Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Aisles Of Wrath

Tesco.

How many great blog posts have been written about Tesco?

I’m betting not many and after this post that answer won’t have changed but I need to get this off my chest before I burst (as Christina Ricci once said to her breast reduction consultant).

Now I’ll admit that I don’t very often “reality-shop” “in-store”. After all, I prefer to spend my leisure hours doing other, more pleasurable, things... like de-clogging the toilet, giving myself a DIY root canal or burying hastily dismembered bodies beneath my patio. 9 times out of 10 though, when I do shop at Tesco I shop online. Virtually. It saves both my sanity as well as the lives of all the other shoppers.

Because whenever I do venture “in-store” (every once in a while you forget something or something drops off the virtual shopping list – I’m guessing it’s the cookies) I inevitably want to kill somebody.

Not just anybody. I’m not arbitrary about it. I don’t sing eeny-meeny-miny-mo and pick someone out at random. There will be a reason behind it.

A good, solid, cast iron reason.

Basically it’s anyone who gets in my way.

Anyone who’s too slow. Or stops dead in front of me so I have to do the hippy-hippy-shake to avoid making genital crushing contact with their bottom. Or people who hover in front of a particular food section – a food section that I need immediate access to – but don’t actually buy anything; they just stand there, hand to mouth, calculating, weighing up, umming and ahing. Like they’re about to make an amazing chess move with a tin of spam. And then they shuffle a half-step away only to snap back again like they’re on a piece of elastic the moment I reach out tentatively for the tin I want.

And sliders. Sliders get me. Teens and twenty-somethings who use the trolley like a makeshift toboggan to drag their sorry po-cracker arses around the store whilst leaving stupid looking Nike rubber marks on the polished floor. Twats.

But what annoys me most about shopping “in-store” at Tesco – and I realize this is probably just local to the Leamington Spa town centre branch – is the aisles. The aisles of Wrath. The aisles of Hatred. I don’t know why the store managers just don’t punch a few murder holes in the ceiling and have done with it.

In the olden days (i.e. when I was a kid) the aisles were made up of individual islands. Segmented with freezers and individual displays. Punctuated every 4 metres of so with crossroads which gave the shopper ample opportunity to wander off at will through the produce as if through a giant consumerist maze.

A few years ago it was obviously decided that this wasn’t good enough. That people needed to be funnelled. Controlled. Driven.

The islands disappeared. The crossroads were closed up.

Now we have the dragster strips. Long unending wind tunnels of product. Once you head down the neck of one of these aisles you have no option but to continue all the way down to the bottom. Fighting your way through the cholesterol of lost shoppers, those coming up the other way and the inevitable obstacle snarl of tangled trolleys. And you can’t turn back. You can’t turn around. Because behind you is another phalanx of weary shoppers chasing your tail, sighing as loudly as you are ‘cos they’ve just sussed out that, like you, they’re in the wrong aisle, they need to be in the next one along but now they can’t get out of this one except by following it on, on, on to its utter and completely tedious termination.

It’s like a version of hell. Hades with strip lighting and a self service counter. An extreme assault course to test your resistance to the psychological effects of attrition. To test how badly you want to get your shopping done in the face and teeth of man-made adversity.

Well, nobody wants a tin of spam that badly, Tesco. The guy who designed your floor layout needs to be shot: his gizzards removed and strung out over the frozen meat counter like little red party streamers.

Or failing that can you please just sack him?

‘Cos as your adverts so smarmily point out: every little helps.


30 comments:

Heather said...

I was only about 3 years since i was last in a UK supermarket and they had breaks in the isles back then, where you could get out and move across the shop instead of just up and down. They don't any more?

that would annoy me to high heaven. I would consider giving up food if i had to endure that.

The Dotterel said...

Oh don't get me started... And it's the same at ASDA, M&S, Waitrose, Aldi, Netto and any of the other places where PEOPLE congregate and stand and natter and then soporifically plop things into their trolley and then onto the cashier's conveyor-belt, making half-hearted attempts to put them into bags once they've been scanned and then looking surprised - nay, shocked! - when they're asked to pay, from whence they proceed to fumble for their money...

Like I said, don't get me started.

I want to shop on my own.

And instead of banning PJ's. Tesco should consider training their customers.

EmmaK said...

I can never find anything in supermarkets and usually leave utterly defeated. It is best to shop at around midnight to avoid the masses but I am usually asleep at that point.

Steve said...

Heather: given the price of food I'm considering giving up food...

The Dotterel: if more people (read that as young ladies) shopped in their PJ's I might shop in-store more often and bugger the queues.

Er... that doesn't scan quite how I meant it.

Emma: sleep-shopping... hmm. That could work. Except Tesco would still make it a nightmare.

ArtSparker said...

It could be worse (with pterodactyls) - read Stephen King's apocalypse in a Supermarket story "The Mist".

Joe Bloggs said...

I feel and share your rage, Steve - no man is an aisle and, Steve? Ilse bet you it's all part of a Pavlovian experiment.

Amongst many other things e.g. packaging, pricing, poison-as-food etc; as you so rightly point out:

"...to test your resistance to the psychological effects of attrition."

The microcosm of a supermarket is the perfect testing ground for all sorts of behavioural studies.

Steve said...

ArtSparker: we might be one step ahead already... some of the ladies on the check-outs look rather beaky...

Joe Bloggs: I feel most green berets would come out quivering wrecks just trying to purchase a meal-for-one and a tinned pudding...

Mermaid of Moorgate said...

Many years ago, Tesco's motto used to be: every little helps.

Now, it's "Screw you, suckers!"

