O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

Skip Today, Gone Tomorrow

Paul H keeps his head down and surveys British supermarkets, from the ground floor

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: February, 2007
Ker-ching, goes the till, the thrill of the bargain hunter sated, the family larder bursting to explode.
by Paul Hawkins, for outsideleft.com
originally published: February, 2007
Ker-ching, goes the till, the thrill of the bargain hunter sated, the family larder bursting to explode.
I can now announce my exhaustive investigation into the flooring preferences of the major `supermarket` players in the UK, the big boys, the vast profit makers, the ones who suck the living entrails out of local shops; your butchers, bakers, candle stick makers, greengrocers, sweetshops, tobacconists, etc - local high streets are rapidly disappearing, leaving boarded up shells of once vibrant trade and are only able to survive in the inaccessible country areas and major cities. Just. You know the big boys.... with their never ending special offers, product diversification, loss leaders, booze reductions, buy one get one free-isms to inveigle both the wary and unwary into a purchase. Ker-ching, goes the till, the thrill of the bargain hunter sated, the family larder bursting to explode. Yeah, I don't like them one little bit. There are two main reasons, personal reasons, that I don't like them, and here they are...

Firstly, m`lud, to answer my opening, and admittedly long, sentence is the floor tiles are all fucking identical. Branding innit? Individualism does not exist in this animal. They are all basically a creamy dirty off-white with predominantly darker coloured flecks, little dots, ribbons and splashes in a random fashion, interspersed with the occasional blood red, pus yellow and puke orange. Scuffed, depending upon their age and usage. Get a rough minds eye ? Now, why should I hate this particular design, used thriftily, via economies of scale in production and purchase ? Because when you are poor, skint, desolate, on a low income, or no income, it is very bloody hard to spot loose change on them. Simple as that. Comes from personal experience, and, through learnt wisdom from others. I only know that the alternative and chancey option in these billion pound corporations is to check the change in the slot at the self-service tills. They are always worth checking, though you have to be wary of raising suspicion amongst the over-diligent staff, uniformed and non-uniformed instore detective personnel. PLUS the fact that, of course, you are on their BIG BROTHER CCTV show, live in the shoplifting bunker board room. Very much like the TV show in the UK. Its Celebrity (well, 3rd rate nobodies outweigh the 2nd raters, who outrate, hmmm, Jermaine Jackson ? Leo Sayer anyone ? I rest my case ) Big Brother, that is currently coughing up its rancid phlegm all over the world it seems, this time 3 individuals are spluttering and clearing their throats in the direction of superstar Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, collectively painting an unlovely snapshot of all that is English; ignorant, in- denial racist, bigotted wankers. Who are very well paid to appear on the reality show ( unlike supermarket Big Bro ). One good thing is CBB has raised the debate on racism, tolerance and englishness again.

And that brings me nicely on to my second cause for loathing `supermarkets`more than Simon Cowell ( the fact that there are wankers everywhere, was the link ) M`lud. They throw away so much fecking food; food thats edible, nutritious, healthy and life giving. They throw away a whopping 15 million tonnes per year, according to Wrap`s latest stats, and I bet they are wrong, cos Crap, sorry, WrAp stands for Waste and Resources Action Programme. WrAp are a waste cutting organisation loosely allied to, yup, the government. And , yes, I naturally, instinctively, dont believe their figures. I am sure the wastage is more than that, in fact. Most surplus food is carried by articulated pantechnicons to land filling sites where their main by product is a noxious methane miasma, a bad motherfucking greenhouse vapour way more piquant than carbon monoxide. So the impact of this wastage is massive. Oh, and there are many, many people in this country and throughout the world facing food poverty and bad diets that the surplus could be redistributed to. At a far lesser environmental cost. As Fareshare have recently started to do, via Lottery funding over here in the UK.

Our forefathers and foremothers were, like many animals, hunter gatherers, foragers, scroungers, resourceful animals. `Twas the law of the jungle, just like 2007. Its really no different on that basic, primeval level. What a Waste, sang Ian Drury and The Blockheads. I think that song should be played on heavy rotation during the last 30 minutes of opening time in these skip filling multi-nationals ( unless they are 24 hour openers, in which case, playing would depend on the days shift patterns for the staff who are entrusted with the reducing gun - in my experience anytime between 8.30pm and 10.00pm ). Why ? well, its a great song, brilliant lyrics, but most of all, it sums up in 3 little words what most of the supermarkets gird their loins to do at this time. They chuck all their surplus out of date food away. Thats right, they skip it all. Admittedly some do reduce their surplus of richness, sometimes only by a fraction, so they are still making a healthy profit. So the consumer still feels like they have got a bargain. Oh no, the big boys dont burst any purchaser, customer`s always wrong, cosy thought bubbles Others, who I will not grant free publicity to, are very good with their reductions. I time my food runs depending on the best reduction time of the day, not convenience or hunger. I am not the only one either. The two companies with the highest reductions, and they are phased down in price running up to that magic last input into the hand-held pricing machine, at that arbitrary time, has given me a whole roast deli chicken for £0.09. Yup, 9 pennies. I have bought loaves of bread that shop floor staff were hurriedly gathering in huge armfuls, filling black plastic rubbish sacks in seconds, like they were on Supermarket Sweep ( dont ask, I ain't going there............ ). Having first asked them; "what was wrong with the bread ?", and; "is it for the night staff canteen ?" I was informed that; "its out of date, mate, we`re chucking this lot in the skip". I was so shocked I nearly purged my stomach of its indigestive bile fluids. Anyway, I got some bread for £0.05 each. Posh bread as well, Mediterranean stylee bread with peppers and sun dried tomatoes in it. Some organic chicken, £0.27, thankyou very much, as well as organic salmon, hummus and organic steak at silly prices. Trouble is they dont all do this, and, they dont reach those who need it most.

So, to sum up, the bastard super ( there is nothing super about them at all ) markets ( and they aren't markets, not in my notebook ) make scrounging for loose change whilst keeping warm very difficult, AND, generally skip their surplus food products, instead of being environmentally and socially conscious and redistributing the food to those who are most in need. Like me, sometimes.

www.fareshare.org.uk


Authors Disclaimer : I am fully aware I have left out many other connected arguments in this ejaculatory piece; poverty, animal cruelty, vegetarianism, veganism, factory farming, the whole green eco warrior stuff, starvation, the hole in the ozone layer, third world debt, multinationalism, fairtrade, to name but a few, in this article. Though I am aware and conversant with most of these arguments but I was hungry at the time of writing... What did you expect ?
see more stories from outsideleft's Product archive »»

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins has been interested in popular culture and music, protest and survival for as long as we can remember. He began writing about things, making music and other noise at an early age. Paul has interviewed musicians, writers, poets, protestors and artists.

years end

more stories you really could read...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Behind the Counterculture #16: Jennifer Herrema
White Boxes, Louie Louie and an Icelandic Rope Trick
Woyzeck, alive and well in London. Whiteread, never less so...
Gustav's Gone
The temptation to say auto destructive artist Gustav Metger has gone and done it at 90 is not tempting at all
Ireland in the Rain (Part 2)
Joe Ambrose continues his odyssey around the south of Ireland's hot spots
I'll Give You An Annual Review #20... Fatoumata Diawara
Fatoumata Diawara's Fenfo is one of the records of the year
The 5 Minute Interview Lux and Ivy of the Cramps
Unlike many "rockabilly" thug poseurs (hello, Mike Ness), the Cramps are the real deal - the Ohio-bred band is worlds apart from the everyday sounds of neo-folk and the canned beats of hip-hop.
Some of our favorite things...