a domestic cleaner of Southall, Middlesex, who is a year older than Ms Rilla, bought one of the first four-wheeled Rolser imports for pounds 55 two years ago and got 2,000 miles of pavement punishment out of it before the wheels "went wonky". Her doctor had warned her that carrying heavy shopping was not helping the pain in her joints. He also advised her to lose weight.
"I'm fitter now," she said, "and the problem with my joints seems to have stopped. I had been looking for a trolley that would carry a lot but still be compact and reasonably elegant. A lot of people have remarked on this one. It looks neat, tidy, fashionable, even quite expensive. It does feel light - the weight seems to be taken not by the arms but by the chassis."
Mr Smallman reported that three-quarters of his sales are for the basic two-wheel Jean model at pounds 32. It is one of half a dozen Rolsers, including one at pounds 52 that folds up, disguising itself as a handbag. No one need know. "I don't blame younger women who wouldn't be seen dead with a traditional trolley," he said.
Melvyn Smallman of Novela (0181-202 8747). Among Rolser stockists are: Fenwick of Brent Cross, Leicester and Newcastle, Gregory's of Doncaster, seven Lindy Lou shops in Sussex and Surrey, Arthur Westwood of Colchester and Clacton, Gruts of Guernsey.Reuse content