Saturday, 26 March 2011

I like my carrier bags organic.

I didn’t think I was a snob. Well, not really.

But despite supposedly being mid-saving, where did I find myself doing the weekly shop this Saturday? Bloody M&S, that’s where.

So what does my M&S habit reveal about me?
Apparently choice of supermarket has emerged as a clear indication of social standing. And if it doesn't quite capture exactly where you fit in, it does give a hint of what you aspire to be or would like others to think of you. Not that anyone would admit that they had chosen their supermarket for its class status, of course. Goodness no. We shop in more expensive supermarkets due to the superior quality of the food, the exotic vegetables, the prevalence of organic and the commitment to fair-trade. We don’t know why we need purple sprouting broccoli, but we’re sure we do.
I wonder if it’s even about the food? I mean, most items are branded and sell everywhere. Kellogg’s cornflakes are the same from Asda or Waitrose. Perhaps if we’re honest, it’s the ambience and the clean-looking shoppers.
Gosh - in certain middle-class circles mentioning you shop at the T-word is paramount to social suicide. I mean, you might as well confess that you’re holidaying all inclusive in the Costa Brava this summer.
But snobbery aside, of course we can all see what's wrong with supermarkets and colossal chain retailers in general.
There is, in the first place, the revolting wastefulness. Everything comes wrapped in layer after layer of needless plastic and card, served in landfill clogging disposable plastic bags.
Long before it reaches the supermarket, tons and tons of good, nourishing food is bulldozed into the ground because it doesn't meet the aesthetic standards of the supermarkets' buyers. ‘Those tomatoes aren't spherical - sorry, mate. Can't take them.’ And unless it sports a ‘fair-trade’ badge, you can bet your life that someone has been both underpaid and overworked on the other-side of the globe to bring it to our kitchens.
And yet, week in, week out, we go.

But when discussing the evils of supermarkets, we should surely admit what everyone in their secret heart knows: that shopping in big supermarkets is heaven on earth.

Go on, admit it. It’s amazing.

And rightly so, we’re all basically being brainwashed. The supermarkets (yes all of them – even the holy-grail, Waitrose) pay experts to make it a wonderful and wallet emptying experience; social psychologists, branding consultants, and other ‘mystery influencing’ jobs that I’ve never even heard of, all tricking me into parting with my hard earned cash.

They play "buy-me" music and pump the smell of freshly baked bread down the aisles. At every turn you are confronted by stacks of clean, pretty, gift-wrapped goods in hundreds of varieties.

I think I should probably start doing my big shop online. At least that way I will only buy what I need, and not inadvertently pick up a flat-screen monitor or a new work suit. You might laugh, but I have previously purchased both of these items (in the T-word) on a routine milk run. I blame the social psychologists.

I promise to stop shopping in M&S (once the fridge is emptied of course) and head instead to supermarkets that don’t stock pak choi or celeriac. I don’t even know how to cook either of them anyway.

I will buy no-brand white labeled foods, enjoy M&S as a special pay-day treat and end with a joke borrowed from Stephen Fry,

“What is Sainsbury's good for? Keeping the scum out of Waitrose" 


  1. Interesting how a self described non-snob knows that "in certain middle-class circles mentioning you shop at the T-word is paramount to social suicide."


  2. Haha love it! but try shopping at Asda in Bristol. Trust me, it's no wonderful experience. In fact it's quite the opposite; "gateway to hell" is the term often bandied around in our household.

  3. Neil, firstly, I said I 'didn't think I was a snob.' And secondly, I didn't say that was my social circle. Hell, I'm a tesco 'point whore' but shhh - don't tell anyone.

  4. Your sources are not clear, so naturally I must assume you talk from experience.

    You are correct, Im just messing with you.

    I did know a certain person who would not enter a Netto or even a Lidl for (I assume) fear of being seen / internal shame.

  5. This person needs to get a grip. But (and my experience of Netto is from one store in Snow Hill, Wolverhampton) there is a funny smell.

  6. My sister's concession to the recession was to shop in Sainsbury's instead of Waitrose - really! I float between Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Lidl and Scotmid - with the odd M&S dash. I feel this aptly reflects the social chamaeleonism engendered by a proper comprehensive education. Either that, or I have no brand loyalty and go wherever is nearest at the time!