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Wonky trolleys, dud deals... why we just don't buy supermarket shopping

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Store wars: buying groceries can be a gruelling experience

Store wars: buying groceries can be a gruelling experience

Store wars: buying groceries can be a gruelling experience

Supermarket heavyweight Tesco, which has seen profits tumble spectacularly, is said to be trying to work out why, precisely, customers have drifted. According to reports, members of senior management have recently been taken to a cheapo hotel and sent out to local Tesco stores to buy goods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Seriously? They haven't actually done that before now?).

From this limited learning curve, it's hoped they will get some idea of a shopper's lot. I doubt it. Get them to do a full weekly shop. Regularly. That'll harden them.

Tesco bosses are not alone in their aloofness from the travails of the shop floor. Frankly you can't imagine the top team of any of our major retail giants ever actually go down to the stores themselves. Presumably they just get their butlers to do it.

The sad fact is that shopping for the groceries is an ordeal. No matter which chain you choose.

First up the trolley/shopping basket. This is unlikely to have been properly cleaned since the day it was churned out of the factory and will be full of discarded receipts, half-eaten sandwiches, empty drinks cans and assorted discarded wrapping. You single out one which seems fairly free of litter. By the time you've reached the first aisle you've discovered why.

This is the trolley that runs sideways. Not only that, the handle is sticky with a film of sweetie residue drooled from the mouths of successive infants who've travelled therein.

You enter the store to the rattle of collection buckets. A member of staff is pedalling furiously on a static bicycle both to raise funds for charity but, more importantly, to signal that this is the store doing its bit for the local community.

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You have no change for the bucket. You feel bad already.

You soldier on. There is no escape anyway since by now your hands are cemented to the trolley handle with the regurgitated Skittles. En route you will notice all the tricks of the trade employed by store bosses to "encourage" you to spend more money. Essential items spaced around the store to make you walk further. And very little is where it was last week. Special offers offer nothing special. Like the item priced at £1.40 "offered" at "2 for £3!" You feel you are being taken for a mug.

Aisles are deliberately staggered, again to slow your progress. And then finally the tills ... there's a queue the length of a protest march at the manned version. But queues, too, at self-service as the one poor worker assigned there rushes from screen to screen, swiping a card to placate the "unidentified item in the bagging area" monster.

The conveyor belt, like the trolley, hasn't had a wipe down post-installation.

Have you got a loyalty card? Are you collecting the vouchers for the ceramic dishes/school sports equipment? You prise your hand off the trolley to key your pin code into a handset encrusted with gunk. You get a receipt telling you how much you have saved today. Or a money-back voucher you can use next time. So long as "next time" is within the next couple of days. Believe me, shop bosses, this is but a brief flavour of the irritation.

And not just at the grocery store. Sample annoyance from the shopping experience elsewhere. Serial assistants asking: "Can I help you with anything?" Over and over again. I can think of one cosmetic shop where they follow you around drawing attention to items "you might like". You want to scream, just leave me alone!!!

Why do they do this? Answer, because store bosses think the pushy hard sell works. It's not the fault of the shop workers who are only doing their job. But like so much of the shopping experience today it is annoying, off-putting, counter productive. So it's not just Tesco managers who need to get out more. It's the bosses of all the supermarkets, all the stores, all the chains. They could all do with joining that interminable queue down at the reality checkout.

How to spot a prime mover...

Pity the poor jogger. Bad enough that you have to worry about tripping over kerbstones and badly positioned street furniture. Now, you’re expected to keep a weather eye out too for random prime ministers.

The story of the PM and the hurtling jogger who was first arrested, then de-arrested (crazy word, crazy concept) has not reflected well, of course, on the Downing Street protection team. Presumably they were on the outlook for terrorist attacks at the time. Not athletic jihad.

But in this era of health and safety, shouldn’t Mr Cameron have been wearing a hi-vis jacket? The jogger seemed to run straight into him. Didn’t he even see Dave?

Is Renee facing into uncertain future?

Much debate over Renee Zellwegger’s startling new look. And no wonder. It’s not so much an improved new look — she looked fine before — it’s just an entirely different one. As we say in this part of the world, she doesn’t look like herself. She looks like a new woman.

Which raises the question, ummm, is she? Is anyone absolutely 100% certain that really is Renee under there? She looks so very transformed from the old Bridget Jones that you have to wonder.

The actress herself puts this new look down to being “happy”. She may not be quite so happy, though, with all the talk about her evolving visage. Let’s hope the face doesn’t regress as a result.


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