February 10, 2007

Tesco Has Come For Your Soul

Un column de la Boar. Even I felt educated after reading this (I forgot I wrote it).

Are you ready for your Amazingly Dull Fact of the week™? No? Tough. The Amazingly Dull Fact of the Week™ is that there are only four postcodes in Britain which do not have a Tesco. Three make sense if you adopt a sort of “let’s leave out those weird people who paint themselves blue and charge around led by Mel Gibson” attitude which only those too enraptured by London to notice the rest of the nation has moved into the twenty first century can really achieve. These people probably think the Outer Hebrides, the Shetlands, and Orkney are firms of City lawyers or accountants. Go to their stall at the Careers Fair. In fact, judging by the size of modern Tescos the chances are that these small clumps of island are just too small to fit one on, especially as each Tesco must come with a carpark the size of Epping Forest and no signage to indicate which area you have parked your car in. Yes, everyone loves a good game of Find My Car whilst carrying eighteen tonnes of shopping. It’s good for the shoulder muscles.

The fourth postcode was a little more surprising. From the mountainous regions of Wales, to the snootiest plains of Buckinghamshire, to Devon where the locals seem to get most of their goods from shipwrecks, all postcodes were endowed with a way to acquire starchy mush (or Tesco value rice as it claims to be). The exception is Harrogate. For those of you who don’t know, Harrogate is in Yorkshire. It was Britain in Bloom champion in 2003 and hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 from which we can conclude that they clearly like bright colours and lots of them. It’s a spa town but unlike Leamington does not seem to feel the need to show off about it, although unlike Leamington, it’s not Royal which probably irks it somewhat considering how well it fits the idea of quaint olde Englande. Charles Dickens called it “the queerest place, with the strangest people leading the oddest lives”. When you think about it, this was a remarkably astute prediction of the coming of the Eurovision Song Contest from someone born during the Napoleonic War when the possibility that Europe might settle its seething tensions through the medium of voting on camp costumes and terrible songs seemed remote to say the least. Although Eurovision would be funny if it featured more nineteenth century cannon fire.

What would Napoleon make of Tesco’s amazing progress in taking over the entirety of the country he so wished to pummel into submission with cannon and bayonet? It has managed to become the bogeyman to a lot of people who see it steamrollering local shops and businesses and bullying farmers into dropping their prices. But still we shop there. For campus denizens it has the advantage of a captive audience whose main alternative is Costcutter, a shop whose name lies and whose food products range in quality from “Meh” to “Argh! My tastebuds! My stomach!”. So students trudge their way over to Tesco’s then come back to play an amusing game of Find My Hall Of Residence whilst carrying eighteen tonnes of booze and getting their weekly exercise in the form of a shoulder workout. Every penny spent at that Tesco is going into a giant pot which will one day be used to buy campus itself and turn it into a carpark.

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  1. Wimbledon alone has three Tescos (Tescoes?) No lie.

    10 Feb 2007, 16:54

  2. Tescii

    10 Feb 2007, 17:37

  3. John Kirriemuir

    Yes, I live in one of those 4 areas – the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. And yes, there’s no Tesco. Every once in a while, some of the locals take the ferry then a three hour car drive up to Inverness, which has four branches. The rest of us can’t be arsed. We have a shop on the island (population 130), and there’s a small co-op 10 miles away, with 2 larger supermarkets about 30 miles away. That’s enough – most people are very adept at online shopping here anyway.

    Anyway, we’ve got some of the best beaches in the world: http://silversprite.wordpress.com/tag/beaches

    ...but no sign of anyone charging around painted blue, though…

    11 Feb 2007, 16:55

  4. Eleanor – you live in Wimbledon? Same here! (well when I’m not in China). Lived in Southfields when I was younger (yes yes the bit in Wimbledon) and now when I’m back home I live in the Village :D

    Anyhow, back to the article…

    What’s most soul-destroying about Tesco is that Tesco hand-in-hand with the other huge supermarket chains have practically destroyed British (and Global agriculture). I remember reading a great little book a couple of years ago called “What goes in our food” or something (will try and find the title for you).

