Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Pleasant news on a grey day

This morning, with rain piddling down over London, the day was instantly brightened by two snippets of news.

First, that former home secretary Jack Straw is being sued over – allegedly – allowing rendition and second, that Tesco’s profits are down.

My main problem with the first is: why not Tony Blair?

On the second, let’s be quite clear – Tesco is still making shed loads of money; it’s just a slightly smaller shed.

But perhaps the way in which it was reported at great length, and the reactions to it, tells us most.

From the Telegraph on the political right to the Guardian on the left, readers were leaving detrimental comments by the bucket load. That was perhaps even more extraordinary given the quite frankly advertorial nature of the Telegraph piece.

Now obviously all these comments can’t be dismissed as some sort of ‘usual suspects’ who hate any profitable, successful company. Many – in particular at the Telegraph – were lauding Waitrose, which is part of John Lewis and thus part of its partnership model, where all staff are effectively the shareholders.

It isn’t a hatred of business or profits in general or even of capitalism at large. What it is is a serious dislike of what Tesco has done and is perceived to be continuing to do – riding roughshod over local people in what seems like a drive to have a Tesco on every single street in the country; bullying and ripping off suppliers and producers, and in ripping off customers too.

Some of those in-store offers are, apparently, nowhere near as good as they claim to be. And that’s before mentioning the myriad negative comments about staff, which are hardly surprising if they’re treated as poorly as various people have heard and even as I myself have heard from a long-term Tesco employee.

If you want to defend big business, then this is not the model you want to be defending.

Fortunately these days, I no longer have to choose between shopping at a Tesco or a Sainsbury’s. And my own shopping experience these days is infinitely preferable to those days.

Perhaps if Tesco doesn’t want its domestic profits to simply keep on falling, then it might want to reconsider its approach to business – and not least as it seems to have been well and truly rumbled by large numbers of the great British public.

But in the meantime, two thing struck me.

First, it was a great pleasure to realise that I am far from being alone in my detestation of Tesco – and that it is something that crosses the political spectrum.

And second, that it is still clear that for many of the British public, the central issue when they're buying food is that it should be as cheap as possible – and most certainly cheaper than it is in Tesco.

The widening dislike of Tesco and its methods is positive – but we have a long way to go, methinks.

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