The worst shop I have ever been in

By Dr Patrick Tissington on Jan 6, 11 05:45 AM in Communication

I saw reported in the Post last month that our intrepid restaurant critic was taken aback by the proactive way Carluccios responded to criticism (incidentally their restaurant in Stratford is one of my favourite places!) so I hereby offer one of our largest companies the same opportunity. It is in fulfilment of my brief to name names and my previous attempt to bring down the dreadful online shopping business La Redoute has either failed as they are still in business or perhaps I succeeded and they have made major changes? Either way, I wouldn't know because of course I don't shop there any more. So I am now going to direct my attention to a local supermarket in the hope of assisting the new(ish) CEO Philip Clarke understand where there might be a weakness in the juggernaut that is TESCO.

I was not all that concerned when my nearest pub was closed down because it was I think the worst pub I have ever been in (and I have been in some REALLY bad pubs in my time!). But it was replaced by a Tesco which was opened despite a huge local campaign which pointed out that there was a perfectly good Spar shop within 100 yards and several corner shops, a newsagent and other facilities similarly close by. All these small shops are run by families and none able to defend themselves against whatever - undoubtedly legal - practices the multinational would deploy to gain market share. Every now and then I have been in to this new Tesco shop and it is always a dreadful experience and each time I vow never to go back. For 6 months I haven't set foot in the place until last week. I found the place unchanged from my previous visit - the staff were sullen, the stock control is woeful (never have the thing you want), the awful wine more expensive than moon dust and about as tasty. As you enter the shop, you are confronted by a security guard who is usually texting his mates but if he looks up as you enter, he has an demeanour which combines aggression and boredom and he will usually get in your way - apparently too lazy to move away from the shopping baskets. Last week, my wife was unable to get down the aisles because they were blocked by the bad tempered staff unpacking and shelf stacking at 10 am on a Saturday. (the store opens at 6 am which might be a quieter time for re-stocking perhaps?).

Contrast with the Spar shop. It does not have the might of the billion pound Tesco behind it but you can easily walk down the aisles and they always have the thing you want (we have tested them with exotic requests such as pesto sauce, halumi, greek yoghurt, which they always have as well as huge bags of crisps and coke at insanely low prices...). Perhaps most telling though is the lack of a security guard at the Spar shop. The Spar staff know their customers well, are friendly and helpful and, if you run a store like this, it seems you don't need a security guard. The only thing Spar doesn't have is a loyalty points scheme which means that our online Tesco shopping also delivers a free restaurant meal every month for us - although the dire Tesco online ordering is surely ripe for a different ranting blog. All in all, the worst pub in the world has been transformed into the worst shop.

Why has this shop become so bad? The shop is brand new with a convenient car park, it bakes bread, it has insane opening hours, a free cash point... It isn't about the physical resource. You only need to look at the staff to know they aren't managed well. And proper management could turn this store around. But to be honest, I'm not sure I want to tell them this because it would make it a success which would hurt the families who run great local stores I love so much. So, keep it to yourselves!

Right now I am going to pour a glass of wine bought from another local store - the quite magnificent (but terribly named) Bargain Booze which purveys nice Aussie red at half the price of Tesco (no - literally exactly half!). And the staff there too are exceptionally friendly too.

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