    You want those “Fresh” strawberries? Cool! We get them shipped from half-way across the planet, frozen and of a a specific breed chosen for its longevity (as opposed to taste). Notice those Apples are all remarkably uniform in colour and size? That because they go through these crazy machines that measure their size and pigmentation to select the ones that fit what the marketers presume the consumer most wants.

    Notice how King prawns are available far more than they used to be? That’s because they’re now farmed in bulk in Thailand. Thai farmers were encouraged to open these artificial farms. The best thing? When they find out that the prices fall and they start to lose money, they can’t farm anything else! They’ve gone and salinated their land! Fantastic.

    But wait there’s more! Tesco’s “Pre-washed lettuce” – pre-washed my ass. It’s dragged through a bath of chlorine 20 times stronger than pool water. Spanish farmland…. in a very arid region is being pumped with scarce water and crazy fertilisers to provide the tesco need for Lettuce! Wonderful!

    Don’t get me started on the rape of both animal farmers and animals in this country.


    11 Feb 2007, 17:46

  5. Actually Eleanor…. Wimbledon has three Tescos? I remember that there’s a ‘new’ one in the village (well it opened last year if I recall correctly, or at the end of 2005) and then the one that’s been around for a few years in Two Fat Ladies --> But where’s the third one?

    11 Feb 2007, 17:50

  6. Hamid, its in South Wimbledon, its attached to the Esso so is only a Tesco Express, but its a similar size to the one in the village. Monopoly or what?! Although I went to school in Wimbledon I don’t live there, I’m from Mitcham! haha

    11 Feb 2007, 19:39

  7. School you say? Mmmmmmm Wimbledon High School for Girls? (What’s that one right next to the station off of Wimbledon Hill Road… I can’t believe I’ve forgotten the proper name >_< They used to date half the boys at Kings).

    11 Feb 2007, 20:22

  8. ahahaha! It amuses me that you think I went to Wimbledon High, when there are so many schools to choose from, I actually went to the Ursuline. The one with the appallingly blue uniform :S yuck.

    12 Feb 2007, 02:15

  9. Oh I used to see those blue uniforms hanging around the centre all the time after school but I could never figure out what school they were from :P. I only ever really knew KCS, WHS (woooo Wimbledon High School and WH Smith! Aren’t acronyms fun?!) and Wimbledon College (of Paul Merton fame!). Well at least now I know who all those randoms eating at that Japanese restaurant.. you know that random expensive-but-ok Japanese place that opened up a year or two ago… since I’ve come to China the only Japanese restaurant name sticking in my head is Yoshinoya and it won’t leave. Argh!

    And yes, that uniform was quite appalling! :P King’s uniform owned! At least until the Summer because if it was an especially hot day and your bastard teacher didn’t give you permission to take off your junior school blazer, you’d end up dying one of your shirts partially red from the sweat. Slave-drivers.

    12 Feb 2007, 04:42

  10. There seems to be a SW London invaision of blogs!

    Wimbledon-ish resident (Wimb’ Park) and Tooting school-ed!

    Everyone looking forward to the demolition of all the shops on the corner by Earlsfield station to build yet another Tesco?

    12 Feb 2007, 10:12

  11. Lucy Griffiths

    Gav’s comment (no2) sounds rude.

    12 Feb 2007, 16:01

  12. Tescicles?

    12 Feb 2007, 23:29

  13. Gareth Herbert

    Now of course, I think that everyone appreciates that if this was a kids story Tesco’s would be the big bad wolf out to dress up in drag and eat everyone’s kids. Sadly in the real world, we have to be grownups, and what tends to happen in the big world for big people is that if lots of people decide they want to shop someplace, or buy a certain product that creates what adults like to call a “market” for something.

    Thus, unfortunately, one of the prices that we all have to pay for living in a country where liberty just so happens to be prioritised is that people are able to shop where they choose to and shockingly enough it just so happens that most of these people would rather pay £2 for 16 slices of bacon from Tescos than pay £3 for 16 slices of bacon from Steve the butcher – that loveable rogue with a heart of gold.

    I’m so bored with people demonising Tescos, especially when most of those that do will happily plod off there as soon as they feel that their weekly shopping needs to be done. What mindless hypocrites we are.

    13 Feb 2007, 04:27

  14. Well thankfully I don’t buy bacon. And I’d prefer for meat to be a little more expensive if it didn’t mean the near literal rape of farmers.

