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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mumblings of a mature boater waiting for summer.

Well with the wind howling and rain falling practically all day long the retired old gent and his loved one have a number of choices to pass the time. Leaving out the obvious we opt for lighting the fire, approaching June it is still chilly, and hitting the keyboards to launch us into cyberspace.

 Jaq is working on her Cambridge blog and I, after checking e mail, have decided to have a dig into the supermarket industry. Mmmm perhaps the `obvious` might have been a better choice but no matter the route has been set or in Jaq`s case her rowte has been chosen.

So what set this rainy day Google in motion?  Recently we did some shopping in Tesco and ended up with a voucher for 20p/30c
                                                                                                                                                                So U.S. readers, we have here in the UK heavy competition between the top four  
supermarkets one of which is called Asda (Walmart); another is Morrisons which purchased the UK Safeway group in 2005. Might as well mention Sainsburys--the fourth member of the `we are the cheapest` group. Waitrose in a word, expensive.

Anyway it seems something we purchased at Tescos is sold elsewhere at a higher price. All this of course is a gigantic racket as the terms and conditions, if you can be bothered to read them, exclude some items and some special deals. These tickets tell you nought but what they decide to tell you and by that I mean all supermarkets. The only way to tell who is cheaper is by using each on a regular basis and checking your bank balance.

This rainy day rant surfaced from a restless night following another Tesco shopping experience. It resulted in yet another Price Promise voucher. This one told us our shopping bill would have been £3.42 ($5) cheaper in one of the other supermarkets.

My inability to get off to sleep was driven by the desire to turn this visit into a comedy sketch for TV with characters the likes of Eric Sykes and Hattie as the customers, and Victoria Wood perhaps as the cashier. Maybe you can put some other all time greats in the queue with perhaps a supervisor and a manager coming into play as the sketch progresses. U.S. readers can cast their own favourite comedians.

Now as I set the scene it might all become familiar to you: after rushing along the checkouts trying to decide if three  people in a queue with a small amount of shopping will be faster than one person with a gigantic looks-like-the-end-of-the-world-is-coming pile of groceries. We choose a queue and are at the end of the conveyor belt trying to get everything out of the trolley/cart before the cashier has finished serving the customer in front. We need to be ready when it all know...the competition, the race.

 So tins and hard things up front, eggs and delicates to the rear of the belt. Some disagreement as to certain goods position on the belt but the packer will have the final say. It looks a close thing but the customer in front has finished and we still have not emptied the trolley but she has decided to use her vouchers and coupons that have been in her wallet for months. Quickly! We can do this.

It was close but as we finish off loading the belt the cashier is pulling plastic bags off a bundle, opening the tops and pushing them all across the end of the checkout. Okay, so U.S. readers might just have to choose plastic or paper, and the clerk will pack it all meaning this will not be familiar to you.

Back to the UK and the start time is approaching. As we move forward the cashier sees we have brought our own bags and instantly stops the plastic bag shuffle. Sweeping the bags to one side she mutters those pre-competition/race words "do you need any help packing?" We're wanting to keep this as an even competition, so I say  "no thanks." She takes this as a starting signal and begins passing all our groceries across the scanner at break neck speed.

 As fast as I pack she has doubled the pile of scanned goods; my eyes give my partner the "HELP ME NOW" look. Now there are two of us packing like fiends, trying to keep up with the eight armed cashier from hell. Sitting at the checkout eight hours a day this is the only fun the cashier has, other than when she has to call her manager because some poor soul has their card refused.

Her scanning speed increases. I look at the belt and see my chance to catch up as the loose veg inches along the belt. The clerk needs to weigh all veg and fruit so we will  have an opportunity to stand smugly waiting for the next item to be scanned.

Wrong! This girl knows her Onions and her fingers dance across the keyboard. In no time the quickly growing packing pile is threatening to overwhelm us again.

I suppose a good script writer can add in some good scenes but the end is not to be missed.
The grand finale is when our card is approved for payment and we have agreed to the number green points award for using our own bags; then the show begins as those printed vouchers appear..

The first two and a half feet of paper listing our purchases including multi-buys is pumping out of the printer. I don`t need to know I have 2 for £5 on cheese because that`s the reason I bought it. Next a voucher for £5 off when we spend £40. I just spent twice that but it doesn`t count so I just do what thousands of others do, put it in our bag and remember it when it has expired. Next that £3.42 voucher mentioned earlier that started this strange blog post. Last but not least comes the 10p off per litre of fuel/gas. That`s about 70cents but with the gallon being different don`t quote me.

Now since we are boaters, my addition to the scriptwriters finished piece will have a boatie ending. The scene
cuts to the petrol pumps where the boaters  have their narrowboat on a trailer causing chaos as they block all the pumps demanding not just their 10p but self declaration (amount of tax paid) as well.

Now you have to admire the technology of the supermarket checkout. No human can beat the scanner. It will scan faster than one can pass the goods through. The computer has been set up with perhaps 40-50,000 items plus the special offers like 2 for one etc. It searches through it`s memory to see if you are paying more than you would at a rival store. The only mistakes ever made by it  are caused by human intervention. A truly wonderful piece of kit.

So if it is so flipping wonderful why can`t it deduct the £3.42 off the bill TODAY.
Did you spot the date restriction on the vouchers?. The discount on fuel is fair enough but the £3.42 voucher is a bit much. They openly admit I would have been better off going elsewhere and then  put a time limit on when I can claim the money they overcharged me.

