Bag it And Drag It

We are just in the throes in Western Australia of a politically-correct scheme to remove plastic bags from supermarkets. All hail the dawn of the eco-revolution.

Well, as with any good revolution, you have mensheviks and bolsheviks and cossacks and armoured trains, and this one is no different. The two regiments that have taken the field first off are the Queens Own Hypocrites and the Bullshit Hussars.

a. The two major competing supermarket chains – divisions  of mega corporations – will institute the bans within two weeks of each other. There will be trumpeting and photo opportunities, no doubt.

b. The independent grocers are still handing out the purchases in bags for now.

c. The Big Two – Tweedledum and Tweedledee are offering to sell reusable bags for several dollars or—wait for it—plastic bags as before, but for a price. You still get to apparently ruin the planet, but they make an additional profit on it.

d. As yet there is no charge for the use of the steel cage trolley in the Big Two…but wait for it to occur to their accountants. Another independent grocer does charge a coin fee for use of the trolley but refunds the coin once the trolley is racked back in the store.

e. Confusion will reign supreme tonight as people encounter the one chain’s policy and this will extend to the other chain in two weeks. There will be words, and many of them will be Anglo-Saxon.

f. The independent grocery chain who introduces paper bags or continues plastic ones at no additional charge – and advertises the fact unashamedly will experience a surge of people switching over to their stores. They are smaller spaces than the big two but they can make a motzah in the next few months if they play their cards right.

I shall cope by experimentation. I’ll take some cloth bags with me to the store and place them at the front of the conveyor belt as I lay the groceries out. I shall be curious to see whether the checkout clerk then fills those cloth bags and hands them over to me to put back in the trolley for the journey to the car. If they don’t, I don’t pay till they do.

Note: I do not use self-serve checkout ever.

Or I’ll try the experiment of putting several plastic tubs in the car boot. I’ll just re-trolley the goods as they are checked through the till and then transfer them to the tubs in the car.

Or I’ll shift my business to the smaller supermarket and leave the big two to stew in it.

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The Grocery Store

tomWhen did the grocery store become the supermarket become the discount store become the retail experience become the self-serve?

That’s a rhetorical question, kids, because I’m sure I could trace the roots of the whole retail changes through Google and I’m sure I don’t want to do it. I would be happy just to wind back the clock a bit to the 1950’s and 60’s and to go to a grocer store that sold groceries.

This post is the result of going into the Woolworth’s supermarket in the local shopping centre and trying to find groceries. I was partly successful – I did get a pepperoni sausage and some cheese and that means that at least the corn flakes can be done properly tomorrow morning. But the battle was long and hard to find where the small, regular, necessary, cheap groceries were kept.

Most of them were kept down the back of the store and hidden from direct view. Your eye needed to glance off the pre-packaged duck bladders and the chocolate lettuce hearts in tourmaline sauce to actually reach round to the bread and milk*. Mind you, if you were looking for triple-filtered non-lactose allergen-free dairy-like white substance in designer tetrapaks, they were there in the front cooled shelves. I have never seen as much designer and targeted food in my life.

To their credit, they did have a pretty good selection of fresh fruit and vegetables available. Some of the prices were fresh too, but I put this down to the desire of the retail chain to drain my last drop of blood and discard the husk. I do not blame them for this as it is the basic principle of commerce. Having discovered just how little food I need to consume to be healthy and happy I have somewhat relaxed my sense of outrage at the prices.

In any case, there is always the smaller greengrocers if they survive – and the odd but appealing option of the oriental food stores. I have no idea how to cook what they sell but the staff are kindly and willing to share recipes. I’m not taking home the canned sea urchin, though…

* Not the worst. the local IGA actually hides the milk behind a mirrored glass panel – invisible from the main aisle. Prevents people from buying only milk…

Now In New Improved Original Flavour – Lite With EZ Open Dispens-O-Matic

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I have been told that it is a symptom of aging to be distressed by change. This must be true, because I remember that as a baby I used to cry whenever I needed a new diaper. I have been told that that time is coming again, but at least now I will have a spicier vocabulary.

I’m pressed to this reflection when I round the corner in the supermarket and discover one of two distressing things:

a. The supermarket has changed the layout of the groceries yet another time for no apparent reason.

b. The maker of some prepackaged food has changed the wrapper or logo.

I am resilient enough go scouting, but sometimes when I cannot figure out the pattern of the stock in the shop I take a shortcut out through the front door and go to another retailer who has left their shelves alone. Too many incidents of this nature set up an aversion to the grocery store and another year’s worth of shopping goes down the street.

The change in label is likely to see me pass right by the product as I am bent on a particular colour and design, rather than a printed set of words. If it is the same recipe and I can find it a couple of times in the new packaging, the pattern is re-established and I go on buying the product. If it is accompanied by a change in ingredients or taste than the mechanism resets instantly and I am a candidate for rival foods. The maddening thing about this is the new product formulation might be better than the old one, but the  reaction is still the same.

Of course this is all just soup and nuts to the retailers who depend upon constant change to move their products. The fashion industry comes to mind in this. They don’t come to my mind and certainly not to my clothes closet, but there are those who are wooed and won weekly with new presentations.

At least they are some things that do not change. Potatoes are pretty hard to alter, as are red beans and rice. And I can recognise an onion at 50 paces. Guess what we eat a lot of at our house.