Evaluating food shopping practices

Yesterday, at the local Tesco Express, the assistant groaned inwardly and I could feel her sense of panic: my daughter had a purse full of change and wanted to count it all out to pay for her ice cream. She herself was quite appalled by the lack of customer service – or the lack of it towards us, as the whole point is that we were making other people wait! So, we agreed that we will no longer shop there.

As it happens, I had never intended to start shopping at Tesco, considering the tactics they use to prevent competition, amongst other things. However, it was just too convenient.

On the other hand, there is a family-run business at the other end of the same road, where some things might be a little more expensive, but there isn’t a manager trying to stamp down on friendliness. The shop also helps out other local businesses, for example the butcher in the village, by selling their produce as well. Can’t see that at Tesco.

At the same time, we have just been to another national supermarket this evening because… er because we wanted some fruit which we could have got at the village shop. Well, maybe not the mango, but then should we really be eating that anyway?

In other words, having given up the allotment, in part because it was not an ecologically sound practice to drive over 20 miles to dig a field and attempt to grow vegetables, I am now re-evaluating our other practices. And it looks like where we shop is the most pertinent….

What is your biggest niggle about shopping for food?

Β© Helen Butt, June 2014

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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20 Responses to Evaluating food shopping practices

  1. Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    lovely post my big niggle is we just had a new Tesco open down the road but they do not do the scan as you shop which means you do not have to unload your trolley at the till only when you get to the car so to be able to do that we have to drive 14 miles have a blessed week

  2. andy1076 says:

    The teller is responsible for running the expectation of diving into the ice cream treat too huh? patience should be something better practiced especially in a customer service based environment :-\

  3. alderandash says:

    I think lack of seasonality…We have some good local small shops, and also a co-op that is actually pretty good about sourcing at least some local food. But when there are strawberries and beans on display in January, I find it really hard to remember they shouldn’t be there, and keep them out of the basket (at least some of the time!)

    • If only they grew more fruit at my local organic farm, as I buy just about all my other fresh stuff there…. I think I am pretty good now at resisting out-of-season produce, but trying to get that through to a seven-year-old….

      Yes, the co-op has some plus points: encouraging its farmers not to use pesticides amongst other things. We do prefer this shop as well – just as shame it is not quite within walking distance.

  4. streepie says:

    Living in a small village in semi-rural France makes for a bit of a difference. We do have to drive 2-3 kms to get to the next town to do the shopping. We do it by car, but we should really be doing it by bike!
    The nice thing is that in the (small) town we shop in, there are two butchers, two bakeries, a great cheese shop and a not too small but very friendly supermarket. And there is a fresh produce market every Sunday as well.
    I buy the fruit and vegetables (seasonal please) that I need in addition to what I grow on the market, fish as well, and the meat (of which we don’t each much of) at the butchery. Cheese is bought at the cheese shop, and staple food is purchased at the supermarket. I have not seen the inside of large supermarket (“grand surface” in French) in a few months. Yes, it is a more expensive than just getting everything from a large supermarket, but I prefer to think what I do is more sustainable.

  5. I think that this are intriguing question that you have brought up. The two tiny villages that I live between, Do not have a butchers shop or farmers markets. There is a bakery shop at both of them. Most grocery stores have dispensed with butchers in their meat markets. The meat is cut and packaged at a central location and shipped to local shops. Thus why we made the decision to buy meat directly from the farmers.
    It is sad that the clerk was impatient and rude to your little girl. Big chained stores are trying to make large profits every second the clerk waits to talk is money out of their pocket. Here in Sweden even out here in the country, they are trying to phase out the cashiers completely. They have installed wands that you wave the wand over the code bar of each item you purchase and you pay a teller your bill. I refuse to use it. I do not want to put people out of work. I want the cashier to talk to and be able to ask question or get help. Some of them are my neighbors. I do not want worse service and higher prices to pay for this new system. I am sure the technology of this wand is quite costly . This has been done with trash collection, recycling of trash and other areas. It cost people their jobs. We have far worse service.
    I try and support small local business as much as we can with in the limits of my wallet. We have a small grocerystore not far from us. We buy gas there and some groceries. Naturally their prices are higher because they sell less volume but we figure if you have run out of milk or bread it is environmentally sound to drive there than all the way in town for a couple of items. We do buy from some chain stores in larger cities, because shopping there is so much more economical and they have a larger assortment of goods. We make the trip a couple of times a year.
    It is good that you brought this up because I learn something new everyday that I never thought that I could change in how I buy. I do agree with you that convience and my pocket book sometimes over ride my better judgement. It is a hard balance that I struggle with constantly
    Honey.

    • You bring up a good point about the automated service. And I agree – I would rather be served by a cashier than serve myself at a machine. It isn’t even quicker. For example, if you take your own bags, the machine gets confused and then a member of staff has to come along to input a code to sort it all out.

      Definitely I would rather pay a few pennies more at a local store, save money on the petrol and get decent service, as well as keep my neighbours in (sustainable) work and help the environment.

  6. Marcella Rousseau says:

    Poor customer service is a good way to go out of business. One of the reasons I like my local Meijer so much is that the cashiers and produce people, actually all of them, are super friendly, polite and helpful. On the rare times that a cashier is grumpy – you won’t see them there much, if at all. In this day and age, all businesses should be aware that good customer service is key to surviving in a competitive world!

    • Tesco’s tactics for staying in business can be very underhand, so I doubt bad customer service is going to close them down any time soon. In principle, I agree with you though.

      Glad you’ve got an inviting shoo near you πŸ™‚

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