The elephant in the room is feeling lonely now.

Everyone ignores him. No matter how often he tries to introduce himself, everyone just pretends he’s not there.

The pubs blame the supermarkets for their decline. The supermarkets are selling cheap booze just like they always did before but suddenly that’s demolishing the pub trade. The elephant is waving frantically but the pubs refuse to see him. He’s not even pink. Those pink ones are an endangered species now that the regulars don’t show up any more.

Now, all of a sudden, the supermarkets are losing money and it’s all the fault of… other supermarkets. Specifically, cheap shops were the low-paid go for shopping, just like they did before. The elephant trumpets and stamps his feet.

Morrisons is very close to me. It’s only a little out of my way on the way home from work. Tesco is closer to work, again only a little out of the way. Lidl means leaving work and going in the opposite direction to my house, although not very far.

I used to take the detours to Tesco or Morrison’s quite often. Mostly I bought my baccy from Man with a Van, back before I realised how easy it was to grow. Sometimes though, I would still buy the odd pouch at Tesco or Morrison’s and while there, I’d buy other stuff too. I no longer do that. Now I visit Tesco only when I finish work at 9 pm and it’s a choice between Tesco or the Co-op. Tesco has a wider range of lower priced whisky than the Co-op. I never buy tobacco there and frankly, I buy little else either.

The reason is the Doors of Shame which I refuse to have anything to do with. I have bought precisely two ten-packs of cheap readymade cigarettes since January 2013, both from the Co-op who don’t have the Doors yet and both were because I was on long shifts with early starts and couldn’t be bothered making up cigarettes for work.

I have early starts next week but they aren’t long shifts – they finish at 3 pm. Plenty of time to make ten smokes for the next day’s shift. This week it’s been the 3-9 shifts so I have been mostly drinking Lochlan (Tesco) but buying nothing else in there. Next week I’ll be calling in to Lidl for some Glen Orchy, or Ben Bracken if I’m feeling like splashing out. The Abrachan they sell is sort-of in the middle, better than Glen Orchy but only a couple of pounds more and you can have Ben Bracken which is a lot better than both.

Lidl don’t sell tobacco at all but that doesn’t matter. I wasn’t going to buy any in Tesco or Morrison’s anyway so (elephant noises again) the availability of tobacco is no longer a factor in choosing where to buy the rest of my shopping.

It used to matter. A lot. Some years back, before the antismoking madness took hold, I’d note that Amber Leaf was perhaps 10p a pack cheaper in Morrison’s than in Tesco and so I’d go to Morrison’s. While there I’d just buy whatever else I needed.

These days I visit Farmfoods and Poundland much more often. Poundland especially, because although they don’t sell booze or tobacco, they sell everything smoking-related apart from tobacco. They stopped selling tubes but they were selling packs of 200 for a pound, half the price of everyone else. I’m guessing they can’t sell them at that price any more. All the lighter fuel, all the rolling papers, lighters, ashtrays, tubing machines, all those and more are still there. It’s possible that Tesco and Morrison’s sell those things at even less than a pound, but since that’s now all hidden away, it’s impossible to tell if they even sell them at all. I know Tesco always responded with blank looks when asked about flints, or replacement wicks for Zippos, but eBay and some Amazon sellers have that covered.

Farmfoods also don’t sell booze or tobacco but, like Poundland, they are on my direct route home. Since I am not buying tobacco in supermarkets any more anyway, there is no reason for me to take the detours to the big boys.

The thing is, when you buy in the cheap shops, sometimes you end up with crap. Other times though, you get a damn good deal. The formula seems to be that if it looks like you’re getting a lot for your money then you are probably getting a lot of not-very-good stuff. If it’s cheap and a small portion, it’s usually a pretty good small portion. I’m not very large so small portions are fine. Better than wading through a plateful of the not-good and ending up with half of it in the bin.

Anyway, the stuff is all cheap enough that it’s worth taking a chance. Farmfoods came up with a very good half-duck with hoi-sin sauce for about £3.50. It didn’t look like very much in the pack but it was de-boned, so it was all meat and therefore a good deal. The little pancakes were included.

Then again, I did get a bag of garlic mushrooms for a pound, and they were terrible. It could just be that mushrooms don’t freeze well. Still, for the amounts of money we’re talking, it’s worth taking a chance. Even if you decide ‘dreadful – never buy it again’ you haven’t gambled very much on it.

