Posts Tagged ‘supermarket’

Price promise vouchers (Or: Money off next time)

Hello all.  Welcome to my Wednesday guest blog post from Rambler5319. Enjoy!

 

I’m going to start off referring to a recent article in one of national daily papers, by journalist Tom Utley, here in the UK. It highlighted a very cunning ploy being used by four of the big supermarkets. (I was taken in by it just as he was.) It’s called “Brand Matching” by the one he uses – Sainsburys; it’s called “Price Promise” by Tesco and other things by the others. It means that each supermarket in this scheme (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) finds out what the others are selling, say, their 500g packet of Shreddies for and if it is cheaper somewhere else they take the cheapest price and “match” it by giving you a voucher for the difference. For example, if you paid £4.18 for your carton of 48 Weetabix this week at Tesco – btw that is the price – and Sainsbury were selling theirs for say £4.00, and that was the cheapest of the other prices, you would have a credit for £0.18 and so on for all your other items. Some of these may be over or under the cheapest price so there will be a final balance which could be a plus or a minus figure. Just suppose in this case that the final total of plusses and minusses came to +£0.18 you would get a voucher for that amount. This voucher is received when you go through the checkout and can be used to get money off on your next visit.

Here are a couple I got recently.

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You can see that, in total, I could reclaim £2.11 off my next bill.

Looks good doesn’t it – £2.11 off my next bill? However I wonder if you’ve ever got one of these vouchers and thought, “Hang on a minute, this means if I’d shopped at another supermarket I’d have got my food and other stuff for £2.11 less.” In actual fact what these vouchers mean is that really I’ve been overcharged. Even if you had thought that, you still have a problem because you don’t know at which of the other supermarkets in the “Brand Match” scheme (Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) you could have realised those savings. And, even if you did, is it likely that next week you will drive to that other supermarket just to pick up the items which are cheaper there? Would you stand in 4 different queues at 4 different supermarkets just to get the cheapest items? Isn’t the whole idea of supermarket shopping that you want to be able to pick up everything you need in one place to save visiting loads of different places. So what is the “Price Promise Voucher” (or whatever it’s called in the one where you shop) for? Put quite simply it is a type of loyalty inducement. They want you to go back to their supermarket and spend your money there – oh, and of course, redeem your vouchers and make that crucial saving except in reality you haven’t saved anything at all. What you’ve done is “not lost”. Think about it carefully. You’ve got back to zero after having paid more than you could have done elsewhere. (In my case I could have got my items for £2.11 less somewhere else so the overcharge of £2.11 is being credited back to me; crucially though, it’s not money in your hand.) The thing to be aware of is that the vouchers have a date limit on their redemption so you can’t just hand them in any time. In fact you can’t go back in the same day (if you’ve forgotten something) and use them because they don’t start ‘til the day after you receive them and they last for about 4 weeks.

This strict redemption period is what draws you back because you say to yourself I must use the voucher before it runs out. You go back to the very place which is apparently overcharging you so you can be overcharged again! And yet, just like Tom Utley, I felt quite pleased when I was given my voucher. “Ah yes,” I thought, “that means I’ll save £2.11 off the next bill.” I wasn’t realising that when I got my “£2.11 Tesco was simply helping me back to the zero position of no gain/no loss compared with their competitors.

I want to look at a couple of areas Tom did not cover as I think they’re also worth thinking about.

Firstly, I was not realising that Tesco had had my £2.11 for a week (or in some cases longer) in their bank account so I’ve really become a lender to one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK. Fancy that, me lending Tesco £2.11 for a week. Thing is though they didn’t ask if they could borrow it – they just took it and promised to give it me back next time I came in with that piece of paper!

Secondly, a further side to this is that, if you think about it, it could be interpreted as a type “price fixing”. What each one is saying is that whoever is selling the item for the lowest price is the one we will charge our customers. Sounds ok doesn’t it? But wait a minute, what happens if say an item is being sold for £4.00/£3.80/£3.75 in three of the places and last one says that they will put their price at £3.70. Is this fair? Well, it might be but what if the profit on this item was quite high anyway so even at £3.70 they’re still making a fair amount? The others were looking to make even more but they’ve been undercut and so agree to the £3.70 in their stores to match the lowest price and then give the difference back in the form of vouchers to their customers. The trouble is the lowest price may not necessarily be the best price for the customer. It could be that if this item was sold for £3.50 for instance it would still make a good profit but because we don’t know the details we can’t say. All we know is that the stores will still make a good profit at the lower price because it still has a good margin in it. Can you see the problem now with this whole concept?

