There are many things you see on TV that are guaranteed not to survive to the end of the scene.
Supermarket displays are one of them. Rather than the shelves that are standard practice in real life, fictional shopkeepers seem to prefer to display their wares in rickety, ceiling-high pyramids stacked in precisely the place a runaway shopping trolley is likely to crash into them.
Their other major vulnerability is to someone (often an oblivious young child) taking an item from the bottom level, thus causing the rest of the pyramid to collapse spectacularly.
Some supermarkets do have displays like this, but generally they consist of non-fragile items and are held up by cardboard support structures.
A common variant is to see someone just finish compiling the large stack only to have something bad happened to it. This tends to result in an "oh man" response from the stacker.
Commonly seen in a Grocery Store Episode.
- An advert for Marmite showing how much people hate the stuff has a trolley (cart) running into a display made out of Marmite jars. Which are made out of glass. And Marmite is sticky.
- One advertisement for Discover Card's "5% cashback" commercial ended with a soup can tower display that had already been knocked over.
- One commercial for Wilkins Tea has Wilkins as a vendor at a supermarket next to a pyramid with Wilkins Tea on top and the other leading brand on the bottom. Wontkins pulls out a can of the other leading tea, and the pyramid collapses on top of him.
Wilkins: Another man who thinks for himself!
- The 1955 MAD feature on "Supermarkets" shows a malfunctioning shopping cart crashing into a pyramid of soup cans.
And then you realize... although a thing is new, it is not perfect... although a wagon has wheels, they may not turn... although a head is hard, canned chicken soup is harder!
- Invoked in the title panel of this◊ Garfield strip.
- In one Fred Basset strip a passing shopper pets Fred and his wagging tail knocks over a pyramid of boxes.
- Refrenced in a Calvin and Hobbes strip
Calvin:Knock over one lousy display stand, and pay for it for the rest of your life
- In another strip, we actually see him knock over one of these when he's pretending to be a Tyrannosaurus.
- In Three Lives Relived: Time Turners & Unforgivable's Harry trips and knocks over a canned food display while he and Hermione are shopping.
- In The Coven of Albion Harry deliberately knocks over a can pyramid with wandless magic to distract supermarket employees from his and his friends' shoplifting.
- In Snape's Little Brother after Sirius steals Harry's Mice Pop, Harry pushes Sirius into a Gambol and Japes display, breaking a large number of potion bottles.
- The Spanish feature-length Katy, Kiki and Koko had the same problems with the ants' food hoard.
- Big Ben Healy's sporting goods store in Problem Child has an enormous glass display box filled with tennis balls that reaches up to the rafters. No points for guessing what Junior plows into when he steals Little Ben's car.
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Veruca Salt uses a trolley to knock over a pyramid of gift-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs during a fit of pique in "I Want It Now."
- The book Just Stupid has the story "Busting". In it, a boy having a Potty Emergency knocks over some tin cans on display and is forced to re-stack them.
- One time on The Bob Newhart Show, Bob and Howard went grocery shopping. Howard took something (possibly a jar of pickles) from the bottom of a food pyramid and the stack didn't fall over, flummoxing Bob. Then a few more people did the same thing. Finally Bob took something off the top, which made it fall all apart.
- A subversion occurs in the Full House episode, "Play It Again, Jess". Michelle is about to take a roll of paper towels from the bottom of the pyramid, but Uncle Jesse stops her and takes one from the top of the pyramid instead... and he still knocks it over.
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em: In "The Hospital Visit". Frank removes an apple from the bottom row of a display. Nothing happens until he closes the door on the way out, whereupon the entire display collapses onto the floor at Elisabeth Sladen's feet.
- A 2 Stupid Dogs cartoon spoofing Freaky Friday had one of these. As a Running Gag, it was repeatedly destroyed immediately after supermarket employee Cubbie had just finished fixing it.
- In "Incident in Aisle Seven", when the mother of a baby girl sees Tommy at the bottom of her cart, she screams and backs into a loose cart, which rolls into a pyramid of watermelons, knocking it down and causing the watermelons to roll away. Some knock over a pyramid of baby powder, and others knock over a pyramid of soda cans.
- In "Baby Commercial", Phil and Lil's toy car bumps into the pyramid of diaper boxes, causing it to collapse, to the director's horror and fury.
- The Simpsons had a parody of a bulk-buy warehouse that was packed to the rafters with these. A highlight is Barney knocking over a full-size human-shaped maple syrup bottle and thinking he's killed a woman.
- In another episode, when Lisa attempts to skateboard she ends up bearing down on two stacks of salsa jars - one "mild" and one "hot and spicy". "Please mild please mild please mild..."
- In 'Krusty Gets Kancelled', Luke Perry is fired from a cannon as part of Krusty's Komeback Special. One of the buildings he flies through is the Kwik-E-Mart, where Apu is about to finish off a pyramid of acid jars. Luke rockets through the jars, sending the entire stack to pieces. After a moment of stunned shock, Apu throws the last jar to the ground in frustration.
- A classic animated sketch on Sesame Street has a grocer stacking 12 large cans, presumably filled with tomato juice, but the first customer to pass the display pulls a can from the bottom of the stack. The stack collapses, and the grocer re-stacks the 11 remaining cans, with one extra. The same thing happens with the second customer. Finally, a boy on roller skates provides a Twist Ending.
- Happened in the The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "A Pooh-Day Afternoon".
- Sonic Boom:
- A subversion occurs in the episode, "Dude, Where's My Eggman?". Dr. Eggman tries to return a burnt umbrella, but the store's owner refuses to give him a refund. Outraged, Eggman kicks the bottom two cans of a pyramid... and the rest of the cans completely stay stacked, much to his surprise.
- Played straight in the episode, "Counter Productive", where Knuckles takes a single apple from a pyramid of baskets, causing the entire pyramid to fall over.
- On the Silly Symphonies short "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood", Laurel and Hardy appear as Simple Simon and the Pie Man. Simon picks a pie from the bottom of a pile. Surprisingly, the pies land neatly back in place. The Pie Man tries it himself, and the pies splatter all over the place.
- In the Arthur episode "D.W. Gets Lost" D.W. enters the store's security room and begins playing around with the cameras to find Mom on the screens. Her antics first knock out an employee in the Video Department followed by toppling a display of tennis balls arranged in a pyramid. When she sees customers tripping over her mess her response is "Look at all those clumsy people!"