Life goes on, and we still need our discount baked beans.

Steve said...

Mermaid: I think Tesco's full motto is Every Little Helps [Our Shareholders]... but you're right; those discount baked beans have got us all over a barrel...

Completely Alienne said...

Going late in the evening avoids some of these problems as there are few other people there .... but then you will often find a lot of empty shelves too. I gave up on Tesco years ago as they clearly had severe logistical problems and could not keep their stock up to necessary levels no matter what time of day I went there. Sainsburys cost more, but were also more likely to actually have food on their shelves. I prefer shopping on line these days; it works out cheaper too as there is no impulse buying and the teenagers cannot fill the trolley with junk.

Steve said...

Completely Alienne: we do most of our shopping on-line these days - we got fed up of losing hour after hour each weekend traipsing around a store. For all that even the Tesco site isn't exactly a great shopping experience but at least they're relatively cheap.

Clippy Mat said...

I hate grocery shopping and I don't have the choice to shop online. If I did I would NEVER go into a grocery store again.
p.s.
Twats is a great word.
:-)

skatey katie said...

bwahahahahaha
so sorry to laugh (not!) but we still have islands - and i'm an unreformed slider...
and the ummers and ahhhers? ankle tap... X

femminismo said...

Oh, I really don't want to get in your way. You are a funny man. Anyone ever tell you your pic looks a bit like Steven Colbert? Trollies? Are those shopping carts? I'm going to learn "your language" even if it hurts me bad!

Selina Kingston said...

Oh lor, you sound like my husband after I have sent him out to get something simple like bread or milk and he'll usually come back with a tirade of abuse about something or other. Often about Sainsbury though as we don't do Tesco in our house. (It was never much more than a Budgens when I was growing up!!)

Steve said...

Clippy Mat: I think "twat" originally meant "s/he who shops badly."

Katie: confound you and your preserved islands! Actually, I'm really jealous. Maybe I could come to NZ and shop. I'd even overlook your sliding around!

Femminismo: trollies are indeed shopping carts. They're also known as the carts of the devil. Had to Google Steven Colbert... I think I'm complimented.

Selina: shopping is somehow extremely stressful despite the ethos of convenience that lies behind it. I actually think I'd find it far less stressful to go out with a bow and arrow, hunt and kill something. One of the other shoppers for instance.

KAZ said...

I'm a basket carrying nipper through.
I cause a lot of distress with that basket.

Steve said...

Kaz: I like your style. Whenever I arm myself with a basket I secretly wish I could give it a customization job "Roman chariot style"... big spikes sticking out of the sides. Maybe a spear thrower poised on my shoulder to fend off the die-hard barbarians.

The Crow said...

Here, the first words of warning are uttered by an elder standing at the front door: "Welcome to Wal-Mart." Only, I swear, every once in a while, it sounds as if one of them (greeters, they're called) says, sotto voice, "Welcome to Hell!" And their eyes glow like hot coals in the fireplace.

I feel your pain, brother.

lunarossa said...

You made me laugh loud! have you ever tried shopping at night? I've tried a few times and it's not perfect but much better. You might find the odd drunken around the isles, but you can't have everything. Ciao. A.

Rol said...

My head is nodding in too much agreement.

Gina said...

Sundays are the worst days. Supermarkets are the new churches - people go for outings to them with their whole family. It drives me nuts. Not that I often go in one on a Sunday but you know how it is, sometimes I just need something.

I always pop in at about 9am cos I walk past the supermarket on the way back from the school - it's nice and quiet then, just a few old dears who shuffle about and ask me to reach things for them from the high shelves.

Smaller is better when it comes to supermarkets.

Steve said...

The Crow: I must confess I have always been afeared of the barbecue section...

Lunarossa: I don't mind drunks though not sure I'd want to be served by one...! ;-)

Rol: am nodding in return. Enough said.

Gina: smaller is definitely better. As small as possible. Bring back the corner shop I say! They had proper islands and everything!

Owen said...

Remember that flame thrower that we suggested you obtain to take care of the vicious dog running loose in the neighborhood ? I suggest you go get it out from under the wheelbarrow in the garden shed and take it with you the next time you head to Tescos...

My, my, but you're in a fine fettle today !

missbehaving said...

It's the same here, and SLOW shoppers are the worst, haven't these people got anything better to do than lollygag along. Fast/slow shopper segregation should be up for consideration.
People who bang into others without even a hint of apology should be named and shamed on youtube, and while we're orchestrating change, plastic bags should be a pound each.
I think it's time for a revolution!

Steve said...

Owen: love the flamethrower idea but when I don my H&S cap I can see a few problems with that one... especially when trying to purchase ice cream.

MissBehaving: some sort of duel carriageway system sounds most sensible - fast, slow and then some kind of bus lane for people with huge families tagging along behind them. Not sure that I'd want any of them to have priority over me though...!

French Fancy said...

It's about five years since I was in a UK supermarket and even though they are dazzling in their array of goods, well I prefer the ones out here. We're lucky in that our smallish town (population 4k) we have four supermarkets and none of them get very busy, except for Saturdays. They've even stopped closing for two hours at lunchtime, which was the case when we first came out here.

We don't get BOGOFS though.

Steve said...

FF: I truly believe that too much choice is a bad thing and stops people appreciating anything at all. What we need is smaller, more personable supermarkets... not even bigger, vaster, superstores that sell everything under the sun (that paradoxically nobody wants).

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I can't understand why people get so het up in supermarkets.

A little courtesy and politeness could go a long way.

Steve said...

Laura: sadly those are the very things that you will never find on any of the aisles.