Tuesday, November 22, 2005

dinner anyone?

I've begun to feel persecuted by the faceless strategists who dictate my shopping experience in supermarkets.

Because they do.

They analyse my spending, my post code (zip I believe), they know where I've come from and will travel to, how much I am likely to spend and in what aisles, they even know my bibbledy bobbledy route around their grand maze. Somebody out there is keeping a keen eye on my preference for loo roll and how many tins of tuna I buy in one go (completely unrelated incidentally).....there's a computer programme running somewhere that could probably predict what this little fish will buy on any particular shopping trip. I am that predictable.

So why do they keep moving items from one aisle to another? My favourites spend three happy months in one place and are then shunted to some obscure corner elsewhere so that I have to hunt them down. Of course I understand why it's done, so that I'm introduced to bits of this monolithic grocery that I wouldn't normally pass through...presumably I will suddenly realise that my life before sanitary towels has been futile, now that they've been drawn to my attention by mixing them in with my usual brand of shaving foam. It's subtle on most occasions, it's not as if the tomato's have been placed next to the dog food, although that would probably suit me as I generally need both, but it's manipulative.I understand why it's being done, what the generally strategy is, I just don't want to feel like a white mouse pushing a trolley, or Hercule Poirot, searching for the hidden gravy granules.

I've taken to picking up a few of the items that I want, and returning them to the shelf that they used to occupy to help the next one or two people in a similar predicament who come along behind me. Except that no one in their right minds will pick them up, I certainly wouldn't. You've got to be bonkers to pick up a lonely tin of haricot beans mixed in with the chick peas, what kind of loon would do that? (It could be booby trapped). (Actually I'm often very amused by the 'swapsies' that people have obviously done as they make progress round the store. You can see the single tub of butter amongst the olive oil rich spread where some one has succumbed to guilt or peer group pressure. Or fresh veg, personally bagged, in amongst tins of beans, yoghurt in the ice cream freezer, and a whole chicken slyly substituted for a leg of lamb in the meat cooler. I find it quite warming, it's somehow submersive).

On a tangent….choice….I give you choice, or rather we’re given choice on a fantabulous grandiose scale. Especially in toiletries it appears, how in hell’s name am I supposed to choose the perfect combination for my oral hygiene from amongst 32 separate kinds of toothbrush and 27 brands of toothpaste (with 8 varieties of mouthwash thrown in just to complicate things). And eggs, the ubiquitous egg, in all it’s many guises, from the “we think this came from a chicken, or all least some battery shaped morph of the chicken family” to the apparently exquisite version delivered by “a deliriously happy semi wild fowl, recently rogered by a free range cock”.

What I particularly don't like is "two for one" bloody offers. For goodness sake, don't these people realise that we are in London, which probably has the largest proportion of single flat dwellers in Europe. Don't they realise that "2 for sodding " 1 is a form of persecution. It's not as if it is precisely two for one either, it's as likely as not two packs for one. Two packs of eight frigging sausages, two large bags of crispy leaf salad (read liquid leaf salad for the second bag by the time you get around to it), two large pizza's, the biggest damn loaf in the world and it's twin brother...there seems to be no concession to a) the available space that I have at home, and b) the need that I feel to vary my diet occasionally during the course of a week (ooh, I know I'll eat chicken livers all week, because they're on snotting offer).

Now if they were to extend this courtesy to obvious essentials like wine and aspirin I might be less aggravated.

I've been thinking of ways I might get my own back, I quite like the idea of buying the vegetables but not putting them in the bags, 5 potatoes, six tomatoes, twelve satsumas, umpteen brussel sprouts....and maybe indulge myself in some of those nice seedless grapes....and passing them over in no particular order at the check out.

Actually it reminds me of a joke, about a young lady who arrived at the check out with a small carton of milk, half a cucumber, two tomatoes in a bag, a tiny piece of cheese, a single can of coke and an individual yoghurt, "Do you live alone?", said the young chap behind the counter as he passed her purchases through the register. She joined in with the obvious joke and smiled, and said "yes I do, what gave it away?". "Because you're bloody ugly", he said.

Tonight I’m having salmon fish cake sandwiches because I bought a pack of eight of the wretched things “on offer”.


Amy said...

Well said, Colin!! LM runs around the store "fetching" things for me and will often come back saying "you wanted toothpaste, but I don't know WHICH" and only then do I realize, as you stated, the hundreds of options for tooth cleaner.

I noticed yesterday at the store that there are complete sections and kiosks and refrigerated units that I NEVER go near. What is in them? What do people do with the stuff that is in them?

Melissa said...

I'm practically pissing in my pants over here because that's my experience every time I go to the grocery. At least it's strangely comforting to know that shops in London are as equally perplexing as those in Miami. Weirdos.

The dreaded weekly specials - they totally control what I buy. We went last night and got things we never would have normally gotten simply because they were cheap. What the hell are we going to do with 4 cans of green beans? I don't know, but now we have them. In the event of a green bean shortage, there's a certain household in Florida that's already stocked. And stuffing? I understand that it's Thanksgiving time (which I love, it's the one major thing that I do that's so totally American it makes me laugh) but do we really need 2 industrial sized bags of Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing mix? The man loves it, what can I say?

Magpie said...

i log onto tesco and it will have my favourites list, in it will be things i bought the day before, clubcards are evil...they are like big brother but they entice you with shiny points...

i'm a sucker for offers...

Just Some Gal said...

Isn't that a Super Dave joke? lol

Ah choices... I hate it. I have been using the same toothe paste for 4 years and now its entire container has been made more "visually appealling". Somehow it tastes different too. I hate that.

I but a lot of fresh veggies and our produce market is ALWAYS being swapped around too. Its annoying.
I can walk all the miles I missed jogging by just hunting for that particular brand salsa I bought for 6 weeks in a row... lol

Cheers Colin!

Wendy said...

Ok -- Everyone sit down for this ... really - but I RARELY do the shopping! Hub gets stuck doing it. I don't even know why this is. I think it started when the baby came (8 years ago now). It was easier for him to just go and do it. It sorta stuck, and frankly, I like it that way. SO - on the rare occassion that I do shop, it's like going to a new store every time because NOTHING is ever where I saw it last!

Deranged Doctor said...

Well, I can't speak for salmon cakes, but I do remember a friend (yes, a friend) buying one hundred cans of orange juice last time they were on offer.
Talk about succumbing to market pressure.

AJH said...

Specials waste money. I have neither the space to store 2 bags of lettuce nor the inclination to eat it before it goes bad. Hell, I can barely eat the first before it starts to turn.
I hate how big containers are as well. Like flour. Every four months or so I need exactly three cups to make a batch of cookies. The remaining 3/4 of a pound will be burried in my freezer until when I feel like fresh cookies again I will forget I already have a bloody pound of flour and buy another one.

Magpie said...

btw i have kissed total stangers at new years...and then wondered who the hell they were...


Jill said...

I also get angry once I have analyzed the motives of the marketing gurus. I particularly hate watching television news. I think it's a pointless waste of time when I can get actual information from respectable websites in 5 minutes instead of watching 30 minutes of garbage. Ok, enough of my ranting.

Miladysa said...

LOL. This is a fantastic piece Colin, you could easily write a newspaper column!

We love the offers!

Aims said...

Your writing, as always, is excellent! & please can I come for tea? Salmon Fishcake sandwiches mmmm mmmmm!