A further twist to the psychological ploy is the other side of the coin when you get a piece of paper saying, like mine did a few weeks ago: “Today you have saved £0.94”. This is what you get:

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This means I couldn’t have got my basket (trolley) of goods cheaper anywhere else (at stores in the scheme) and in fact your store was the cheapest, over all the items, by that £0.94. What’s this piece of paper worth? Well, nothing actually. It is simply telling you that this week you have not been overcharged. Oh well that’s good isn’t it? In a kind of really odd way you now feel as if you wished you had been overcharged so that you would have the ability to get some money off your next bill because it makes you feel good. The cleverness of the scheme is that it is actually making people happy who have been overcharged! Read that again. And it’s obviously working. Ask yourself how often do you change store or supermarket? Do you really want to keep having to learn new store layouts so you know where to find all your items or do you, like me, want to know that, every week, when you walk down aisle 6 you will find the veg & in aisle 23 the tinned fish and so on?

What can you do about it? Not a lot except that maybe in a week when you redeem your vouchers and get a “you have saved” printout you go and shop in a different store the next week as a punishment for the one who overcharged you the week before. Or maybe you have a better idea?

G is for…

GARDEN!

I have utilised two of my recent blogging themes today (Trying To Be Useful and AtoZ) to tell you about the latest exciting developments in my garden.

Simon Gear, in Going Greener, told me to start a compost heap, which I love the idea of and have been meaning to do for ages anyway. Then my Abel and Cole deliveries started and there were little hints in their booklet, of what to recycle etc. One of the things they mentioned was composting. So it seemed like I was being nudged into finally actually doing it and I took the plunge and started searching around online for a good composting option.

Before long, I came across the Wiggly Wigglers and started to get excited. I’d heard about composting by using worms and on this site, I found a starter kit for £32 which would get me started on using worms to make compost out of my old scraps of food waste.

The basic principle is this. I put my old food in the top, the worms eat the old food, the worms do a poo, the poo is compost that I can use in my garden, to grow my tomatoes and herbs and chillies.

It’s like having a small farm containing only worms in a bin, kind of. So just the worms. And no other animals. And no eggs or milk. Just the compost. So sort of like a small farm. Sort of.

My next garden-related challenge from Simon Gear was a challenge to grow my own veggies. Now, the tomatoes, herbs and chillies are a standard summer installation in the garden so I decided to expand a little more, to step out of my gardening comfort zone.

A friend recently told me about a grow-your-own oyster mushroom farm thing so I checked it out again and decided it fitted well with my instructions and have ordered one. The idea goes something like this – soak a paperback book in water, scatter the mushroom seeds inbetween the pages, put it in the bag they send with the seeds, leave it on a windowsill, watch your mushrooms grow. Apparently I will get about three crops from it.

Books and mushrooms, what’s not to love?!

I shall report back on both the worm farm and the mushrooms. They are due to arrive in the post any day now. Oo, you should get some too! Then we can compare notes on how our baby worms are doing, like mothers in the playground.

P. S. Following on from previous posts, I have not been to a supermarket for 12 days. So for 12 days, I have only bought or eaten food that was grown locally, by people who I have taken the time to do some research about. It feels great. I have also not taken a bath, since I was told to shower instead.

A is for…

Ok, it’s April and, as far as I remember from last year, it’s AtoZ time! I haven’t seen anything about it this year but I reckon it’s still running and it was fun last year. So I’m going to go for it. You post one letter every day, missing out Sundays and finishing on the last day of the month. So here goes…

A is for….. Abel & Cole!

There has been a revolution in my world. Following my instructions few days ago, to try and reduce my air miles while shopping, I made sure that nothing I bought had been flown in from other countries. It was difficult because the cold weather prevents very much from being grown in England at the moment but I did it and it was fun because I had to be more imaginative with the ingredients I did find.

