The Tesco Syndrome

Angus Dei writes:

There are those who think that Tesco is the Bees jointy bits and others, like me, that think it is a giant rip off.

Stephen Pollard, writing for the Torygraph, seems to think that giant multinational supermarkets are the best thing since sliced what not, with quotes such as:

“It is fashionable among the Left-liberal intelligentsia to view supermarkets as some sort of uncouth offence against decency, fit only for the proles who subsist on multipacks of turkey twizzlers. Instead of driving off to shop at rapacious retail beasts we should be pottering down the high street, exchanging mid-morning pleasantries with our butcher, baker and candlestick maker.”

Something I have never been is a Left-liberal intelligentsia. I use Tesco because it is the only supermarket in my town, I use it because allegedly it is open 24hrs a day and the parking is free (for now), and I use it because the Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick maker have been put out of business by the high rents for their non-shops.

I could go to Sainsburys in Farnham, or Safeway in Farnborough, both of which involve large volumes of traffic, annoyance and expense, but I use Tesco because of the convenience (the bowels aren’t what they used to be), but over the last few months I have noticed the prices spiralling, bread has gone up to £1.29 a loaf, luncheon meat is up from 60p to 72p, Pilchards in tomato sauce has risen from 75p to 95p, toilet rolls are up, cereals are up, kitchen rolls have exploded, coffee is off the scale, tea is extortionate, real meat costs more than gold and even the price of bangers is cooking.

I don’t hate Tesco because of my moral objection to them making money – that is what they are there for. I hate them because they are taking the piss out of the “normal” shopper who is trying to exist in today’s economic climate by driving up prices for people who don’t have a choice.

Very much so. The other day, I was in Tesco at the second busiest time of their day. They had three tills open out of 12 and the reason, it seemed to me, was because they were trying to get everyone to use the machine checkout.

As one elderly gentleman said, “I don’t want to use that. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it and it takes my money.”

I think he meant that it is so complicated getting notes and coin from entirely different places on the machine and he was bewildered by the array of choices, which might be simple for Tesco staff  but which is a pain in the butt, scuse my French, for an elderly customer.

And as one of those people who detests phoning a utilities company and getting, “We are recording your call for quality of service purposes; you have four choices …” which makes you feel like shouting, “Look, you idiots, I only want to speak with a human being!!!” to which they, of course reply, “All our operators are busy, your call is being held in a queue” … as a person who detests all that, then I am not, repeat not, getting myself bamboozled by a bloody machine at Tescos when they can jolly well open some more checkouts and give some of this fabled service.

And another thing – why, when I asked that lady in red if she knew where the muesli was, did she reply, “I should hope so.” And what is the store manager herself, the Big Chief, the Big Kahuna, doing anyway, slinking around the shelves, disguised as a shopgirl?

“You look like one of your girls.”

“Thank you.”  Presumably, it was this PC democracy thingy going on. Turns out they’d had so many customer complaints that senior staff were going back to suits the following week.  Good thing too.

Incidentally, did you know that there’s no hierarchical reason for the red and the blue? Staff have a choice of colours. Isn’t that nice?  Thought you might like to know that.

So there I was, standing in one of the three queues, when a Tesco girl came up and asked if I wanted to put my things – well, thing actually – through the machine.  “It will save you a lot of time.”

“Actually, I don’t want to save time, thanks.  I’m trying to spend time.  I’ve twenty minutes to kill.”

“Let me help you put it through the machine.”

“Well why didn’t you say so?”

24 comments for “The Tesco Syndrome

  1. April 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Wasn’t there a study recently (can’t find it)

    That the machines ‘save time’ is a fallacy, they actually take longer for the same amount of shopping to put through. They are purely to reduce staffing levels and thus increase profit.

    • April 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      I don’t doubt that at all – they can be great, or they can be a nightmare.

  2. john in cheshire
    April 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    And once they have us customers trained in using the self-checkout machines, they will reduce the number of staff so that there will be no option but to use the machines.

  3. April 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    If the machines are working ok then they’re quicker but as soon as there is a problem you’re doomed to wait several minutes until a member of staff becoomes available.

    • April 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      At my locals, there’s always one person hovering. Always.

  4. April 29, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Man versus the machines, no less.

    • April 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      That’s what they said about the Spinning Jenny.

