Ditch trolleys. Baskets only from now on

March 23, 2020 § Leave a comment

Baskets only from now on
Supermarkets: Get rid of trolleys and make people use baskets

To properly limit food sales supermarkets need to get rid of trolleys so that customers can only shop with baskets.

Less food would fly off the shelves and certainly slower than at the current hysterical rate.

Supermarkets could easily have worked this out for themselves – so what am I missing?

The panic buying that’s going on is selfish and horrible. People are finding ways round the ‘limits’ that supermarkets are imposing on customers to make sure that their family is alright. They would prefer to take every member of the family, each of them to fill a trolley to the max, so that they have food, even though they know that it will deny NHS workers and the vulnerable basic and essential goods.

Therefore a ‘limit’ of 2 packs of toilet rolls becomes 8 or 10 packs of rolls per customer in reality when all the family have filled their trolleys.

I’m naive. I didn’t even realise that people were doing this until a sales assistant in Waitrose told me about it as I was looking at empty shelves. So the supermarket is well aware of what’s happening. I don’t want to single out Waitrose because I’m sure the the same is true of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and the rest.

I picked up another story (online so I know I’m not giving anything away) about people filling their trolley, leaving the supermarket to pack it all into the car and then going back in for more. Sales assistants wouldn’t actually remember the customer’s face – who anyway would probably choose another assistant to serve them or alternatively select self-checkout. And what could happen anyway if the sales assistant DID notice that the customer had returned?

Of course, customers will find a way round an attempt to limit food sales by shopping with baskets. But baskets will be much more inconvenient for them than loading up trolleys full of food and loo rolls.

This panic buying is getting ridiculous!!

March 10, 2020 § Leave a comment

I am seriously shocked by the panic buying that’s going on and even more by the choice of goods that are being panic bought.

Come on, Pot Noodles! Have the people stockpiling Pot Noodles ever eaten them before? You’d think not…

This is 100 per cent a true story: I walked into Windsor (my nearest town) a few days ago intending to buy, among other stuff, some handwipes. I always like to have a packet since I travel to the East End weekly and often use a handwipe or two to freshen up because the journey takes a while.

Not only were there no handwipes, but handgels were nowhere to be found – and even the handwash shelves were looking bare!

At the time I really didn’t know that this handgel panic buying thing was such a big deal.

And now, we genuinely need toilet roll at home. I wouldn’t usually go into such detail and the only reason I do is to tell you that I couldn’t find any anywhere on today’s trip into Windsor.

If I’d thought about it I should have stocked up on great quantities of toilet paper – to avoid being beaten to it all by those people who are now stockpiling it for…

…I’m not sure. What are they stockpiling it for?

My husband decided he’d get round the problem by organising an online shop. Then he found there was only one delivery slot for the rest of the week and, guess what, no toilet rolls! However as he preceded with the order, toilet rolls (never heard of the brand but who cares) became available. So I think we’ll be alright.

However he couldn’t get any flour or lentils. The available pasta range was limited and nappies (I checked for my daughter so that my granddaughter doesn’t need to be urgently potty-trained) were running out.

I’ve deduced there are two camps of people. Camp A is buying up dried goods, toilet rolls and probably avoiding crowds of people at all costs. Camp B is carrying on life as usual.

I’m clearly a member of Camp B. This blog may come back to haunt me but I can’t spend every day worrying about coronavirus which (at time of writing) has been responsible for the deaths of five people in the UK. That’s incredibly sad for the late patients and their families and I’m in no way underrating that.

However our seasonal flu kills people every year and we don’t panic buy toilet rolls or avoid public places in case we catch the flu from someone – or someone who’s been close to someone with the flu. On average 600 people a year die from flu in the UK and the number has risen to 10,000 in some years.

A scientist will tell me that flu is quite different from coronavirus – we have a vaccine for it for one thing.

But if people stopped panic buying, retailers would have more of a chance to replenish stock of everything for everyone.

That’s it. Rant over.

She slammed the phone down or did she?

February 13, 2020 § Leave a comment

A woman slammed the phone down on my friend yesterday – or did she. They were talking, she got angry and she abruptly and angrily ended the call. But did she actually, literally, physically, slam down the phone on him? Probably not.

I mentioned this and he realised I wasn’t concentrating on his story but wondering about the turn of phrase.

“You know what I mean!” he said.

Yes, I know what he meant, but technically, I pointed out, if she was speaking on a mobile phone she didn’t need to slam it down and actually, slamming it down wouldn’t have achieved the outcome she wanted.