Then I spotted an Abel & Cole catalogue someone had given me because they order with them. Abel & Cole are a company who source local products and deliver to your door. They started in South London with fruit and vegetable deliveries and now do a whole load of stuff. You can get your meat, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, food cupboard stuff, etc from them, plus things that aren’t food, like bathroom and kitchen products, toilet roll, cleaning products…. The list is endless. Most of the products are organic with but some of the meat, you have the choice of organic or non-organic. Another fabulous thing about them is that when you’re ordering online, you can check the product information to see what country it is from. And even the things which aren’t from the UK, aren’t flown in so you know you’re shopping has zero air miles. Phew!

So I took the plunge and ordered from them. When ordering meat, I included venison because I know there is a deer cull at the moment and I don’t like the idea that perfectly good food is being wasted.

My vegetables came covered in dirt which, sucker that I am for anything farmer-ish, pleased me immensely.
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All my things were delivered in cardboard boxes that I was told to fold down and leave out when my next delivery is due. All the packaging was labelled to be recycled or given back to Abel & Cole for reuse.

And suddenly, I found myself falling in love with Abel & Cole. I just love them. I can’t help myself. I tried not to fall for all the cutesy notes about recycling and the stories about where my food had come from or the note telling me that I could log on to my online account and find recipes for the things I had bought. But I fell. And I have fallen hard.

Then a whole new world opened up to me…. The world of NOT SUPERMARKET SHOPPING anymore! A thing I’d never considered. And I am very excited! Today, in fact, I am going to a farm about half an hour away to go to their farm shop to see me over until my next Abel & Cole delivery.

I love the idea of seeing where my food is coming from or having a more direct link to the people who produce it. I have logged onto the websites of the farms and fishermen who provide the things I am getting through Abel & Cole and it’s really refreshing, knowing about who is feeding me!

So far, I haven’t been to a big impersonal supermarket for five days. Let’s see how long I can go for.

Yes, I have some bananas

Hi all, it’s the guest blogger again today. Enjoy!

 

Just before getting into this week’s topic I thought I’d ask if, after last week’s post, any of you decided to do some three-word daily diary stuff. Here’s mine for the last few days:

 

Thu 31.1.13 Hospital blood test

Fri 1.2.13 Virus check done

Sat 2.2.13 Weekly shop done

Sun 3.2.13 Projector malfunction again

Mon 4.2.13 Projector fault found

Tue 5.2.13 Sun after snow

 

(A note from lazylauramaisey, mine for today is “loving new piano!”)

 

Ok so on to this week’s subject.

 

YES, I HAVE SOME BANANAS

I wonder if you know the derivation of the word BANANA? Etymologies differ and one suggests it is from a West African language spoken in Senegal & the Gambia and introduced by the Spanish & Portuguese who it’s believed first discovered the word; the other suggests an Arabic root from their word banan meaning finger. Both sound feasible; take your pick I suppose.

Banana facts: they are a good source of vitamin B6 (25% of our RDA), vitamin C (about 15% RDA for a non-smoker) & potassium (25% RDA). The fruit releases into the body dopanine and serotonin which are good for the brain. Bananas are picked green and start to ripen straight away. What actually happens to turn them from green to the yellow we’re familiar with when we eat them? After they are picked, the hormones in the fruit convert certain amino acids into ethylene gas. This gas then causes the production of enzymes that change the colour and also the texture and flavour of the banana. The reason they can arrive here still green is because they are carried in a temperature controlled environment with a certain amount of ethylene in it so that the ripening process is slowed down.

 

Check out the label here on the bananas I bought this week at my local supermarket.

 
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I wonder if you ever look at the labels on the food you buy. You may check a sell by date, best before date etc. How many of us look at the ingredients? Certainly those with allergies have no choice but anyone else is probably just rushing round as quickly as possible to get out of the supermarket or wherever the goods are on sale. I was intrigued last week to note the label on my bananas said they were a product of Ecuador; this week, as you can see in my picture, it was Cameroun. Ecuador apparently produces one third of all the bananas grown for export “in the world”. In 2004 there were 130 countries producing bananas; bear in mind the UN has 192 countries and the world has 195/6 depending on who is defining which land areas actually count as countries. That means basically two thirds of all the countries in the world produce bananas.

It got me thinking about the product. Where are the world’s bananas grown? How much? Here is a table showing production levels of the top 10 in the year 2011. However these figures are for both the main types of banana produced: plantains & dessert. Plantains are for cooking; dessert are the sweeter, and for eating raw out of the skin. You can see that Ecuador, supplier of last week’s bananas, is the 5th largest producer; Cameroon is 9th.

