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14th March 2005

Supermarket Evils and a brief history of my local area (A moan in epic proportions) @ 16:46

Current Grassiness: discontent discontent

Supermarkets are evil.

That is a fact. They conspire with their convienienceness and buying power to trap us all into a false sense of worth making us fat, apathetic and unwittingly unethical. They must be stopped before it is too late....But maybe it is already too late! Parsnip vending malnutricious community killers!



I am old enough to remember a time when supermarkets were nought but shops of novelty value and people shopped in several shops. If you wanted meat? - go to the butcher; veg? - the greengrocer; fish? - the fish monger; parsnips? - well you're on your own with that one...and so on. Then came the supermarkets....A case in point is the urban village, Woolton, in which I grew up in. I've mentioned this before and I'll mention it again. When I was a young 'un the village I lived in had at least 2 butchers, a fishmonger, several green grocers and a little co-op selling whatever else you couldn't get. There existed a shopping centre about a mile away on a "new" estate , Belle Vale, (I say new but the estate was already at least ten years old and falling apart at the seams) The shopping center had two supermarkets, Tescos, which most Brits will remember and Cordon Bleu, which was a kind of new idea where there would be loads of chest freezers containing ready meals and frozen goods. [Frozen goods were still kind of new...not many people had freezers as they were still quite expensive and people tended to have small fridges with iceboxes] The center also had butchers, bakers, fishmongers, greengrocers, a Woolworths, clothes shops and the like. [Belle Vale Shopping centre now has a huge newly built Morrisons (Tescos having gone up market now and moved to new premises), a Wilkinsons hardware kind of thing, several clothing outlets for Chavsters, smelly pasty shops selling smelly pasties, a scruffy newsagent (plenty of top shelf material) and a few pov shops for those who have no shame about buying frozen Chilli con Carne containing 20% "meat" of undisclosed origin, factory farmed frozen possibly unfit for human/cat/mammal consumption carcasses and other completely unhealthy 10% fat free foodstuffs.)]. People would shop in different shops. They would take their time spend time chatting to the shop keepers and other shoppers. Life was rosy and pleasant.

As time passed, a new supermarket, Sainsburys, opened in the village. This was the villages death knell. Within a few years the butchers had closed, the fishmongers converted into a travel agents, greengrocers into estate agents and Chavpalaces, the Co-Op had a brief life as a Toy shop but was turned into a bar for those who know the landlord (if you don't know the landlord don't expect good service). The village, on its knees, turned round a few years later and offered its already bleeding anus toward the supermarket behemoth that is Tesco for a final stab at corporate rape.

I hate supermarkets. I hate their wide aisles, shopper psychology tricks, the gaunt soulless staff, the insipid ready meals and prepacked foods, the corporate greed and faux happy face. If possible I will avoid them. Yeah I'll admit that I have been in them on purpose. I'll also confess that until recently I would go into them without any gripe or groan. But not anymore. I feel like I am a sleeper that has awoken to the lies and deception that supermarkets feed. The most recent time before last I awoke from my stupor, I noticed the tricks that they use so you buy unnecessary things, I saw how they coax you into "Somehow popping in for a couple of things and leaving with an entire shopping trolley", I watched as bored husbands followed their soulless wives through the clothes section and how impatient mums chastised their bored convenience food demanding brats who were chirping like cuckoos for worms. I observed how they skilfully place healthy food next to "really bad for you" convenience goods. How they price to the point of extortion the healthy options forcing those who cannot afford it to buy shitty fatty foods.

Then on closer inspection of the foodstuffs in the aisles the "ooh that cake looks nice" transformed into "No that cake is full of fat and will kill you", the "oooh I really fancy that" transmogrified into "How much salt? Ye Gads! Thats the equivalent of a weeks reccomended fat intake!" the spell from the Asphodel of temptation that is Tescos had failed to work on me and in one painful hour I had realised more than they would normally allow without proclaiming that I was a weirdo and having me discredited in the local press.