So that’s one phrase in the English language whose days are numbered. There are others:

  1. Carbon copy. When I was a young journalist using a manual typewriter I used carbon paper to make a copy of the story I was writing. That isn’t necessary now that we all use computers. From there we coined the expression ‘she’s a carbon copy of her mother’ meaning she’s very similar in appearance to her mother. However…we’re using ‘carbon copy’ often without knowing it. When we cc somebody on an email, we all know that we’re copying them in. We don’t all know (I didn’t) that cc stands for carbon copy.
  2. Winding down the window (of a car). We don’t do that anymore. In place of the winder-type apparatus that was fitted in old cars, we use a button and the window shoots down.
  3. Kodak moment. In the days of camera film, we were careful about capturing the moment we wanted to cherish on film – frankly because we had to pay for it to be developed and in the first place make the effort to go to the developer. So a Kodak moment was a special picture moment. These days billions of pictures are taken every minute on Smart Phones, special or not. We just snap away.
  4. Nothing to write home about – meaning it’s not big news. Back in the day, before mobile phones, people actually wrote letters to family when they had news – even sent postcards when they were on holiday! But if they didn’t have news or weren’t on holiday they had ‘nothing to write home about’.
  5. Put somebody through the wringer – give them a hard time. Several generations back wringers were used to squeeze every last drop of water from just-washed clothes. We’ve used the expression since to suggest someone’s been drained of everything they’ve got! eg. the lawyer really put him through the wringer.
  6. Snapping a photograph. I just used the expression in Number 3 – where did we get that from? Old cameras used to make a snapping sound when they took the shot.
  7. And, is a newspaper still a newspaper when it’s published online – no paper involved!

There must be many more phrases that, even if they’ve stood the test of time, don’t really make sense any more. Any thoughts? Answers on a postcard please – well, not literally. We don’t need to send postcards when we can whizz over a suggestion via the comments box.

 

 

 

Getting the boot – finally

November 12, 2019 § Leave a comment

 

Shopping for shoes is serious shopping, as any woman will tell you.

Take that a step higher – shopping for winter boots – and you’re no longer talking about a buying activity but an investment. You’ve got proper important stuff on your hands. Well, feet.

I undertook said winter boots search in my home town of Windsor, Berkshire, the other day and was astounded by the huge variation in customer service which varied from the sublime to the insulting. Let me explain.

First of all, you need to know that I set out with the idea of buying (investing in) long, black boots which had to be leather. Get the right pair and you’ve got friends for life (or, realistically, about three years, until you’re fed up of them).

I started at a little independent store which specialises in leather goods. This didn’t go well. I walked into the shop first, my husband following and the guy behind the till completely ignored me and said “Good morning, sir.” He wasn’t to know I was the primary customer and still doesn’t because I walked straight back out again.

Next was an upmarket womenswear chain which is my ‘go-to’ store for special pieces. I’m not sure that the young woman had worked there long – or in fact had worked anywhere in the retail industry, long. I asked for a size 6, which she found on the shelves. They were too big. She found a size 4 (on the shelves) which I knew would be too small. She found a size 7 (on the shelves) which brought us back to the original problem. I actually voiced the issue to help direct her “We have a size 4, 6 and 7 but they aren’t working for me. What next?” She stood there waiting, as if I was going to provide the answer too. I left.

A concession in the local department store didn’t have the size I needed in a pair of boots I liked. The sales assistant offered to order in the right size. The problem was I’d have to pay upfront and, if they didn’t feel or look right I’d have to go through the faff of getting a refund. That didn’t seem fair and I moved on.

I won’t drag you through the rest of the tiring, very tiring but ultimately worth it, shopping trip except to pay tribute to the outstanding customer service we found in Whistles. It was so good, friendly and unpushy that I’ve already told friends about the exceptional treatment and regret that the boots that I eventually bought weren’t from that store. The young sales assistants were chatty and efficient, offered tea or coffee while we had a think about the boots I was trying on, gave opinions when they were asked but didn’t hover or pressure sell. Thank you, Whistles – you didn’t have the right boots but I’ll be back.

(Oh, I finally found the boots at the department store I’ve already mentioned, at a different concession within it. And they’re black, leather – but not full-length.)

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t drink alcohol – don’t judge me

July 29, 2019 § Leave a comment

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I used to drink alcohol but I can’t anymore. I don’t know why that suddenly happened, but it did. I’m ok with it – other people aren’t.

If I drink alcohol I get the mother of all hangovers. Not a bad head or a dodgy stomach the next morning but, for three days at least, a searing, horrible, sickening pain in my head and a tummy that repeatedly wants to get rid of anything I put in it, including the water which I think might help the head pain. Alcohol just isn’t worth that torture.

When I’m with a group in a pub or at a party I dread people asking what I want to drink. I have two strategies:

  1. To ask for a glass of wine and make it last all night. People seem more comfortable if I’m holding a glass of wine when the next round comes and I say “I’m alright for the minute”.
  2. If I’m actually thirsty, to feel ‘brave’ enough to ask for a soft drink and chance that people won’t judge me for not drinking alcohol.

I don’t drive (which I know is also odd to the majority but is somehow more acceptable) so I can’t use that as an ‘excuse’.

The reaction to my not drinking alcohol falls into two camps:

  1. That I’m not enjoying myself (which I am).
  2. That I’m trying to lose weight (which I’m not).

And I can’t even hazard a guess at the number of times people have asked ‘Don’t you want a real drink?’