 

# 1 India: 29,700,000 metric tonnes

# 2 Uganda: 11,100,000 metric tonnes

# 3 China: 10,700,000 metric tonnes

# 4 Philippines: 9,200,000 metric tonnes

# 5 Ecuador: 8,000,000 metric tonnes

# 6 Brazil: 7,300,000 metric tonnes

# 7 Indonesia: 6,100,000 metric tonnes

# 8 Colombia: 5,100,000 metric tonnes

# 9 Cameroon: 850,000 metric tonnes

# 10 Tanzania: 3,900,000 metric tonnes

 

In terms of exports the order is 1.Ecuador 2.Costa Rica 3.Colombia 4.Philippines 5.Guatemala

However as we go about our weekly shopping do we think about how the supermarkets are able to bring us this fruit at such a cheap price. My bunch of 5 bananas weighed almost spot on 1kg so about 200g each; they cost me £0.79 ($1.25). They’re very good value. But how is this possible?

Think about this – the journey time by sea, on one of the largest shipping lines in the world, is about 28/29 days from the port of Douala (Cameroon) to Felixstowe (UK). Bananas require a temperature-controlled container for transport to keep them fresh (13.5-15⁰C). They then have to have an artificial ripening process, as they’re shipped very green, followed by delivery across the UK to warehouses and stores that need the supplies. There are a lot of links in the chain from producer to consumer.

 

Today’s world production of bananas is controlled by 4 companies nicknamed “The Wild Bunch”: Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte, Noboa

 

On the website freshplaza.com/news there is a headline “UK Supermarket blamed” & “Documentary exposes exploitation of banana workers in Cameroon”. You can read about a Scottish film maker, Jan Nimmo who got access to some of the plantations in Cameroon. She reported on the adverse conditions that employees are having to work in. Perhaps this is why my bananas are cheap. The difficulty is in knowing whether it is the supermarkets that drive down the price they’re willing to pay to their suppliers or whether it is unscrupulous bosses at the supply end who force workers to accept low wages to maximise their own profits; or maybe it’s a bit of both.

Perhaps next time I go I’ll look for the ones with the Fairtrade stickers on. I read that Sainsbury’s switched to getting their bananas from only Fairtrade producers over 5 years ago. The benefits to the local communities where these agreements are in place really do make a difference and in some cases mean that producers no longer have to take risks crossing borders to get better prices for their goods. Fairtrade purchases by the supermarket, in the Windward Islands (Dominica, St Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada), have resulted in local communities being able to buy computers for schools, fund scholarships, sponsor a school bus and bus shelters as well as enabling local farmers to invest back into their own businesses. It is reckoned that about 10 million Fairtrade bananas, from the Windward Islands and South America were consumed at the London Olympics.

 

Anyone fancy some Banana Trivia?

Here we go then:

 

1- Canadians eat approximately 3 billion bananas a year.

2- Bananas do not grow on trees. They grow on the largest grass in the world.

3- 90% of the world’s bananas are NOT grown for export

4. 99% of bananas grown for export are of the Cavendish variety.

5. Four million 40lb boxes of bananas are imported into North America every year.

6. In 1998, the entire banana crop of Honduras was wiped out by Hurricane Mitch.

7. Bananas are the fourth most important staple food crop in the world.

8. Bananas were first imported to the UK in 1878 from the Canary Islands by Fyffe, Hudson & Co

 

What about bananas in songs?

 

If you fancy watching this check it out. It’s the video for the song Juanita Banana. If you don’t think you can make it through the whole 2.5 minutes just go to the point where the lady starts wailing. It’s worth it just for that bit!

 

 

The song tells the story of a Mexican banana farmer’s daughter who has operatic ambitions and with a chorus which is an adaptation of Caro Nome from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto. Just the sort of subject for a song you’d think of writing – right?

 

You’ve got to have a watch of this one as it gives you the deep meaning lyrics. It’s the Banana Boat Song. I’m sure you’ll recognise it as soon as you hear the opening lines:

 

 

You think this is a joke song? Just wait till you see who’s covered it: Shirley Bassey, Harry Belafonte, a group called A Bunch Of Coconuts & Stan Freberg. It’s even been used in the film Beetlejuice.(Check out that version on Youtube if you’re interested.)