So I have tried for the past few weeks to avoid the evil demon of convenience. Tried my damn hardest. Shopping in the farm shop and attempting to subsist on a diet of farm shop meat and veg. The farm shop is a pleasant enough place. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am until 6pm. Selling meat from its own back yard (literally), local food such as honey from local bee keepers, black pudding from local black pudding factories, sausages and bacon from an independent local sausage and bacon maker, jams and local veg and fruit (though I'lll confess I haven't seen many Banana trees in Halewood). Alas they sell not bread (milk comes via the milk man). But the environment is a happy one. The owners are always glad to chat. You can see next Sundays roast lolloping in the field behind the shop. Its such a difference.

Having time off last week allowed me to shop locally. I managed to shop in a proper butchers (admittedly just for sausages), I got fish from the Fish van (this is a van that sells locally caught fish) and had I had time I would no doubt have popped into the local bakers and got some fresh bread. Again I had a revelation. Why hadnt I been to these shops before?

I'll tell you....

They shut at 5.

I finish work at 5.

The last thing I want to do on a Saturday is shop.

Supermarkets have us by the balls of convenience. Open 24hrs. Never running out of goods. Everything under one roof. With a handy car park so you can do your more convenient monthly shop instead of running round several shops. You think to yourself that you dont have far to walk because you are only going into one shop. LIES! you have exactly the same amount of foot work to do as you shove your trolley soullessly round the building while having your ears assaulted by piped musak.

They know that working people are unable to make it to independent retailers.

They know that they have the buying power to out sell their competitors.

They know that they will always have a devout following of accolytes bend on stuffing themselves with tasteless convenience.

They know that their conveniently supplied out of season stocks of fruit and veg will sell. Knowing that the people buying them dont give two fucks about the amount of polution the transport of such produces.

And when all the local shops have closed and been converted into luxury flats/trendy bars/estate agents. When all the village and town markets have been abandoned and turned into outlets for stolen goods, bric-a-brac and tat. The value for money side of supermarkets will no longer be apparent. We will have no other retailer to compare to other than other supermarkets. We will have no refuge from their demonic "Eat me/Drink me" subliminal advertising and we will all become soulless zombies pushing trolleys laden with overpriced undernutritional processed food.



I'd go on...with a poll....but the local shop shuts in a bit......and I haven't got time...
 
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From:celticblissy
Date:14th March 2005 09:05 (UTC)
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Umm...I thought you were only a few years older than me. Yet you sound like somebody from the 60's here.

I have only ever known supermarkets to be the dominant thing. Sure there have been greengrocers and butchers and fishmongers but they in my lifetime were a place to go to if you ran out of stuff midweek.

Also on freezers? Umm as long as I have lived just about everyone has had one and they were not expensive and a novelty.

You sure you were not thrown forward in time at some point in your life? :)
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:32 (UTC)
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You sure you were not thrown forward in time at some point in your life? :)

I may well have been! ;-) I do remember a time when my family and other people in our street didnt have a deep freezer. I wont say that noone had a freezer as that would be untrue indeed, most of the "well to do" families in my street had freezers (and it was a fairly "well to do" area). Of course it could be that my folks and others had cunningly hidden the freezer somewhere and I am mistaken. But I definately remember freezer orientated supermarkets...

And again I may be mistaken about the Supermarkets, however when my folks did their shopping it was a visit to two supermarkets (Kwikky and Tescos) because one had stuff the other didnt and also a trawl around the various vendors in the village or Belle Vale shopping centre. I even remember the butcher (a portly gentleman, mutton chops, very curly dark hair and a moustache) with mosaics of cows and sheeps on his shop wall, the smell of sawdust and fresh meat. That was until he closed and a new Asda opened up in Widnes. Then we would go to the Asda in Widnes and get a months worth of food to store in our new little freezer...

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From:celticblissy
Date:15th March 2005 03:52 (UTC)
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Yeah there were more butchers and the like around. But as I said they tended to get used as a place to buy from if you needed stuff in the week, back then and I am talking late 70's and early 80's most people were using supermarkets.

