I just hate the whole supermarket experience
Across the country local shops have been wiped out by supermarkets.
My mum had all her groceries delivered from the local shop back in the 1950s. The shop keeper knew exactly what kind of bacon she had; he knew her and her likes and dislikes. This was before the days of bloody supermarkets.
Small shops used to be meeting places for shoppers who chatted to each other while they waited to be served. They were the hub of communities. You do not even need to speak in a supermarket. In fact sometimes you do not need to have any human contact at all because you can swipe your goods and pay by machine.
Every week it is the same. It’s all on the list and you navigate that trolley, with its perennially bent left wheel, up and down familiar, crowded aisles. At the end of the whole miserable process you stand in a queue, unload and pack the goods yourself, pay the cashier, hump the stuff miles to the car park and drive home physically and mentally drained.
Do we really need to choose from twenty different makes of marmalade or be offered carrots from Holland and beans from Venezuela?
There is a huge array of plastic-wrapped sliced pap in supermarkets that tries to pretend it’s bread.
Supermarkets encourage people to take their cars, do a weekly shop and drag all their bags back home in one big weekly chore. By doing this they miss out on walking to the shops regularly and getting exercise 3-4 times per week say. The cars that get used clog our roads and the spaces they park in are taken out of local use. Recreation grounds, school playing fields and leisure centres are all alternatives that could have used those large spaces round the country devoted to car parks. Factor in the pollution of both the cars and the huge lorries that supply these supermarkets and you get a sense of the environmental damage entailed by living with a large supermarket.
Grocery shopping. You’d think it would be fairly simple to buy food for your family, pay for it, and head home with a boot load of goodies. But no trip to the supermarket is complete without a fair amount of annoyance, irritation, and perhaps even outright rage.
What annoys me most about a trip to the supermarket it feels like a battlefield.
From the sight of children running amok, of irritation when you get caught in a slow check-out lane.
You bravely take on the narrow aisles filled with cardboard display boxes singing the praises of the latest £1 bargains or most powerful pack of AAA batteries known to humans only to be confronted by people and trolleys blocking passageways and the frustration of combing the shelves for toothpicks.
The weight of choice is very oppressive – six kinds of strawberry jam, 20 blends and strengths of coffee, 15 types of cheddar. The sense of being manipulated is overwhelming – the fact that they had put the staples, such as bread or milk, in the deepest part of the shop, is just one of the many tricks designers use to break your will and draw you into the "supermarket experience".
People are at their most trying when in Supermarkets. There is always some horrible child screaming atop of their lungs as the parent either ignores them or yells louder back at the child.
People kicking busted cans and bottles of drink under shelves
Parents threatening or swearing at their unruly children.
People panic buying before one-day public holidays.
People not saying "excuse me".
Shoppers bumping into you with their trolleys.
Trolleys being left in the middle of aisles.
Parents not controlling loud or crying children.
People not sticking to one side of the shopping aisle.
Items being stacked too high or out of reach.
Not being able to find shop assistants.
People talking on mobile phones while shopping.
People jumping the queue at the deli.
People not respecting personal space in queues.
Aisles packed with too many displays, making it hard to navigate.
Shoppers ignoring grocery item limits at express check-outs.
Trolleys being parked in front of items you're trying to get to.
Bag packers who expect a tip or donation when you packed yourself.
YES. FINALLY THE CHECK-OUT. Now it’s time to wait in line full of miserable people or use the self service?.
"Unexpected item in the bagging area"
The phrase 'unexpected item in the baggage area' is guaranteed to bring me out in a fit of blood-boiling rage.
Will anything stop the rise of the machines?. They never work, do they? I normally get about four or five items in before hitting the 'call assistant' button. The weighing of ingredients is the worst – scrolling though pages of options, trying to find the picture of a light bulb. It makes me feel like a toddler operating an educational toy.
"It's like the machine is very publicly saying 'you are too stupid to do this - go home now'.
"if I wanted a job as a check out assistant, I would apply for one".
I use these machines for small amounts of shopping. What annoys me most about them is the way that they make you jump through their hoops - the back and forth with the bag and the 'unexpected item'. I needed a staff member to swipe their card to allow me to use my own bag last time. Lastly, I'll add they're too talkative for me. Sometimes I just wish they'd shut-up and let me get on with it - 'unexpected item in the bagging area', 'do you have a loyalty card', 'please take your shopping', etc. You can turn it off - but it never seems worth it for 5 items or less.
To put it into perspective, I had to queue for 20 minutes (behind five FIVE other heaving trolleys) before I could process my goods (despite the fact that there were loads of un-manned check-out lanes).
"If you go to a supermarket in Germany or Spain or Italy, customers might acknowledge the person on the till but they won't speak to them,". "It's different in the UK, people do speak to them and like to have a conversation."
You then proceed to the Newspaper and cigarette counter to find myself in yet another BLOODY queue.
FINALLY, with your groceries bagged and paid for, you now just want to get home.
IT’S ALMOST OVER. You leave the store and see that some idiot left a surprise right behind your car, an empty shopping trolley, or even worse you find that some complete moron has smacked your car door with theirs.