Also remember that 1967 album by the Velvet Underground & Nico with this cover:

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And finally – how about banana art? Check this one out:

 

http://www.jungilpark.com/banana-art.html

 

Then ask yourself – how long will this stuff last once the skin starts to age. It’s clever but it’s not going to last. I guess that’s why he’s got the pictures.

 

And all that from a tiny oval sticker on my bunch of bananas. Food for thought anyway!

 

Brave New Supermarket

It’s Wednesday and time for my guest Blogger to take over again. Enjoy it!

I’ve borrowed two-thirds of the title for this week from, as you will know doubt recognise, the famous Aldous Huxley novel. This is not because I’m going to try and emulate his literary prowess but because the words encapsulate what I’m going to write about today. You will need to have a good and creative imagination but I hope you will be able to embrace the idea that follows.

However, before getting “stuck in”, as we say, I couldn’t resist a couple of bits of trivia connections. You may remember the blog on 27.9.12 (The Lion Saltworks and Anderton Boat Lift) which mentioned the discovery of polythene at one of the Brunner Mond Company sites in Northwich (Cheshire). Well, in the 1920s, Aldous Huxley actually worked for a time at another Brunner Mond chemical plant in Billingham (Teeside, North-East England) and it is believed that the name of his character Mustapha Mond (in Brave New World) owes something to his experience there. (Mustapha comes from Mustapha Kemal Atatürk, 1881-1938, the first president of Turkey.) In a previous blog, 20.6.12 (The end of freedom) I mentioned Plato’s The Republic in which he wrote about the way society would function better if people were categorised into different classes. The difficulty for us is that he wanted people to remain within that class for the duration of their lives. Huxley takes up this theme but goes even further with the idea. The State will control the birth process of human beings who would fulfil each of the functions required; further control was to be imposed by limiting how far each person could develop intellectually & physically in order to prevent people moving from that particular class. Now we’re seriously into eugenics.

Ok so back to today’s subject. You remember the blog 17.10.12 (The reality (?) of mobile phones)in which I mentioned my frustrations on a supermarket visit. I was thinking of how, when the shop gets crowded, people are bumping into each other’s trolleys and can’t get to shelves because people are blocking their way. I also did think about a way round this and this is where my new scheme, my original idea, comes in. Before you dismiss it just think about it and I hope you will see the advantages.

The first thing to say is that what you are about to read is revolutionary, in more ways than one. (You will see why soon enough.) Instead of going into the shop you will remain outside at all times. (The outside area will of course be covered so in bad weather you are protected from the elements.)

You begin by backing your car into a marked bay which is at right angles to the shop. Once in the bay a barrier comes down in front of your car which does not lift until you have paid the bill. The marked bay is close to a revolving belt, similar to the idea in an airport at the baggage reclaim but in this case it is horizontal not angled. The customer chooses the items they want from a computer touch screen next to their parking bay and revolving belt. This belt moves clockwise in a rectangular loop into one end of the shop and out of the other. Inside there is a belt down the centre of each aisle which goes back underneath to the start point of the aisle. It’s a vertical loop instead of the horizontal one which takes the stuff outside. There is sufficient space either side of the belt for staff to walk up and down to the items required by the customers outside. It is slightly higher than the main belt and at right angles to it. It deposits items picked onto the rectangular loop which then carries the item outside to the waiting customers who simply pick them up and scan them before putting them in their bags or directly into their car boot. Each item has the bay number which ordered it on a sticky label or tag. The customer then scans it to confirm the order or replaces it if not right item. Once you have all your items you simply press “Finish & Pay”. (Remember the barrier won’t lift on the parking bay until you have paid.) Here is a rough drawing of how the system would look. Please excuse the quality (art is not one of my gifts – and I did say rough):

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Line drawing of scheme at supermarket

Of course depending on the size of the supermarket they may be able to fit 20, 30 or more cars along the front. I used 15 just for illustration purposes. I’ve also considered the option of allowing people to send their orders through on the internet with an ETA so that most of their stuff, if not all, can be got ready to go on the belt when they are parked in a bay confirming their arrival.

Now just think about that. No more wandering up and down aisles; no more getting blocked by insensitive shoppers on mobile phones or chit-chatting with their friends in the middle of the aisles; no more queuing at the check outs; no more trolley pushing (so shop won’t need them any more!). How good is that?

I feel a visit to the patent office coming on, followed by Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda (Walmart).

