Supermarket Squirrels

We took my grandmother out so she could have a break from the hospital.

She got a few things at Woolies. We were walking along Anson Street when Mum said, “Keep your eyes peeled for fuel vouchers!”


“You know, 2 cents a litre off at the Woolworths petrol station. Help me look.”

If you spend $50 or more at Woolworths, they give you a voucher that entitles you to a teeny tiny petrol discount. My mother and grandmother save them obsessively. When they meet up it’s like baseball cards. “I’ll trade you three 2 cents a litre off for your expired 4 cents a litre. I don’t think they really check the dates…”

You may recall that these dames love a bargain. So we should not have been mortified when they started pacing the street, plucking stray receipts from the pavement.

“Put that down, mother. You don’t know where it’s been.”

“The other day I found about half a dozen on the way to the car, some people just toss them away without a care!”

“Mother! Get out of the gutter!”

“Just a minute! I’ve hit the jackpot here.”

“Girls, there is nothing wrong with your mother wanting to save a penny!” declared my grandmother, plucking a docket from a rose bush.

Rhiannon watched them with exasperated expression, leaning against the car with her arms folded. “Do I share genes with these people? Where did I get my class from, I ask you? My sense of dignity?”

Mum and Nanny were crouched on the pavement beside the Trolley Return. There were fifty shopping trolleys nestled like rusty sardines, and they’d spotted two abandoned receipts right in the middle of it. They dug through their handbags for suitable implements to rescue them.

“Oooh. Nearly got the bugger.”

“Muuuum,” I whined. “They all expire on the 11th of October. Do you really think you’re going to fill your car eight times in the next two weeks?”

She ignored me, brushing dirt off her precious finds and clucking happily.

“They’re like squirrels, that’s what!” snorted my sister. “Bouncing around and digging through the trash with their arses in the air. Bloody squirrels.”

About Shauna Reid

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19 thoughts on “Supermarket Squirrels

  1. What’s interesting about Woolworths is that there are no Woolworths stores left in the US (which is where the store started).

    In fact, the corporation renamed itself “Venator” and now runs the Foot Locker chain for sneaker stores.

    Kind of sad; I remember when the Woolworths was the place to go in town…

  2. I think the interesting thing is that in Tassie the Woolworths stores are called Roelf Vos. It’s such a cool name. 🙂

  3. oh, woolies here is very famous! it is the place to shop (except for your clothes, that is.) is it possible to arrange a meeting with your mother? she sounds like an interesting person to observe. 😀

  4. Sounds like me with five cent pieces.

    Reminds me, I have a 4 cent voucher in my purse; must use before end of month. Or was it yesterday? Oh, crap!

  5. Things like money-off tokens and stuff just annoy me. Life would be so much easier if they just (slightly) lowered the prices instead.

    hmmm, I wonder how far your mother could drive on two cents worth of fuel? Anyway, if it’s two cents for each $50, your mother effectively gets to drive a further 0.04% as far for free (’cause it’s still just money, whatever she’s spending it on). That’s, um, one extra mile for each 2500 miles. And as it only takes about twenty minutes to walk one mile…

    Perhaps you could introduce your mother to another great money-saving scheme: stopping to think about whether it’s even worth it! 😀

  6. Lucky Canberra, here it is an hour’s drive to the nearest Woolies and a three hour drive to redeem the voucher!

  7. Simon – She’d probably get her shitty car out of the garage for two cents!

    Richard – And she’d probably drive the three hours to redeem the vouchers. Hehe.

  8. Chances are that if you were an American born sometime before 1977, you experiened the now extinct phenomenon of the five and dime store, itself a carryover from their forerunner: uber-pharmancies that can now be found only in Ed McBain novels. In these five-and-dime stores, you would find amazing things: Big Little Books, cheap fabric, strange plastic doodads, really great deals on juice. And if you were lucky, you’d have someone making ice cream cones for a mere 35 cents a scoop! (Personally, I enjoyed chocolate chip. I still enjoy chocolate chip, but I remember the kind that was in the five-and-dime. This form of ice cream counter can now only be found in extraordinarily rural places or a dying chain called Thrifty’s, which utterly fails to live up to its sobriquet.)

    Eventually economic undercurrents of the 1980s shifted the balance away from places like Woolworth’s, taking these great places out of business and bifurcating the cheapie discount store into superstores like Wal-Mart or more extreme forms of the five-and-dime called “dollar discount stores,” which pride themselves on selling no item under a dollar. In the latter, you find utterly worthless items, often with frighteningly old expiration dates. But old ladies still frequent these places. And amazingly they turn up coupons for items that looked as if they hadn’t been touched since 1986. Even more astonishingly, they BUY these things and fill up shopping carts with them.

    Australia and America probably have a tantamount percentage of old lady coupon hunters, but you folks ain’t got NOTHING on us when it comes to how consumerist we can get over the most worthless items. As Frankie said above, count your blessings. We Yanks miss our Woolworth’s. (See

    Even so, I still miss my collection of Big Little Books and the five and dime where I would play Time Pilot and Robotron 2084 with friends over grape soda.

  9. ed, luckily here in athens, ga., we still have an ice cream counter (at a pharmacy, even). although, it was a huge deal three years ago when the ice cream went up from 25 cents a scoop to 50. i do love my little town.

  10. Comment from the UK!

    Our Woolies are not foodstores. They are like a mini department store, selling stuff like DVD’s, Vids, CD’s, magazines, sweets & pop, toys, but no groceries! Most towns have a Woolies here. We were amazed when we came over to Brisbane and found Woolies was the local foodstore!

    Anyway shauny, I visit regularly, but I’ve never felt brave enough to comment!

    Hi from England!


  11. reminds me of food coupons that say “may be redeemed for $.0001” or some such. Do you think anyone has ever made any money by redeeming coupons that way?

  12. i think nanna and the mothership are most thrifty and sensible, shauny-bear. you never know when you’ll need those acorns in WW3. we collect those vouchers from safeway (melbourne’s woollies), but are yet to use them. i think there is enough of them to shroud a ticket-tape parade in my very glove box.

    one of the perks of my job is that i get to claim movie tickets back on tax. i often contemplate heading down to the multiplex and fossicking around for stray movie stubs to add to my booty. the only problem is that i must stagger my fossickery lest the taxman be a cluey one and say, ‘so, momo. how is it that you watched mr. deeds, austin powers 3 AND lilo and sitch AT THE VERY SAME TIME???’. oh the embarrassment.

  13. I’ve heard that the type of petrol you get from Woolies is pretty crap. They just buy the cheapest loads they can get their hands on and it doesn’t matter where it came from. I won’t fill my car up at one. I’ve had more than one mechanic say they’ve had people come to them with petrol tank troubles after filling up at them.

    Just how cold does Canberra get in winter, and how hot in summer? There’s a slim chance hubby and I may be moving there in the next 12 months.

  14. my housemate does exactly the same thing, and demands that we do it too if we’re with him. but he doesn’t collect chickens, and isn’t even remotely as funny as your mother. he’s just plain irritating.

  15. I am from Richmond, VA,USA, and We used to have several Woolworth’s here at least since the thirties and they are all gone now.
    I used to eat at their lunch counte and there were some booths too. The best mac-n-cheese, hamburgers, cheesecake, and in my mom,s day pot pie. Theses are much coveted recipes. I even bought my son’s baby clothes in1987 at Woolworth’s. It’s so nostalgic. I see photos of Woolworth’s down Broad Street and it makes my heart yearn for simpler times.

  16. The very first Woolworth store ever in the world was actually in Liverpool, England, United Kingdom and was in Church Street.

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