    It’s not a matter of demonising Tescos or not. Tescos does what I’ve listed above, as do the major supermarket chains. But you’re right, a certain responsibility does lie with the consumer.

    The sustainability of current shopping practises does need to be questioned soon though. People are all a tizzy about Global Warming without giving much thought to what’s going to happen to all of our arable land, water supplies and other farm issues.

    I’ll try to dig up an article I read a while back on the problems of pig excrement.

    And Gareth… you take the attitude in the opposite direction, putting all the blame on the consumer… but Tescos doesn’t quite advertise the fact that in order to provide cheap bread it basically extracts all the nutritional worth. It doesn’t publicise the fact that it makes insane demands of British farmers and if the demands aren’t met it will fine the farmers. It doesn’t publicise its incredibly wasteful procedure for selecting fruit. It doesn’t openly talk about how it’s homogenising our selection of fruit… Don’t put all the blame on the lazy consumer. It’s not as though those whiter-and-snow corporations don’t know what they’re doing when they engage in price wars for that extra 0.1% quaterly profit margin.

    13 Feb 2007, 09:01

  15. e.ryan@warwick.ac.uk

    It is Tesco’s job to sell things.
    They have done this well over the last few years they have therefore made profits and expanded.
    That is what businesses are supposed to do.
    I can remember when Tesco was smaller than the Coop and less proftable than Sainsburys if these businesses had been run better Tesco would not have had such an easy ride.

    It is also Tesco’s job to compete with other Supermarkets.
    Tesco should open as many stores as it feels it can make a profit with. If Tesco opening a store means for instance that a Sainsbury store loses business that is competition, the better store will prosper the other will close. It should not br the job of planner to decide if there are enough supermarkets or where they should be.
    There is not much ( though admitttedly some) evidence that Tesco uses anti-competitive practices or abuses its market position. If it does they are legal remedies.
    It is not Tesco’s job

    To ensure British farmers make a profit. That is the job of British farmers, if they cannot make a profit they should do something else. Similarly any other supplier should ensure they can make a profit on the price they get from Tesco.

    Tesco should be trying to get the lowest posssible price from its suppliers. The suppliers should be trying the get the highest price. If they cannot get the price they need stop supplying Tesco.

    It is not Tesco’s job to keep local shops. That is the job of the local people, if they choose to use local shops they will make money and continue.
    Most people use a variety of shops, I buy my meat from my local butcher as it is cheaper and better quality than Tesco, I also shop at Aldi for its incredible prices and continental foods.

    It is not Tesco’s job to ensure we eat a healthy diet. Tesco sell a wide range of food if we chooose a breakfast of doughnuts washed down with Whisky that is our choice, they also sell muesli and skimmed mlik.

    I have no vested interest in defending Tesco indeed I boycotted them for several months following a piece of bad service. However it is unfair they get criticised for doing what they should be doing ie selling what the public wants to buy, and being good at it.

    20 Feb 2007, 10:20

  16. Anon

    I’m realise I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I struggle to believe that there are only four postcodes in the entire country without a Tesco’s.
    There’s not one in the university’s postcode (CV4 7AL) for starters. Even though Canon Park is just up the road it has a different post code.

    I’m not denying there are a whole lot of Tesco’s though.

    20 Feb 2007, 13:13

  17. I think it only refers to the first part of the postcode, CV4 in our locality, as the second bit is used to refer to streets, or parts of streets rather than larger areas. When areas are referred to as postcodes that’ll be what they mean.

    20 Feb 2007, 15:31

  18. ASDA have adopted an interesting new tactic in Supermarket Wars: they were saying this morning that only 20% of people in rural areas can choose between all four of the big supermarkets. So to increase competition (between supermarkets) we need…..... you guessed it

    21 Feb 2007, 10:48

  19. el Davio

    e ryan – you have inspired me.
    I will be having “a breakfast of doughnuts washed down with Whisky” soon, I’ll toast you.
    See you at old Girls Holz,
    el Davio, xx.

    21 Feb 2007, 13:53

  20. John Kirriemuir

    Update. We can now do Tesco online grocery shops and they get delivered to our door – here in the Outer Hebrides. See:


    05 Apr 2007, 01:17

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