The walking test

Happy Thursday all. It’s time for my guest blogger to take over again, so here goes. Enjoy!

 

Is it just me or does this happen to you? You’re walking along behind someone when they suddenly, without warning, just stop. Then you notice they’re either on the phone or doing something with their phone or they’ve stopped to tell their child off for something. You do a kind of side-step to avoid walking into them while they seem completely oblivious to the problem they’ve created. Last week I mentioned the incident, in my local supermarket, of someone talking on a mobile phone and leaving their trolley blocking the aisle. (This week, by the way, went without a hitch – result!)

I’ve been thinking of how this problem could be solved. My solution is quite revolutionary (in Rambler-opolis, anyway) – pedestrian lights. That is pedestrian brake lights (& side lights for when walking at night). Now, before you laugh, just bear with me while I explain. They would be positioned on your shoulders with the red lens facing to the back. They could be powered by a small watch size battery. Every pedestrian would have to have them so that people walking behind would know when the person was going to stop (as the red brake light would go on) and can then take avoiding action. Now I’m not sure at this stage whether indicator lights could be added. Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell which way a person was going to turn especially if you were going to do an overtaking manoeuvre just by the lights on their shoulders?

Think about this – we don’t allow people to fly planes, drive trains, captain ships, ride motorbikes or scooters, drive trucks or any vehicle without passing a test. However when it comes to the pavement (sidewalk) we seem to just let anyone do whatever they want. Just as you have to pass a test to drive a vehicle on the road I think there should be a “Walking Test” before you’re allowed out on the pavements. (Kids would be exempt until they reach a certain age.) Until such time as you pass the test you wear an “L” badge (front and back). Once you’ve passed you get a pedestrian licence or walking permit. There’d be an equivalent to the Highway Code for pedestrians – a Pavement Code, maybe? There would also be a Pedestrian Police Force who could catch people breaking the rules; they should definitely catch people talking on their mobile phone whilst walking – this is a big “No-No”. (They could also breathalyse people if they suspect they are “walking under the influence of alcohol”.) In Rambleropolis if you want to answer the phone you must walk to the side of the pavement away from the road where there will be a white line marking an area for stationary pedestrians. It will be roughly the width of one person. (The area could be also used by those wanting to tie up a shoelace that has come undone or adjust their tie or dress in general.) If you are using your phone you should remain still, in this marked area, for the duration of the call. You must stop walking. Once the call, or whatever you’re doing, is over you should check behind to make sure no-one is coming and then cross the line and resume walking in the main area. How easy is that?

This would definitely introduce a bit more order to the chaos of people just walking wherever they want. Then we could look at some more measures like pedestrian speed cameras. This would bring even more order to our pavements. Running would not be allowed as it’s dangerous to those moving more slowly and older folks. Speed cameras would pick up those who disobey, say those exceeding 6mph. Further on as systems develop I think maybe we could develop the idea of a white line down the centre of the pavement. That certainly would be worth looking into. Failing a driving test is something you talk about with your friends & relatives but imagine the shame of failing your pedestrian test. Yes, I think this would really spur people on to be good citizens.

(As a quick aside here, I think there should also be a test for people using trolleys in supermarkets that would include how to position the trolley whilst thinking about what to buy or whilst talking on a mobile phone!)

I can see quite a few nodding heads. I know what you’re thinking – why has no-one ever thought of something like this before? Well to be honest I was wondering that too. I can’t see too many problems with my idea so far so I think it’s off down to the patent office tomorrow to protect my idea from anyone trying to steal it and make a fortune. Remember, in a few years time, when everyone is wearing my invention, you read it first here! I would of course expect to earn sizeable sums of money from the royalties of my idea and will probably buy a decent car with a chauffeur so don’t expect to meet me on the pavement! Oh and finally would like to just wish you all “Happy Walking”.

The reality (?) of mobile phones

It’s my guest blogger’s turn to take over today. Enjoy!

 

Last week I went to the supermarket. Nothing strange in that except what should have been a straightforward, weekly event for me turned into a nightmare. How so?

Let’s begin with the car journey: it’s less than 1 mile. There is one set of traffic lights on the route. It is red when I get there. I’m second in the queue. I wait, like everyone else. Light goes amber then green, outside lane moves off, my lane doesn’t. As I look at the driver in front, the person has a mobile phone held to their ear and is obviously not paying attention to the traffic lights. After a couple of seconds I beep my horn and they wake up and start driving. I’m not convinced they finished the call but at least they put the phone down.