By the time I finally left the bloody supermarket carpark, I had an urge to shout 'BASTARDS' out of my car window. But that would have only given me a temporary release.
THE WORST PART Look at all of these bags.
But you’re going to make it inside in one trip.
The bags are tearing at your fingers.
AND after much bag breaking and spilling your groceries all over the ground, you finally struggle to carry all the heavy grocery bags to and through the door of your home.
You collapse in the doorway.
Just to remember that you left a bag in the back seat.
IT'S OVER AT LAST, then you realise you forgot to buy the BLOODY! milk…
You promise yourself the next shopping trip will be much more pleasant than the last but secretly suspect that manners and courtesy are in such short supply nowadays that every trip to the grocery store will be an ordeal.
If someone invented a supermarket that was a) small b) good quality c) good value and d) entirely free of spurious "special offers", I would cross town to get to it. As it is, I am going to start shopping online. It's not going to save the high street, but it might just preserve my sanity and my wallet. Two, in fact, for the price of one.
All in all, there is a national schizophrenia about supermarkets: we love to hate them, and yet we spend around £60 billion a year in them.
Who Shops There? Yummy mummies with an au pair in tow to take care of Tabitha and Henry while they fill the trolley; thirty-something smug couples who share the cooking; and Bridget Jones singletons who’ve heard (mythical) stories of finding love in the supermarket aisles.
The Waitrose Experience: These people wouldn’t dream of letting a sausage roll or a Mr Kipling Fondant Fancy darken their shopping trolley. Every item is carefully scrutinised for nutritional content, calories and organic credentials before being purchased.
Words like ‘hand cut’ and ‘sustainable’ feature heavily on the packaging and, thanks to backing by celebrity chefs, it’s full of people excitedly buying the ingredients for Heston’s wacky duck-and-daffodil pie followed by Delia’s thoroughly sensible rhubarb crumble.
The Good: Staff so nice that you want to make them all your new best friends, a Zen-like feeling of calm and tranquillity, short queues and the brilliant ‘honesty’ self-scanner system — whereby you can scan and pre-pack all your own shopping because Waitrose customers aren’t the sort to try to nick a packet of Hobnobs.
The Bad: Expensive. Poor selection of frozen goods and the sense of shame you feel if you buy anything that’s not organic, fair trade or free from chemical additives.
Typical Basket: Olive oil infused with something or other, Covent Garden Soup, hummus, buffalo mozzarella, Duchy Original milk, Rachel’s yoghurt and a misshapen loaf of bread that weighs more than you do.
Who Shops There? Masterchef wannabes; young, hip professionals; stay-at-home mums; and bachelors buying microwave meals just five minutes before closing time.
The Sainsbury's Experience: Feel like you’re a cut above Tesco, yet still a bit intimidated by Waitrose? Then Sainsbury’s is the store for you.
Thanks to a highly successful 11-year endorsement by Jamie Oliver, it’s the supermarket for amateur chefs who’ve had their eyes opened to a brave new world of pan-frying, blanching and searing.
There’s plenty of goat’s cheese and weirdly shaped mushrooms for those who want them, but shops also stock a reassuring amount of snacks, ready-meals and household staples.
The Good: Wide variety of food, often sourced locally. The Fair Trade crowd are catered for, but nor are those who fancy a supper of Ritz Crackers and Dairylea made to feel unwelcome either.
The Bad: The Nectar Card. The ‘loyalty’ system that generously gives you £2.50 off your shopping for every £1 million you spend (or so it seems). Having to ‘rent’ a trolley for £1. Check-out staff trained in the art of tedious small-talk and who guard their free plastic bags like the crown jewels. Hands-down the worst self-service tills on the High Street.
Typical Basket: Tuna steaks, fresh herbs, a Taste The Difference lasagne, Kettle Crisps, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Who Shops There? Just about everyone at one time or another, but mainly parents on a budget, the elderly, those doing the ‘big’ weekend shop, and students.
The Tesco Experience: It may offer everything from funeral arranging to pet insurance, but the supermarket is particularly good for harassed mums trying to buy enough shopping for kids’ lunch boxes in order to cash in their Club Card points for a trip to Alton Towers.
They never seem to twig that if they just paid for tickets to Alton Towers, it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than the 12,000 tins of baked beans and 4,000 bags of crisps they’ve bought in the past year.
The snootier middle classes would rather get in their cars and drive to the nearest Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, leaving the car-less and less pretentious to snap up Tesco’s endless range of BOGOF offers.
The Good: Competitive pricing, helpful staff, and they don’t look at you like you’ve just kicked a guide dog when you confess that you haven’t brought your own bags.
The Bad: Crowded, long check-out queues, and — despite their ‘Finest’ range — the selections are pretty bog standard and uninspiring. They also like to keep customers on their toes by all-too-often relocating the food.
Typical Basket: Multi-buy tubes of Pringles, a JLS CD, chicken kiev, dried pasta and Dolmio sauce, instant sachet cappuccinos and a selection pack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Who Shops There? Budget-conscious old folk in comfy slacks and sandals, bravely jostling for space alongside young mums with six unruly children in tow wearing more hair scrunchies and leisure suits than you can shake a stick at.
