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.