I’d never have thought of visiting Farmfoods, and Poundland and Lidl would have remained categorised as ‘toyshops’ in my head, if the Doors of Shame had never appeared. Oh yes, those two are toyshops for sure. Poundland has all kinds of silly gadgets and cheap horror DVDs for one pound each – some are good, some are appalling, but you’re only gambling a pound on them. Cheaper than the lottery and the odds work out about 50/50 of getting a good one so far better odds than the lottery too.

Lidl has a rotating plethora of toys at good prices. All kinds of strange tools and lights and gadgets appear in there – but it’s a mistake to think ‘Oh, I’ll come back and get one of those next week’. It won’t be there. They once had a wall-mounted display case, narrow shelves, closely spaced, glass doors, perfect for railway models. I had not yet grasped their business model so decided to come back with someone else’s transport at a later date. Nope. All gone and no new ones on the way. They get the gadgets in, sell them and get new and different gadgets.

It’s a clever business idea. You have to go there at least once a week to see if they have anything useful and if they do, you have to decide whether to buy it right there and then. It might not be there tomorrow,

Oh, and around Christmas, they have kangaroo and reindeer and quail (I failed to get reindeer steaks in time yet again and cannot see the point of quail. They look like bite-sized chickens to me) and other strange delights that you will never see in the staid world of the ‘appeal-to-the-masses’ supermarkets. Certainly not at Lidl prices.

But still, if the Doors of Shame had not appeared, if the price of whisky and tobacco in the main supermarkets had not rocketed, I might never have ventured into the depths of Lidl or Farmfoods at all. If I’m not buying those two main staples of life in Big Shop then why go there at all? As for other important things, salt is 3 kg for a pound and sugar is 3 lbs for a pound in Poundland. Don’t try to explain that last line to someone verbally, especially someone brought up in the modern education system. You could do irreparable harm but on the plus side, you could induce their brain to overload to the point where it produces a quite attractive aurora around their hairline. For a little while.

I wonder if the Big Shops attiribute any part of their sudden decline to the imposition if the Doors of Shame? My bet is that they don’t. Lidl and Aldi and all the rest have been around for years, as has the recession. All of a sudden they are having an impact? Just this year? What happened in the last year to accelerate an effect that was there all along?

The elephant knows.

What a pity nobody will talk to him.

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26 thoughts on “The elephant in the room is feeling lonely now.

  1. The last time I was in Farmfoods was about 30 months ago. I had an unexpected lodger who had no money, so I tried to lower the food bill by shopping in Farmfoods. Two of the products were so disgusting; totally inedible (one I didn’t even risk giving to the dogs) that I vowed never to go back and I never have.

    One was a joint in a foil tray. You couldn’t tell if it was meat or rubber (even after cooking) so it had to go straight in the bin. It may have been elephant – what do they do with the bodies after poachers have removed the tusks? Sell them to Farmfoods’ suppliers? And there was the “fish”. “Jumbo cod” I think. There were a few flakes of white stuff in the middle of a massive enclosure of stodgy batter.

    Notice how they try to instill trust in you with the fancy packaging and comforting names. “Betty Smith” is their own brand for roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds, etc., and is obviously a take on “Aunt Bessie”.

    “Harry Smith”, possibly Betty’s husband – his name sells Farmfoods’ fish in batter/breadcrumbs. Reminds you of Harry Ramsden. Until you taste it.

    Their raw fish brand is “Finest Catch”.

    Is it?

    Is it really?

    But if you stick to their veg and brand names and certain own brand products, you can do OK, but the jumbo cod and rubbery joint put me off for good. It made me understand how there’s so many sick people around these days if they eat muck like this regularly.

    I have been boycotting Tesco’s for coming on nine years for a variety of reasons. I can’t stand Morrison’s either, mainly because they’re usually out of at least a quarter of what I went in for. That leaves us with Lidl’s, which is well out my way, but worth going to for cheapies and oddities and there’s the old-fashioned local grocer, who operates as a ‘Mace’ and is quite competitive on a lot of items. Cheapest in town for top brand dog meat (and arguably more edible and nourishing than some of the stuff I bought from Farmfoods).

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    • Farmfoods is a place of try-it-once. Sometimes youy get a good one, sometimes a crap one, but either way it wasn’t expensive.