Now I’m approaching the supermarket entrance. A lady is walking back and to and side-to-side on the pavement. She is actually shouting and doesn’t see me trying to get past. As she turns round I see she is on the phone. She is having an argument in raised tones. She is telling the person on the other end: “You get out of my house RIGHT NOW!!” and this is followed by words I can only represent by ******* being said many times. She is blocking the pavement and I have to walk into the road to get around her so I can get to the trolley area. That’s two mobile obsessed people and I haven’t even got in the door yet!

I have a list. I grab my trolley and move quickly inside. I know exactly where I’m going and which aisles I need to be in. I speed through the first three aisles grabbing everything I need. I turn the corner into aisle 4 and, as I make my way down to the shelf I need, I see a problem. I can’t get to it. There is a person talking on their mobile phone but holding their trolley at right angles to the shelves so it is actually blocking the aisle. Why do people do that? I can’t get past. I wait a bit but no reaction.

Time for tactic no.2 – crash, apparently accidentally, into said trolley pretending to be looking the other way. Person looks round and moves trolley out of the way. They don’t stop the phone conversation. I carry on. Soon I’m at the last aisle and heading for the freezers as my last stop. I finish there in just a couple of mins with the items on my list going swiftly into the trolley. Time for the checkout. My bags which I’m going to re-use to collect my green points on to the loyalty card are ready, my bank card is ready, money off vouchers are ready. This supermarket has 15 checkouts but on a Monday morning at opening time (8.00am) they have only one or two with staff. Today it’s one but fortunately for me only one person is in the queue. It’s 8.25 and I’m doing well and should make it back home before the roads get clogged with school traffic which they will by about 8.40am. The person in front begins to unload their trolley and then I hear this ringing noise. Yep you’ve guessed it – their mobile phone! Now if I’m emptying my trolley onto a supermarket checkout belt answering the phone is simply a non-starter. I’ll get to the call later. (Just like if I’m talking to someone face-to-face and my phone rings, I don’t answer. That person is who I’m giving my attention to and I would consider it rude of me to just expect them to wait while I answer a call.)

However I’m not this person and they answer the call and then carry on a discussion while trying to put all their stuff onto the belt. Not surprisingly they now start moving more slowly so they can concentrate on what is being said. The fact that there is a person standing behind seems to be of no importance to them. Then they proceed to stack the trolley with the checked items from the cashier one-handed! The conversation goes on. It’s payment time and now out comes the purse, again one-handed, and then much fumbling through to find the right card to pay. Did they apologise for holding me up? What do you think? Oh well. Finally I get out and to the road near my house. I’m just too late to beat the standing traffic. The tailbacks are caused because there are two lollipop ladies, who are of just a few hundred yards apart on this road, who help children to cross safely. Of course it’s not them I’m complaining about. It’s their job to help the kids over the road and if they weren’t there the kids wouldn’t be able to get to the school. So there it is.

I’d been out of the house for less than 1 hour and FOUR yes 4 people had thought their phone calls were more important than letting the world go about its business in an unobstructed way. Let’s be honest – the calls weren’t that important. Not one of them was an emergency call. No-one dropped their bags and ran to the hospital or drove round the next corner on two wheels. Even the lady telling the person to get out of her house stayed where she was. Going shopping shouldn’t be that hard should it? But that day it was.

I’m sure you’ve all got examples of how people get so wrapped up in their phones that they don’t realise what’s going on around them. That’s why there was a question mark behind the word “reality” in the title of today’s post. I really do wonder, when answering their mobiles, if people actually just go into a different world – a mobile world. It’s a world which says, “Look at me, what I’m doing is more important than anything you folks in the real world want to do. You’ll have to wait because I’m on my phone!!” (Maybe for some it’s even a case of “I know it will wind you up if I take this call so I’ll take it in order to wind you up!”)

Most of the time it’s not a problem but there are a number of cases where accidents, sometimes fatal, have been caused by people using mobile phones inappropriately. Honestly would you want to be responsible for something like that. Of course you wouldn’t. And that’s what I tell myself every time the phone rings when I’m driving. Leave it. Get to it later when I stop or pull over if I think it’s something I have to deal with there and then.

I’ve been having a few thoughts in this direction and will run them by you next week. I think I may be onto something.