Jaq's rant about the supermarket queue goes something like this: she waits patiently in the queue for her turn as the cashier s-l-o-w-l-y scans the items of the women ahead of her because they have known each other since childhood and are catching up on all the news not fit to print. Eventually after the women have brought each other up to speed  on all births, deaths, marriages and divorces which have taken place in their housing estates (neighborhood) over the past twenty five years, it's now Jaq's turn to be served.
Suddenly the grocery clerk rips out a handful of plastic bags, throws them on the counter, mumbles "Do you need any help?" in a foreign accent; without waiting for Jaq to answer the cashier begins scanning grocery items at break neck speed with no commentary included,  presents Jaq with the receipt and turns to the next customer, leaving Jaq feeling as though her time is up and she must move on fast, finish packing and get out way of the next customer. Jaq feels like she waited for her turn and she will damn well take her time packing her groceries and concluding her business.

Perhaps I should end now before some of you call for my being declared certifiable.  I must tell you this afternoon of Googling led to the investigation of whether the plastic bag should be banned and also to consider whether re-cycling is working. This then led to why different authorities recycle different things.

Just briefly as I`m sure you can`t go on much longer with the old boater's mumblings. Of three districts I have lived in, only two recycle plastic bags. One won`t recycle foil in any form. One will only recycle cardboard with garden waste to end up as fertilizer. Also all three have different colours for the recycling bins. Why oh WHY can't there be some uniformity in what is recyclable and what goes into which colour bin. Just let there be three standard colours.

 So if you move house don`t worry as you will still drive your car on the same side of the road with no test to pass. Also there is bound to be a Tesco nearby but for sure  you will have to do mega research on your district's recycling to avoid being prosecuted for mixing unsuitable recyclables that your previous council deemed okay.

Another two reasons I love boating: no car and no recycling dictators with which to deal.

Bye all, you can now breath out. Normal blogging will follow.


John Witts said...

Don't worry, Les, you're not alone.

Grocery shopping in any supermarket can reduce me to gibbering wreckage in a matter of minutes.

And that's before I even get started on The Abomination That Brings Desolation that is the self-service check-out!.........


Anonymous said...

Les, you are sounding off because you can and "I" agree with everything you have written. Except, being confined to a floating vessel, you and your
foreign born wife (sorry Jaq) have often no real choice as to where you shop. You might have a Tesco here and maybe the next stop the Walmart appears.

I can go on-line to
punch in my Canadian Postal Code which is similar to the UK postal mail system. And get my own specific
area for food...

Look up the flyer for the grocery store I want usually Longos/Fortinos/Metro/Sobeys however there are also lesser names such as Price Chopper and then the non-grocery
general retailers such WalMart and
Costco (the latter a membership
required retailer).

So the secret is to know what major company owns which retailer. So for example Fortinos (the name) leans on the extremely heavy Italian immigrant population that settled in this general area during the early 1950's. The name Fortinos
is changed to Zehr's, for the Kitchener (once known as Berlin)
Waterloo area to the west of where I dwell. Thing is, both retailers are owned by the same company,Loblaws.immigrant Now there is one small chain under the LobLaw name, No Frills which is really lower in price across the board, and some of the yellow branded product makes
their way into either Fortinos or Zehrs.

We have a lot of choice, really being in the middle of a 7-million
population market with some 50 or sixty foreign immigrant groups living here.

Canada is 31-milllion plus population, so the numbers have a lot of purchasing power. And keep in mind too that the majority of the population live withing 600 miles of
the US-Canadian International border. So those who can, shop cross-border. Example: four litres of 2 percent milk here is $4.69, the equivalent in across the border Buffalo in New York State is $1.75!
Canada supports its farmers, and we pay for it, however I would have it no other way. I am a Canadian! I have friends who are dairy farmers as well so am well acquainted with
farmers and their problems.

So where to shop? Ironially as a single person in a new (expensive) house and leaning somewhat towards a vegetarian existence, find the
independent local "green" grocer often has the best produce, however the combination outlets such as Walmart will match and/or beat
any price of any competitor if you bring in the current flyer for said product. The whole exercise is very competitive. As Jaq how much she would spend to feed her family, living in Alaska? Bet it wasn't a low dollar price. Have watched working mothers, drop C$300-C$400
in one grocery cart load and do that twice or even three times a week! I spend maybe C$100.00
every seven or eight days. I also keep my eye open for specials at large pharmacy retailers especial bathroom and toilet tissue.
Best oto keep those items in stock,
one always needs paper in the loo!

Sorry to ramble.

Les Biggs said...

Hi John
Yepcan hear it now, "unexpected item in the bagging area"

Les Biggs said...

Hi Bryce
Thanks for that, interesting read.
Jaq says shopping in Alaska was expensive as everything is shipped in. Also she remarks on the quality of fruit over here but as i tell her Europe is on our doorstep and fresh products are trucked across Europe sometimes overnight.

Snowy Owl said...

I hate grocery shopping at the best of times, and especially with a surly checkout operator. My one and only tip is that I never pay the checkout operator until I have packed all my groceries. That way they can't start to process the next customer while I am still trying to get my stuff packed.

It may be of little help but that's how I deal with a checkout!!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs