IF YOU'VE ever been accused of shoplifting, you'll know it hurts - especially if you are innocent. Yet another reason for abhorring the weekly drudge around the local supermarket.

I'll never understand how people can take such pleasure in struggling a wonkey trolley around endless impersonal aisles of soullessly stacked goods week after week after week.

I live in a rural village so give me the local farm shop and corner butcher any time.

But when we do have to mosey on into town to stock up for the long, hard winter, we dress up in our Sunday best, slick down the hair and jump in the jalopy like the Clampetts.

Honestly, that's how it feels (except we don't have the Clampetts' oil wells). Every trip to even our town supermarket feels like a conspiracy against us.

Finding a parking space is the first hurdle. You just spot one and someone else drives in while you are manoeuvring. After you finally do park, the car doors are peppered with dents from other demented supermarket drivers.

Once inside you are sucked into a treasure hunt without clues. Because you had just got used to where everything was for a quick flight round the aisles, when they deliberately change it all round to cause maximum confusion.

It's a marketing ploy, apparently, so you are forced to look at - and be tempted by - different goods while you are desperately searching for your usual baked beans, bacon, deodorant, vodka, lager, gin, wine and whisky.

And why is it that pensioners, housewives and unemployed always pick peak periods for their shopping? Why are there always only two check-out people to serve dozens of tired, hungry shoppers when I reach the tills?

But my biggest horror was at Tesco at Askham Bar. Now this story, dear reader, is not for the faint hearted.

I'd never been in the hallowed place before but my elder daughter had recommended a particular brand of DVD player.

I nipped over in my lunch hour, selected the item, took it to the check-out and paid by credit card. The kind woman removed the flying saucer-like security tag and off I went with the box under my arm and out of the main entrance.

That's when the alarm went off. Couldn't be me, I reasoned, she'd removed the tag. So I kept walking.

There were hordes of people milling around the entrance and dozens of students sitting around outside.

A voice behind me shrieked "Stop, you've set off the alarms." When I saw this chap bearing down on me my first instinct was to run. No, I will stay and fight.

He ran up and took the box off me despite my cowardly offer to show him my receipt. Some fight, eh. Well, I could have tugged back, but the box might just have burst open like a grotesque, out-of-season Christmas cracker.

"You'll have to come back inside 'til we sort it out," he said, walking off with my DVD player.

I followed meekly back in through the crowds, my blushing head bowed, hags knitting and smoking their clay pipes, citizens baying for my blood as I was led to the guillotine steps of the "Customer Service" counter.

Now I know why York College students hang around outside. It's not the tasty food or good prices, it's the entertainment.

The nice young man opened my precious box and promptly removed a second security tag deep inside. Apparently so many had been stolen after having the outer tag ripped off, they were building in a second device.

So why don't you tell your check-out staff? We normally do, he said. Thank you, good day, sir.

Now in this job I know an awful lot of people in York, from the creme de la creme down to the homogenised low-fat of York society. I was in my best burgling outfit - office suit and tie - and convinced one of the audience might know me.

Anger really struck home when I phoned my daughter, explained the whole, sordid story and she said: "Oh yes, that happened to me."

So it was a firm letter of complaint to the general manager. I've seen the programmes of Britain's Best Complainers. He'll grovel and refund my money, I thought. At the very least I'll get a free DVD disc.

No such luck. The return letter contained a written apology, an assurance of customer care and a promise that things would be improved.

At least now, if you saw the whole thing, you know I'm innocent!

Updated: 13:20 Wednesday, March 19, 2003