It's been a long, tiring, and often tiresome, week at work (which is why no posts have appeared). Valentines day played it's part in this - there's a crazy uplift in sales for the day with a corresponding uplift of short tempered customers spitting bile when they couldn't have exactly what they wanted. Nothing puts you in the mood for romance like a middle aged man swearing at you because he can't get a cake Right This Moment.
I work in a supermarket - it's not the best job I've ever had but it is, if nothing else, an eye opener. My role is specific to wine and spirits where the majority of customers are less confident and generally quite pleasant - there are exceptions - but I'm not subject to the regular bullying that frequently reduces my colleagues in the cafe to tears. It really isn't okay to call a young girl a stupid whore because your coffee has taken longer to arrive than you would like, nor in the greater scheme of things is it a f*****g disgrace. I could go on reeling out these kind of examples - which is depressing - it's bullying; the person being shouted at isn't allowed to shout back, and minimum wage isn't really enough to make you philosophical about that kind of treatment.
Working on the high street in a mid sized chain (Oddbins) we regarded supermarkets as impossible competition, working for independent wine merchants taught me that they weren't, working in a supermarket makes me wonder how long we can continue consuming as we are. Supermarkets turn over a huge amount of money surprisingly little of which is profit, and it's worth remembering that like any business they're there specifically to make money - not to cater to our needs; that's just how they make money. Anything on the shelf has to earn it's place - sometimes it does that because the supplier pays for it to be there, but equally enough units have to shift at a profit to make it worthwhile. I know it sounds obvious but I don't think we always remember it and we should. It's a highly competitive sector, how we spend our money matters, thinking about how we spend it can make a huge difference.
After fourteen years in retail the one thing I'm really clear about is how much more responsibility the consumer needs to take for the way things are. It's appalling that dairy farmers are going under because they can't sell milk at a price that lets ends meet, worse that we don't understand what the cost of what we eat and drink actually is and should be. My income is strictly limited, I resent price hikes which outstrip my wages and which I feel cause me real difficulty yet I still have more than I need, still throw food away because I've not found a use for it before it's gone off.
Happily we aren't so far affected by the current horse meat scandal - I do after all work for a particularly nice supermarket, but it does feel like the inevitable outcome of our relationship with food in this country. Shelter have been running a campaign highlighting what food would cost if prices had risen in line with property values - a chicken would be about £51 - which (and I appreciate that this is missing the point of the campaign) made me wonder what a chicken should cost; would £8.47 really be outrageous for a bunch of bananas that have had to travel the world to get to us? Supermarkets squeeze the producer for low prices but equally customers squeeze the supermarkets, by accepting those very low prices without question customers are as culpable as retailers in this fraud, labelling issues aside, we all need to take more responsibility for what, and how, we buy - whatever it is.
I had meant to talk about the FT article regarding working conditions in amazon warehouses too but feel I've gone on long enough for one night.