IN Devizes we like to have a good old moan about the rubbish shops we have. Well, some do.

But we may not be alone...

Back in the summer I had the great misfortune to visit, and there's a word one may use advisedly, Tesco's at a Cotswolds town. Now, I do feel it only fair to say that what I am about to relate could well have happened at any Tesco's, not just the one in the Cotswolds. Or indeed at any of the other supermarkets that may be available in the Cotswolds or indeed elsewhere. It's just as likely - within certain offers and caveats - to have happened at any supermarket anywhere.

It was the occasion of my beloved's birthday. We had a picnic day arranged at a beautiful location, but I needed a couple of last-minute things, like food. And something to drink. Nothing major, especially as a Tesco's the size of a small central American nation was only a few miles away. So as my wife exercised herself and our slathering hounds, I set off for what could only be a 30-minute errand ... surely?

I should have known. As the bank holiday weekend loomed over the horizon where as far as I understand it supermarkets would be open as normal except for Sunday hours on Monday (only six hours available!) half of Gloucestershire had descended on this Tesco's. You never know what you might run out of at 16:01 on Monday after all. Better make sure we are stocked up with car freshener, and light bulbs after all.

That notwithstanding, my shopping was done in no more than ten minutes, and I joined a queue at a checkout. The woman in front did appear to be shopping for an entire nation - one like Brazil, fifth largest country in the world. That's okay and fair enough of course. Except, she had money off vouchers.

Again, nothing wrong with that in itself. I am certainly one for a bit of value and saving the pennies in life. However, these vouchers were of the "fiver off a £40 shop variety". But it transpires that one cannot join these up, so if you have an £80 shop, you cannot get a tenner off. Oh no, that would be far too obvious.

So the shopper, whose fault it is not that this stupid scenario exists, would get the cashier to ring through just over £40 of shopping... then cash that through. Having completed one £40 shop (with a fiver off), the next £40 was then rung through... and repeat. Twenty-five minutes later three loads - and three refunds - had eventually been completed. It was like being forcibly stuck watching Ant & Dec before they were just Dec for 25 minutes. Only less amusing, if that is actually at all possible.

I enviously watched other queues dispatching shoppers at a rate of dozens per minute, while this glacial experience unfolded before my eyes. Eventually the shopping was done, the cashier apologised for the delay, and life returned to its normal pace.

But why, oh why, does this occur? Is it really beyond the wit of man, and the capabilities of software designers and programmers to understand that 2 x £40 = 2 x vouchers = one ring though and one refund? Really? We can put men on the moon, replace body organs, operate on people via cameras and tools inserted within a pin hole and broadcast vast quantities of drivel across the globe via satellites 22,000 miles above the Earth.

But we cannot work out a way to make a shopping experience as efficient as it could or even should be.

It’s enough to drive one to drink. As long as you don't need to queue in a supermarket for it, that is. I’m sure it wouldn’t happen in Devizes anyway. Or would it?