Supermarket shopping vs sanity

The nearest supermarket to me is a massive Tesco. The second nearest is a Lidl. I’ve taken to walking the extra five minutes to Lidl lately. Partly, it’s because the quality is often better. Partly, because it’s cheaper. Mostly, though, because it’s much less stressful.

Actually, to say Lidl is cheaper is not strictly true: at any time half the products in Tesco are on some kind of discount or multi-buy deal. Being offered a discount if you buy 72 rolls of toilet paper is just a kick in the teeth for anyone visiting on foot, though.

If you dutifully use your Clubcard each time you shop at Tesco then—in exchange for helping them build up a profile of exactly who you are—they’ll occasionally send you a booklet of coupons that, if you buy the right things at the right time and present the right coupon at the till, might save you some money. (Note, however, that the self-service till will give up and cry for help if you try to use more than two coupons in a transaction.)

The whole experience feels designed to obfuscate the true cost of anything. It might be possible to shop at Tesco more cheaply if you’re willing and able to buy and store large quantities and keep track of dozens of coupons on every visit.

I’m not, so Lidl is cheaper. And I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper anyway. But it’s also better because it’s smaller. They don’t stock everything, but they do stock about 95% of the things I buy on a regular basis. More importantly, I can find the things I’m looking for.

In Tesco, I spend ages wandering what seems like a kilometre of aisles, ablating my sanity as I strain at the edge of my brain’s pattern-matching abilities trying to locate the item I want within the bizarre ontology of the store.

In my mind, I’d expect items to be sorted according to what they are. I’d expect to find honey and maple syrup and golden syrup close together, for example. In Tesco, however, they’re sorted according to some person’s concept of how you’re supposed to use them, so honey and beef sandwich paste share a shelf (things that you spread on bread) and maple syrup is over at the other end of the shop next to brown sauce (things that you pour onto breakfast). Spices are found in about six different locations, divided according to the ethnic origin of the dishes in which they’re used. Nuts can be found among the vegetables, next to the flour, in the woo-woo ‘whole foods’ section, or with the crisps.

I come out stressed, and often empty-handed, having failed to find what I came for. And that’s why I try to avoid going into Tesco in the first place. I will never understand a mind that thinks that honey and meat paste should be classified together.

Why it’s hard to make eye contact with drivers

Transport for London are running a campaign urging cyclists to make eye contact with drivers. It’s a great idea in principle. Unfortunately, it’s not possible in practice. More…

The scandal of the £360,000 carpets

In today’s Daily Telegraph, we learn that Members of Parliament are to get new carpets in their offices.

Portcullis House, where many MPs have their offices, is to have new carpets fitted at a cost of £360,000 to the taxpayer

That sounds scandalous and extravagant, doesn’t it? But let’s do the sums. More…

Skimmer, deuxième partie

Previously on Skimmer: on Sunday, your protagonist discovered a suspicious-looking whirring bezel stuck on the hacked-up front of an RBS cash machine and reported it to the operators. On Monday, he observed the same cash machine, now out of order, but continuing to sport the peculiar modification. And now, the continuation …

This evening (Tuesday), I returned to reconnoitre the ATM in question. It’s now back in service, with the funny bezel still in place. More…

Skimmer

I discovered a card skimmer on a cash machine on Sunday morning. More…

Older entries can be found in the diary section.