As too freezers I remember in my household we had one seperate from the fridge back then. It was one of those ones that was more like a trunk than something upright with shelves. Whenever I see the Snowman with that scene of him getting into the freezer I think of that. :)

That will have been when I was between the ages of birth and about 5 before we got a combined fridge freezer. Perhaps it was the combined ones that were more rare back then. :)

I know you don't like supermarkets for what they do to the smaller shops and I can sympathise with those business owners. But when you are very poor like me the low prices a supermarket brings helps you survive and eat.
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From:brusse
Date:14th March 2005 09:13 (UTC)
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I visited the UK for the first time last year. When I was in the food stores, I was a bit surprised by the enormous selection of ready-made meals, and nearly complete lack of fresh produce! I always go to food stores whereever I travel, it gives a bit of insight in the everyday life.

We're the same age, but since my childhood was spent mostly in the US, I'm so used to supermarkets. Still, supermarkets here in Norway (not nearly as large as yours) still carry a lot of fresh meats, fish and produce. The selection of ready-made meals, besides pizza, is quite limited. We've had all-in-one food stores a long time in Norway, it gets too cold to run in and out of shops, especially in snow storms.

Also about Britain; I was in Scotland and London, why couldn't I find any other affordable lunches than greasy fast-food or soggy pre-packaged sandwiches? Those pre-packaged sandwiches were everywhere!
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From:celticblissy
Date:14th March 2005 09:18 (UTC)
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Which supermarkets did you go to here? Some are like that others are not. Kwiksave and Iceland and the likes are terrible on fresh produce. Sainsbury's, Tesco and I imagine Asda are good with very large sections for vegatabler and have in store butchers and fishmongers.
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From:brusse
Date:14th March 2005 09:46 (UTC)
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Hmm, I was at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer. But only in the city centres of Glasgow and London, they were probably "express" filials.
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From:celticblissy
Date:14th March 2005 10:40 (UTC)
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Yeah those are the express types.

The big ones are in the suburbs which have a far bigger selection of fresh produce. :)
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:41 (UTC)
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Those pre-packaged sandwiches were everywhere!

And theyre not all that tasty either. I tend only to get them as a last resort (ie theres nothing else or I havent got time for anything else). I will frequent local sandwich bars and have a freshly made one...though these too become bland and samey eventually.

I will say the selection of fresh foods in Britsupermakets has improved in the last few years with increasing consumer demand. However I find the vegetables "artificial" looking. Bananas too yellow or straight, apples too shiney and spherical, meat just that little shade of red too red. When I go to local shops their selection tends to be more....rustic....dirty potatos that you have to wash and scrub, carrots with knobbly bits, parsnips that look like penises, fish that looks a bit yellow, that kind of thing.

Supermarkets will say that this is because they find it hard to shift the misshapes. This may be true but theres something warming and wholesome about finding a carrot with knobbly bits...
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From:miltonic_satan
Date:14th March 2005 09:52 (UTC)
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California grows a tremendous amount of the produce in the United States, so all our supermarkets have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. But I see where you're coming from with a lot of this. The problem here is, I don't know if there are any small grocers, butchers, etc. in this area. Stater Brothers, the major supermarket in the "Inland Empire" (area south of LA and north of San Diego) owns so much land it boggles my mind. I only found out upon moving back, but it turns out that everywhere there is a Stater Bros and a shopping center, the Stater Bros owns the shopping center and rents out to the other businesses.... It's secretly the strongest business in the entire area.... But they're better than, say, Wal*Mart because even the box boys who work for Staters get health insurance! I think all in all we probably can't much compare supermarkets in Britland and the States ... probably different approaches entirely. Although, yes, they do serve as strong bastions of that shitty Now!culture.
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:44 (UTC)
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Its a mishmash of the Now! Culture and the global pandemic of capitalism. I feel that it is no longer the case that the consumer expresses demand but the multinational supermarket companies (Wal*Mart for example) that tell you that you WILL buy this/that/the other and are more likely to use dirty tactics such as product placement, musak and other psychological weapons....
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From:think4yrself
Date:14th March 2005 10:05 (UTC)
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Although I don't think the supermarkets here are quite as bad as far as fresh produce is concerned, you definitely do have a point. I especially hate the way it takes me ages to find everything I need in a supermarket. And not everything's cheaper than in smaller shops either, which is what they want us to believe. Furthermore, supermarkets are harder for people without cars like me to reach.
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From:brusse
Date:14th March 2005 11:15 (UTC)
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I was quite astounded by the size of the KKKK store at Itäkeskus outside Helsinki!
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:46 (UTC)
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i hear tell of a different breed of "Euro supermarket"...the insidious Hypermarket....**shudder**
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From:celticblissy
Date:14th March 2005 10:43 (UTC)
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Oh here it really is true that supermarkets are far cheaper.

