Sunday, 3 October 2010

The one where he rants about the death of choice...

When I was at Sainsbury’s this morning – I’m in a major huff with Tesco – and I bought my croissants – I’m a weekend croissant-a-holic – the young guy at the bakery counter told me to have “a fantastic day”. Not a great day. A fantastic day.

Now I’m not one of those moaning myrtles who complain about some of the cheesy Americanisms we are adopting on this side of the pond. I like cheese. All that protein, calcium and vits. Yum. The guy who said it wasn’t following some corporate mindwash instructions, he really meant it. And I left the store with a warm, fuzzy feeling and that had nothing to do with my croissant anticipation.

Now about Tesco and my complaint with them and guess what, it surrounds the issue of books.

My three regulars will be aware of the fact that I was giving a reading at a library in Newton Mearns recently and while I was waiting to perform I had a wee blether with the librarian – a big YAY for librarians. Wonderful people. During said chat I asked about the new mammoth shopping mall at Silverburn and what the affect had been on local shops.

Not good, she said.

‘Cos I hate the place, I said. Silverburn has got the same shops as EVERY shopping centre in the country – why we don’t all wear exactly the same clothes is a mystery to me. The floor is too shiny for my shoes and I slip everywhere. AND there’s no book shop. A centre the size of a small town and is has no book shop. WTF?

I put this (a wee bit more politely) to nice lady at the Information Desk in Silverburn. She informed me, yes we have no book shop but Tesco is right over there and they sell books.

I gave her that look.

The one that said I’d rather slam my testicles in a drawer.

Back to the library and the lovely librarian got all gossipy. She even did the Les Dawson over the garden fence thing. If any of my 3 readers are Brits of a certain age they’ll remember a sketch that the comedian Les Dawson used to do. He’d put on a large pinafore, wig and curlers and remove his teeth. Under the pinafore he’d have breasts of epic proportions and he’d have his arms crossed underneath them as if trying to hold them up. Whenever he/ she had a particularly delicious piece of gossip he’d mash his gums, hoik up his breasts and pass on the info.

So – hoiks up boobs - the librarian told me that someone told her – so it’s third hand and don’t even try to sue me Tesco cos I’m skint – that when Silverburn was being built and shops like Tesco, Marks and Spencers, Next and yawn and blah were booking up spaces, one company who bid for a unit in the centre was Waterstones. The only national book chain (how tragic is that?) in the UK.

Guess who put a stop to that with their big hob-nailed boots and corporate greed? And there’s another nail in the coffin of consumer choice.

There are people who are much more eloquent on SUPERMARKET GREED AND THE DEATH OF CHOICE than me but here’s my tuppence worth. The supermarkets and chain stores are killing off our town centres, they’ve decimated the farming community and the book trade is on a very slippery slope.

Go into a Tesco or Asda. Look at the bookshelves. All 3 of them. Read the authors’ names. It’s mainly the usual suspects, innit? Cole, Patterson, Brown et al. If this momentum continues – bookshops become extinct – and Tesco and Asda have 3 bookshelves with the same version of the same books year after year after year after year after year after year after year. How depressing is that? What will happen to all of those wonderful writers who don’t sell more than a million copies? What about all of those writers looking to get into print? If Tesco and Asda don’t think they can sell them they won’t give them room on their 3 shelves. (I’m away to hide under my quilt for a few hours. You don’t want to see a grown man cry.)

And we only have ourselves to blame. They can’t kill off choice without our complicity. They rely on our busy lives and laziness of thought.

Next time I crack open my wallet I’ll be thinking more carefully if my money could be better off spent at the local butcher or baker.

Jeez, my horse is so high I’m gonna break an ankle when I jump off it.

Rant over.

Now I’m off to read a Brent Weeks (HE IS THE BOMB) fantasy novel I bought in Waterstones yesterday.

Y’all have a fantastic day.


  1. Well, what d'you know, Michael - I too love croissants and try to restrict it to a Saturday morning!

    Too true about lack of choice and supermarket monopoly. Tesco even have a say in the paperback cover. Something wrong there.

  2. Noooo, Rosemary why did you mention that about Tesco and book covers?I'm going to be ranting about that to everyone I meet.

  3. On the les Dawson thing, the other "lady" over the fence was the guy who played Alec Gilroy in Coronation Street. What do I win for being so sad?
    On the supermarket thing, I always find that independent fruit shops, butchers etc give you more (usually quantity and quality) for your money. You are right, they rely on our laziness.

  4. I'm impressed.You win my undying appreciation, Ricky

  5. Over on our side of the pond, we still have some small booksellers. But, don't hate me, I mainly shop anyway. Back in the days when dating was still on the menu, loved browsing a good bookstore or two, and to this dying day, libraries are one of my favorite haunts. So there, piddly bookstore selection. I can get any book I want (thanks to inter-library loans). Great post, btw.

  6. Lorna, you dated in bookshops? Interesting. I do love a library me.

  7. Silverburn doesn't have a bookshop? I've only scooted in a couple of times and thought I must be at the wrong end for books. Next time I will make a point of asking for a bookshop at the Information Point - and every time from now on. Maybe if they get enough requests they'll think again. (Or is that just wishful thinking?)


  8. Sadly, I think Tesco's power of veto will be more powerful than our wishful thinking. But hey, it's worth a shot. As Yoda or somebody once said, impossible is nothing.

  9. Listen, Michael, I come here to be cheered up, not depressed. The trouble is, you're right, and we're nearly all complicit in it.

  10. Michael, Basically the same story over here on the west side of the pond. We probably have more bookstores than you do--chain and independent--but the superstores are taking over.

    As a small business owner myself, I tend to shop at small, locally owned stores. But, sometimes, (I'm embarrassed to admit), I cheat.

    Sigh. I guess my conscious will prevent me from doing so in light of your rant.

  11. P.S. Wher DO you get the photos for this blog?

  12. Hi Linda, to borrow a supermarket's slogan - every little helps. If we all just shopped somewhere else now and again, what a difference it would make.

    Oh, and the photos? I search for funnies on the web and I guess "borrow" could be the right word?

  13. OMG, I can't believe I chose going to a conference over staying home and reading this hilarious blog, not to mention you nailed it. I'm afraid we're all being pushed the way of epubs or worse. And I read yesterday that the number one writer last year was Patterson, who doesn't even WRITE his damn books anymore! Ack.

    And on top of that, these big wholesalers just get greedier and greedier so any quality is going down the tubes. Sorry, mini-rant meself.

  14. You gotta get it out of your system, Marley.

  15. Silverburn is crap and full of neds