Donald MacInnes: Tesco's reputation gets another battering over £1.50... and spilt milk

40-year-old customer Cornelius Price ordered to pay £1.50 in compensation to Tesco after he threw a six-pint container of milk towards the store manager

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The Independent Online

It has not been a particularly good few days for Tesco. The other day the mighty brontosaurus of beans, bread and bog roll was forced to cough up almost £9m after it about-faced on opening a new store in Somerset.

Not that the two events are at all linked, you understand, but just a few days before, Tesco had managed to attain the stench of petty corporate belligerence when a customer was ordered to pay £1.50 in compensation. That's one pound and fifty pence.

Having heard that snippet of news, some of you might well view the £9m punitive payment over the abandoned Somerset store and think: "That's your karmic payback, that is. So how do you like them apples?"

Since my wife and I moved into our new house at the end of last year, our proximity to the local Tesco has been superceded by the closer proximity of Sainsbury's. Then in January, the chain's chief executive Dave Lewis announced that Tesco would be closing 43 of its stores and cease construction of 49 new outlets, with one of those being the Somerset venture. I am again fairly sure the two events are not linked, but you never know. In the decade or so that I lived near Lewisham Tesco, I did spend a hell of a lot of money there. So was my absence the cause of the chain's troubles? I surely hope not. Anyway, in my defence, surely everyone's choice of supermarket is dictated by geography. If we had a massive Tesco a few minutes from our new home, we would not have jumped the grocery ship.

And while all of our hearts would go out to anyone whose job is in peril because of the closure of the branches of Tesco and the abandonment of their other openings, when you read about the court case which saw the supermarket pursue one of its customers for £1.50, our hearts tend to come back in again. And it was over genuinely spilt milk, for goodness sake.

According to the BBC News website, 40-year-old customer Cornelius Price got into a bit of a strop while in Tesco. Having been verbally abusive, he was asked to leave the premises, which is fair enough. He then threw the six-pint container of milk he was holding towards the store manager, urging the boss to "catch it". The container dropped to the floor and burst. The store requested £1.50 compensation for the milk and took Mr Price to court to get it. Having lost the case, Mr Price was ordered to pay back the £1.50, but was also fined £75, ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs. The fines and compensation will be deducted from his benefits at £10 every two weeks.

And yes, the punishment meted out in court seems fair. But really, Tesco. Was the battering that your reputation of the people's grocer took not worth a little more than £1.50? Just saying.

Twitter: @DonaldAMacInnes

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