      Tesco were one of the most entusiastic with the smoker-hater doors. Even before the doors they had prices you’d need binoculars to see.

      I’m not deliberatley boycotting them. I just see so little reason to go there any more.

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  2. Nice article Leggy. Poor Mr Elephant, ordinary people just cannot see him. Must be something special about smokers 😉
    Lidl and Aldi are great. You are right about the odd stuff they sell, I drop in regularly to see what they have. Its a smart sales strategy alright!

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  3. Quite recently l witnessed the following farce at Tesco’s Doors of Shame counter. l’d called in to get a newspaper because l needed an article that wasn’t on their online version. Guy in front of me wanted some cigarettes for his girlfriend but had forgot what they were called. He said he knew what they looked like though so asked the drone assisstant to open said doors. She refused and offered him a price list instead. He asked what good that would do seeing as he didn’t know the brand name.The situation quickly developed into a Monty Python sketch.

    l started laughing to myself but had no more time to waste watching the whole sketch, so since l had the correct change l just placed it on the counter, showed the drone the paper and left. This obviously caused the drone more consternation because she hadn’t scanned my paper. Whether she tried to do anything about this l don’t know because if she was saying anything to me l couldn’t hear her … because by now, l was laughing out loud as l walked out.

    l fully intend to amuse myself when l have the time to pretend to forget the brand. Even if they open the Doors of Shame … l won’t find it 🙂 l simply don’t buy tobacco in the UK … period! .

    ps Budget next week … which means for me that the prices of tobacco that l don’t buy in the UK goes up. Which also means, that like your elephant in the room, l don’t exist as a smoker in the UK stats … the anti’s will class me as someone who’s quit smoiking. 🙂

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    • When I was in Ireland about five years ago they had the doors in the supermarket but they had this card with miniature brand fronts so that you could say what you wanted. I don’t but tobacco products in this country so don’t know if any do that here.

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    • A similar incident happened to me. I queued behind a man and his son (12ish) at the baccy/lottery counter at tesco. While being served the doors were open and a girl was topping up stock. It came my turn after the doors had closed, I honestly wanted to look at the options, so asked for the door to be opened. The looks of horror on the poor dears faces was a sight to behold. Got worse when I reminded them of the young lad, even planted the thought that they could be sued if he ever got cancer.

      Fu*king idiotic drones.

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    • In Costco Warehouses (the American ‘wholesalers’ where most ‘reputable’ plebs can join for £30) in the UK, the baccy regulations mean that when they process tobacco packs at the till one has to go through the following farce:

      1) Order the tobacco you want in the corrugated metal cage storage area (now with added blackened blanking plates so that no light can enter or leave the area). Your order is prepared by the operative in the cage whilst you do the rest of your shopping.

      2) At the till, you hand over the chit with your order. This is collected/sent-for by the till person from the cage. Your order for baccy is in one or more blackbags.

      3) The items are scanned through the till. To do this, each item is removed (one at a time) from the source blackbag, scanned and then placed immediately into a second waiting blackbag in order to minimise the time that said product is visible to any cheeldren (or infantilised) present. Anyone might think that they’re handling nitro-cellulose items that will combust with the slightest heat stimulus (e.g. an overhead sodium light 50 feet away).

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      • BTW Legiron. Have you been watching the BBC series Inside No 9 (still available on iplayer)? Methinks the latest one (The Harrowing) would be right up your alley although I found the first one nicely twisted and the second one the funniest. Worth a glance if you have the time.

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      • It’s interesting to note that the Antis try to tell us we shouldn’t buy from Man with a Van because we don’t know what we’re getting. Then they set it up so that Man with a Van is the only one who shows you the pack before you pay.

        I haven’t heard of that show. I’ll venture over to iPlayer one evening this week.

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  4. Good article. I shop regularly at Lidl, Aldi and B & M these days. I am trying to persuade my wife to buy her baccy from the man with a van but so far she refuses to. She believes the media stories about adulterated tobacco. After the budget she may well change her mind. I may well make the trip from Hull to Zeebrugge for a day out…
    You’re right about having to check for bargains regularly in Lidl and to buy immediately as when it’s gone, it’s gone. My best buy there? I bought a “Precision LED magnifying glass” in there for when I recommence making military models – armoured vehicles are my bag. My eyes aren’t what they used to be so this’ll be ideal. The glass was cheap & will come in very handy.

