Recently, I have noticed in my local Tesco that the shelves that house the heavily discounted foodstuffs that are passing their sell-by date have been situated by the management next to the long queue that now trails from the increasingly popular self-service check-out. This causes great congestion. I cannot refrain from taking a Tesco employee by the arm to explain: “The one place you shouldn’t be putting the discount foodstuffs,” I say, “is there”, as I point to the Black Friday ruck at the corner of the aisle. The Tesco employee looks at me as though at a visitor from the galaxy of Andromeda. Last week I made this point three times to three separate employees. I cannot still the voice within. It will out. On Friday I was coincidentally approached by a Tesco survey taker with a questionnaire clip-board, who asked me a range of anodyne questions about staff/stuff/service and whether they were mediocre/satisfactory/excellent. I gave quick answers to these daft questions before getting on to my specialist topic. “There is” I explained, “a novel written almost 150 years ago about the first big stores in Paris (I was referring to Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames) where the shop manager shifts all the products around the shop every couple of months to disorientate the customers and make them encounter unfamiliar products, spending more time in the shop and so spending more money. I note that in Tesco you are still doing that, shifting stuff around not for the customers’ convenience but for your own commercial benefit. But when there is an actual real reason for changing the position of something which would actually result in a more pleasant shopping environment, nobody notices, nobody cares.” I flourish my right hand at the offending area. When I look up, the Tesco employee has a frozen smile posted up and her eyes are looking off to the side for help.
Memo to self: just shut up.