  5. William
    April 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    They have these in our local Twatco and they are only quicker IF everyone in the queue to use them is proficient in their use and IF they use Tesco’s plastic bags and IF there is nothing in hand which requires ‘age authentication’ and IF there is nothing that has the wrong barcode on it and IF there is nothing wrong with the right barcode which might prevent the machine from reading it correctly and IF there is nothing wrong with any of the coins/notes/cards entered into the machine for payment etc, etc.

    In other words if all is perfect then they work. But I am always through a ‘manned’ till far quicker than the people who like the technology usually because red flashing light and a ‘please wait for the operator message’ rings out across the store.

    They even have them in B&Q. I always check to see if there is a manned till open (they have four but never open more than two because they have four techie tills in use) and this day all was well so of I goes toget my DIY materials which came to around £150 of various items from timber to paint to plumbing bits. As the tills hove into view the till operator was closing the gate on the manned till which left the four techie tills.
    I voted with my feet and parked my trolley of goods and walked out jumped in the car and drove to Homebase which has no techie tills.

    Therein lies the answer to the Tesco problem. If you have to go a bit further go after all if you can get to your nearest Tesco you should be capable of getting to the nearest non Tesco outlet!

    • April 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      The age authentication is probably my main annoyance. I was stopped not so long ago for a packet of aspirin. This is not the fault of Tesco, but the paranoia that now riddles our society about anything that may harm the little ones.

      • April 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

        I have this age authentication problem the whole time. I say to the checkout lady, “Well, aren’t you going to ask me my age?”

  6. WitteringWitney
    April 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Which is why I use Waitrose. Always plenty of tills open, rarely have to wait to load conveyor belt, all the staff know where anything. rpt anything, is, all staff very polite and helpful – plus their standard of food is so much better.

    • April 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      But there’s stuff you can only get at Tesco…

      It’s swings and roundabouts – I like a variety of supermarkets AND independent shops. And I’ve got them all no more than 20 mins drive away – Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Waitrose and M&S. That’s choice! 😉

      • April 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm

        Yes, we have too. Personally, I like Morrisons.

        • April 29, 2011 at 5:54 pm

          It’s great for fresh fish. And cuts of meat you won’t get in other supermarkets. My local does octopus. And tripe!

          • William
            April 29, 2011 at 6:21 pm

            As it is still a slow day and someone may be interested here is my list of local (within 15 miles of each other) supermarkets listed from 1 downwards with 1 being my absolute favourite.
            1. Booths
            2. The Co-op
            3. Morrisons
            4= Twatco Extra, Twatco Express, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Netto. 🙁

  7. dearieme
    April 29, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    We like the Waitrose system where you carry a scanner with you and when you’re finished just stick the scanner in a reader which churns out your bill. Swipe your credit card and you’re finished; nothing to lift out of the trolley until you get to your car. And since you’ll have loaded all your goods into the wonderful, stout bags Waitrose gave you when you signed up for the scheme, it’s a doddle.

    We also like Tesco delivering, though there’s lots of things that you wouldn’t let their staff choose for you. But for mere commodities, it’s good.

    • April 29, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      Waitrose has a very good name – their bags are good too.

    • April 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Ooh, my local Waitrose doesn’t have that!

  8. patrick Harris
    April 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Supermarkets are fanfared as the epitome of choice and whilst there are a handful “competing” against each other it may be so.
    Walmart eats up ASDA, a start to the one world supermarket, when all the High Streets have gone and all the “supermarkets” become one? Then what effin’ choice. 😈

  9. April 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    So what’s your stance on the Bristol unrest? Should the UN be backing the rebels?

    • April 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      Sackers, explain how that got into the supermarket queue.

  10. April 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    It’s on the news – for the second time in a few days. An anti-Tesco riot about the opening of a new mini store in an area of small shops.

    • April 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm

      Ah yes, silly me. Have to have a look at that one.

  11. April 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    It won’t last. Safeways had the system of scanning as you walked round the store then paid at the autotill, but they stopped it, too many problems of non-reading barcodes and too many people who ‘forgot’ to scan everything.
    The same must happen to this system, how do they know everything has been honestly scanned?
    I won’t use them anyway, I hate automated stuff.

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