Shop there and you’ll notice that as far as the younger Asda shoppers are concerned, Satay and Coulis are nice names to call twins.
The Asda Experience: As well as the usual staples, Asda is the supermarket that gladly caters for the less sophisticated palate — where you can still buy cheese that you squeeze from a tube, fruit yoghurts the colour of highlighter pens, and pickled onions that haven’t been rebranded as ‘cocktail onions’.
The Good: Cheap, unchallenging and an adventure playground for anyone who wants to lose themselves in a world of E numbers rather than live a virtuous life on organic, eco, Fair Trade.
But best of all is Asda FM — their in-store radio station— where you can bop to Abba and Brotherhood Of Man while filling your trolley with delicious junk food and not feel a twinge of shame.
The Bad: Let’s be honest, it’s some of the customers. Trolley rage is rife, as the younger clientele treat the aisles like an indoor karting track.
Out in the car park, competition for the spaces nearest the doors is fiercer than an EasyJet boarding queue.
Typical Basket: Panda pop, Findus Crispy Pancakes, Turkey Twizzlers, Take A Break Magazine, Vienetta ice cream and a bottle of Malibu.
Who Shops There? Mostly based in the North of England, this chain is particularly frequented by working families, young people who actually believe Denise Van Outen and Richard Hammond do shop there, and grannies with an armful of 20p-off vouchers.
The Morrisons Experience: Unlike the TV ad, the customers really don’t want to know the exact route the sardine took before it ended up on the fish counter: they just want to know at what time in the afternoon it will be marked down in price.
Shoppers tend to be old-fashioned traditionalists who have set dinners on certain days of the week, love a Sunday roast, and believe there’s nothing that you can’t serve with gravy. They think Heston Blumenthal is bonkers and that anything char-grilled or sun-dried is poncey Southern nonsense.
The Good: Refreshingly old-fashioned, and just about the only supermarket that restricts itself to groceries and household goods and isn’t hell-bent on trying to sell you an ironing board, a pair of pyjamas and a flat-screen TV when you do your weekly shop.
The Bad: All a bit basic and no-frills. Sometimes you want to be spoilt for choice, with marrows or chorizo sausages — even if you wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with them.
Typical Basket: Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings, Cathedral Cheddar, Blueband margarine, tinned peaches, Carnation milk, sponge fingers and kitty litter.
LIDL AND ALDI
Who Shops There? Foreigners living in the UK, and middle-class women who love a spot of competitive frugality and think it’s a jolly wheeze to go there, so they can brag about it at Pilates.
The Lidl/Aldi Experience: Remember when you used to go on holiday to France or Spain as a child and visit the local supermarket, when you’d pick up a box covered in foreign writing and you weren’t sure whether it contained cornflakes or soap powder? Well now, thanks to Aldi and Lidl, you can have that experience every day on the UK High Street.
The food is stacked high and the staff are pretty thin on the ground. The store layouts seem to defy all logic. You’ll find the pasta nestling besides the goldfish food, and the digestive biscuits next to the pickles.
The Good: Lidl and Aldi shoppers rave about the meat and fish selections. Prices are as low as you can get, and nobody tries to flog you bags for life or hassles you about collecting school vouchers at the check-out.
The Bad: Chaotic, dusty and there is something disconcerting about not having heard of any of the brand names. Solevita orange juice anybody? How about Sunnyglade Baked Beans or Parkside Digestives?
Typical Basket: A selection of cold meats, olives in a plastic vacuum pack, the world’s smelliest cheese, and catering-size jars of pickles with pictures of people in lederhosen on them.
MARKS & SPENCER
Who Shops There? People who love good food but are too bloody lazy to make it themselves. They justify the expense by saying: ‘Well, it’s cheaper than a restaurant.’
Shirley Conran once famously said that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom — and for the M&S shopper it’s also too short to peel a potato, chop a lettuce or squeeze an orange, let alone cook an entire meal from scratch.
The M&S Experience: Like dying and going to ready-meal heaven. They may lure you in with their ‘three courses for £10’ offer, but they know there’s no question you’ll get out of there without spending less than £30.
M&S food has a hypnotic quality that convinces you that your life won’t be worth living unless you buy the ready-dressed lobster and the chocolate melting middle puddings, even though you only went in for a pint of milk and a jar of coffee.
The Good: Amazing quality, impressive gourmet selection and (unlike food from other supermarkets) the cooked article even bears a passing resemblance to the picture on the packet.
The Bad: The food is expensive. If you over-buy, you’ll end up feeling so guilty you’ll eat seven meals in one day. Thanks to Marks, a whole nation will grow up not knowing how to peel a sprout or cut up a melon.
Typical Basket: BLT sandwich, a tub of chocolate cornflake cakes, corn chips, selection of dips, a Gastropub Steak & Ale Pie for two (that you’re going to eat yourself), a profiterole pyramid, a bottle of Prosecc and a packet of Percy Pigs.