The other day my husband and I went out for a drink and the pub was selling a rhubarb and ginger tonic. I was excited. Not only was the drink tasty it sounded ‘grown up’ – particularly when my options usually fall into the lemonade division. I could feel good about ordering rhubarb and ginger tonic.

Just now, when I started writing this blog I couldn’t remember the name of the brand so I put ‘rhubarb and ginger tonic’ into the search engine. Pages and pages of rhubarb and ginger gin came up – even though I’d specified ‘tonic’.

And when I finally found the drink, rhubarb and ginger tonic from Twelve Below was only a mention on a site titled Craft Gins. I’ve dug a bit deeper and found the Twelve Below site. It’s using the USP of having less sugar than most tonics, hence its name, (12 calories per serving with natural sweeteners) – and not that it’s a cool adult drink. I think it’s missing out there. But it must know its main audience and has branded itself accordingly.

Anyway, my point is this:  I don’t want to drink alcohol because it doesn’t do me any favours. I’m not going to judge those that drink. Sometimes I’d like to join in because it would make my life easier – but please don’t judge me if I don’t.

When retail gets it wrong …

July 24, 2019 § Leave a comment

paying-1438142__340.jpgNo you can’t help me!

When I walk into a shop laid out for browsing I don’t want a sales assistant to rush up to me and gush ‘Can I help you?’. Frankly, If I wanted help, I would ask for it.

Why have a shop layout which encourages customers to have a good look around if sales assistants are going to hound them from the time they walk through the door.

Maybe I sound like a grumpy old woman. I’m not. (Grumpy). But I’m definitely old enough to ask for information/advice when I need it – however I probably won’t know what help I need until I’ve had a look around the shop and realised I can’t find what I’m looking for. Or maybe I’ll want “that one in a different colour/size” when I see one in the wrong colour/size. It’s one of retail’s biggest mistakes in my opinion – to get people into their lair and then turn them off by hassling them like it was a bazaar.

There used to be more counters, definite ‘don’t walk beyond this spot’ barriers, where customers expected attention from sales assistants and wanted, actually needed, their help because they couldn’t get what they wanted it without it. In fact, waiting too long before being served was annoying. In that arrangement ‘Can I help?’ was exactly what you wanted to hear.

Then there’s the complete opposite of all this – the shop where it’s hard to find a sales assistant in the first place and when you do, they don’t want to help.

 

retail-703589_960_720.jpgI was shopping for a bra the other day – one to fit with a new dress because none of the bras I owned did the job. I went to my favourite lingerie department, looked through the rails, couldn’t find what I was looking for and went in search of a sales assistant. I imagined a salesperson would know the stock and be able to help since I was looking for something pretty specific.

When I finally found a sales assistant, which wasn’t easy, she was restocking a fixture. I felt like I was interrupting as opposed to wanting to give the store business! Her response was to trot over to where I had already looked and tell me that the bra I had described used to be there but evidently wasn’t anymore. And that was it. She went back to stocking the fixture, giving no advice as to how I might find the bra or paying me any further attention.

(In case you’re worrying, I found the bra eventually – from the same retailer but online. For the men who are reading this, bras are like shoes – better tried on, even if you know your size, so online isn’t ideal.)

I don’t want to get into the ‘every customer is different’ and ‘every shop is different’ debate. There is a one-size-fits-all solution and it should be used. The clue lies in the job title, sales assistant. ‘Sales’ – that bit’s easy: on behalf of the business, sales assistants will handle transactions. Assistant – their job is to help – when the customer needs help but not to mob or avoid helping by stocking shelves. Problem sorted.

Don’t let your mate proofread for you!

July 9, 2019 § Leave a comment

This is the true story of a guy who thought he could save a bit of money having his friend proofread a marketing newsletter for him – and is now counting the cost.

The guy’s an accountant who works on his own and wanted someone other than himself to look at the copy before he sent it out. (I agree it’s always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes look at your copy because the author tends to read what they think they’ve written and not what’s actually there.)

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One of his mates (who really liked English at school….) offered to do a thorough job for him and the problems started as soon as the accountant shared the copy. The duo had ‘creative differences’ – also known as an argument  – about the way the copy should be written.

The end of the story is that I did the job – proofreading only -because Rob was adamant that his words (unless they were a complete pile of nonsense) stayed the same.

He explained the friend story to illustrate how important it was to him to have the spelling/typos/grammar checked but not to receive chunks of rewritten text because he was confident about that side of the newsletter.

He also hinted – and I have no problem with it – that because he was paying me for the service he expected the work delivered to his deadline and redone if he wasn’t happy with it. If your mate’s helping you out, how good to you feel taking him to task if he takes a week when he promised to take a day?

So by commissioning a professional proofreader he didn’t damage a friendship. He’s still wrestling with an explanation for not accepting the many changes to the copy that his friend suggested. He feels he’s nearly out of a pickle – but not quite.