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Book Review: Overheard at Waitrose, by Nathan Bragg and Theresa Vogrin

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Overheard at Waitrose culls and illustrates ‘iconic’ quotes overheard in Waitrose that have been posted in meme pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Image courtesy of Idiocratea

The sub-title of overheard at waitrose sets a precedence of hilarious mockery before you even open the book; these quotes are dubbed and presented as ‘poetry of the public’, accompanied by an ingenious illustration of manuka honey and almond milk – an obvious nod to Rupi Kaur’s Instagram poetry book, Milk and Honey.  

The quotes are split into three sections; ‘the gossiping’, ‘the loving’ and ‘the pestering’. The first quote of the whole book is arguably the most brilliant: “Smells strange in here today./ either the parmesan is not organic/or the state schools/ have not gone back yet”. It almost suspends belief that someone could say such a thing, but this encapsulates what overheard at waitrose is about; a celebration of the ridiculous.

‘the gossiping’ delights in the superficial things that Waitrose shoppers are pre-occupied with and talking about whilst they do their weekly shop, namely, the exclusivity of their beloved store. Some of the section’s gems include, “i would have a breakdown/ but i’ve got a facial/booked at 2pm”, “no I told you/ I can’t drink red/ as i have just had/ my teeth whitened” and one of the best quotes of the entire book, “since they started/to offer free coffee/it has been like a soup kitchen in here”.

Additionally, ‘the loving’ offers us a hysterical insight into the relationships that are brought into Waitrose; mainly parents and their children – some of the most iconic supermarket-nagging there has ever been – “darling/ what have i told you?/ it’s bay-zil/ bot baz-il./ you’re making a fool of us”. The children of the Waitrose-generation are the stars of the show, too, “papa/ does merlot have a silent t/ just like mortgage?” and a quote from a little girl to her mother, “if it’s not organic/ i’m not eating it./ it’s rather simple when you think about it/mummy.”

Finally, ‘the pestering’ embodies the customer that will always ask to speak to the manager, “well i don’t understand/ how you can’t have/ organic courgettes./ what is this?/ east berlin?” “i need to read/ the numbers/ on the barcode/ aloud to you./ i don’t want any lasers/ touching my food.”

The well-selected final quote of the book once again sums it up in its entirety, “i wish to make a complaint./ waitrose is getting/ too cheap. if i wanted cheap/ i would shop/ in lidl.”

The illustrations of overheard at waitrose and the layout of the quotes as poetry add to its wittiness; the simplicity of the accompanying drawings further mock the fact that worrying about foie gras is a genuine predicament for these shoppers. Particularly in ‘the loving’, the simple drawings convey the innocence of the children, that do not understand the ridiculousness of what they are actually saying.

Image courtesy of Idiocratea

Despite presenting Waitrose as some exclusive, upper-class entity that Tesco shoppers daren’t dream of entering, overheard at waitrose is definitely not a Marxist-style attack on the upper-class shoppers. The seriousness of the quotes are mocked and presented in such a comedic way that is impossible for the shoppers not to laugh at themselves, along with everyone else. We love them for it; the book is dedicated for to “all waitrose customers who brighten up our days with their heartfelt complaints, concerns and statements”, encouraging them to “keep calm and carry on shopping”.

Bragg and Vogrin are clear to make this point, too; they write that their only intention with the book is to “make people laugh and brighten up their day”. Since the quotes are culled from pages on social media, they also do not hold copyright to them. We can, therefore, question the validity of the quotes, perhaps restoring some of our faith in the trusty Waitrose-shoppers – maybe state schools don’t smell so bad, after all.  

Overheard at Waitrose by Nathan Bragg and Theresa Vogrin is published by CreateSpace (£7.99)

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