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  5. Both Aldi & Lidl offer good products at better prices than the big 4. They also don’t allow various supervisors and staff to stand around yacking whilst big queues build up at the few manned (or should that be “personned”?) checkouts – and Sainsbury’s, I’m talking about YOU. And unlike JS they seem to manage their stock control and ordering much better – it’s rare to find empty shelf spaces at those two, but entirely commonplace for Sainsbury’s to be short of volume selling major brands, whilst having loads of obscure stuff that never sells. Aldi & Lidl may have traditionally had a “cheap” image, but both are now beating the others in terms of quality AS WELL as price. Aldi’s biscuits are much nicer than most leading makes, yet alone JS “own brand” equivalents. The only problem is parking, as the stores round here are now so popular! Good luck to them, I say…

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  6. Ha I remember that duck, it’s a bargain buy and tastes top draw. 🙂

    In the near future I think they are going to have the doors of shame over all the alcohol too and it’s going to be very difficult to find what you are looking for. 😦

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  7. (I … cannot see the point of quail. They look like bite-sized chickens to me)

    Yes, they do. It may be that childhood memory influences me, but I like quail. A neighbor used to buy farm-raised quail home so that my wife could make quail and cornbread dressing, but it probably is an acquired taste, requiring one to like other exotic dishes like squirrel, rabbit, frog legs, blackbirds and the like. Best to stick with the big three. Beef, pork, and chicken. You know what you’re getting when that is on the menu.

    Heh.

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  8. ‘For the children’ is a bunch of nonsense.
    Just how many children take up smoking each year and what percentage of all the children.

    As a standard of comparison, we will use the 1,000,000 kids that drop out of secondary education each year

    In the USA there are 77,500,000 kids under the age of 18.

    Amer Cancer Soc says that there are 1,000 kids that become regular smokers each day.
    That is 365,000 per year.

    99.5% do not become regular smokers.
    365,000 is 1/2th of 1% of the total number of kids.

    That is about 1/3rd the kids that drop out of high school.

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  9. Booze is cheap in Nuzzyland supermarkets, but bloody expensive in the pubs. I do, very occasionally buy a pint of Guinness at the local but it costs about $9 ( 4.5 pounds). For the same price I can buy a nice NZ Merlot in the local offy. Probably explains why there is no pub culture in New Zealand. Being a cheap arse, I’m starting to brew my own beer. Tastes bloody awful, but I’m obstinate and keep a trying. I work with someone who is a bit of an expert. She is coming over to my place to show me how to do it properly. The secret is boiling up the mash and adding syrup rather than relying entirely on a can. I’m convinced after tasting her beer. You can generally taste the distinction between home brew and bought beer. My colleague’s brew is very nice without that nasty yeasty after taste. Like most folk I don’t like paying any more than I should, for anything.

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    • The best homebrew beer I ever made was when I bought malted barley and dried hops and started from there.

      The canned kits are consistent, but sometimes they are consistently dreadful.

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  10. Thank you for your comment about tummy stuff from yesterday.

    Re the decision by Poundland to stop stocking tubes. If my experience is anything to go by, I suspect it’s because they couldn’t sell lots of boxes because they’re so easy to crush, thus shop soiled. In Leith I saw several such boxes. Curiously they were at child height and they do appear far stronger than they are.

    I also suspect the average Poundland customer, certainly at their Leith store does not quite fit the average tuber profile. They need far more tobacco than rollups and the tubing machine they sold in Poundland is extremely basic and not very durable.

    Price is not the issue, certainly not at the volumes Poundland can move. They’re selling 200 Mascotte tube boxes for €1.36 (about £1.12) out of this supermarket in the Netherlands:

    http://www.ah.nl/appie/zoeken?rq=tabak

    and their rate of VAT is 21%

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    • I bought one of the Bull Brand tubing machines. It does the job but you’re right, it’s not great. I have better ones but hey, for one pound, worth a try and good enough to get the readymade-smoker interested.

      Mascottes, in the UK, cost £1 per 100 even online. Still worth it though.

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      • I have wondered about that. Now that tubing is becoming more and more popular, are they all being stuffed with tobacco?

        My bet is that a lot of those cigarettes, openly smoked outside with no chance for the smell to build up, are not what they seem…

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