I am on a small budget being unemployed right now so i really notice the difference in prices. When i go to the local smaller shops around here to pick up a few things I find they cost way more than a supermarket.

Tescos, as much as I hate how well they are doing and as much as they are not as good for food as Sainsbury's are very very cheap which is good for me.
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From:think4yrself
Date:14th March 2005 11:17 (UTC)
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I hear you! A lot of things certainly are cheaper at supermarkets, which is my main reason for going to them as well.
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:49 (UTC)
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When i go to the local smaller shops around here to pick up a few things I find they cost way more than a supermarket.

Is that on Allerton Road?
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From:celticblissy
Date:15th March 2005 03:54 (UTC)
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Nah. If I was going to Allerton road I would just go to the Tescos on Roselane/mather Avenue instead (which is where I actually do my main shop)

I am talking about the little shops a few roads away behind my flat tucked away out of sighe.
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From:stumpwater
Date:14th March 2005 11:19 (UTC)

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Speakest thou against Sainsbury's???
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:50 (UTC)
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Not at all. Sainsburies has all the goodness of fresh goods and is Jamie Oliver endorsed....which is a winner by my reckoning...:-\
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From:celticblissy
Date:15th March 2005 03:55 (UTC)
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Sainsbury's are my fave by far but why or why are they so expensive? :(
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From:storm1jet2
Date:14th March 2005 11:35 (UTC)
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I live in a place called Glengormley, affectionately known as grim gormley. We have a Tescos. We also have 3 butchers, 2 fruit shops a bakery etc.. but as you say - I get home from work, they are shut!
I end up in Tesco or Sainsburys 9 times out of 10! Or I go to the fruit shop in Dromore, where I work - the fruit is good but its pretty expensive!
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:51 (UTC)
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Bet the fruit and veg in your little fruit shop is a lot nice looking too...not all plasticy and unnaturally straight.

Knobbly carrots is where its at!
From:das_clive
Date:14th March 2005 23:10 (UTC)
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I'm with you dude. I love the little shops, and the local market stalls. The produce is generally much tastier, having been produced by local farmers and stuff. And you get a friendly, personal service. They're coooool. I might open one, one day. Cat the greengrocer. Hee. :)
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:53 (UTC)
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Oooh I could see that....Cats Greengrocers...with knobbly carrots! That would rock!
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From:lotusmoppet
Date:15th March 2005 00:33 (UTC)
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*nods*

But is it because you're shopping in an area where there are lots of people supported by their spouses?

Weird question - except that the reason the darling little shops close early around here is that I live in an area where there are tons - TONS of women surviving off their partners (not that there's anything wrong with that for most people - I just can't take some of the women in my neighborhood) and shopping during the day while their nannies get their kids to and from school, music and language lessons, etc.

Just a thought...

Also: "oooh I really fancy that" transmogrified into "How much salt? Ye Gads! Thats the equivalent of a weeks reccomended fat intake!"

So true, and so sad.
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From:stegzy
Date:15th March 2005 02:59 (UTC)
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is it because you're shopping in an area where there are lots of people supported by their spouses?

There is a high population of retired folk as well. However on a recent visit to Stoke Newington in London I was amazed at the little shops selling fruit, veg and meat that stayed open up until about 11 at night. I guess this is to accomodate those that work shifts or work long hours. The days of closing at 5 are well passed in some areas....


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