“Unexpected item in bagging area”. One of the most irritating phrases in modern life, of course.
But, when you are trapped in an understaffed Tesco Metro store, it portends a special kind of doom; an excruciating wait for the one member of staff on duty to abandon the counter and get themselves round to the self-service zone to re-set the machinery.
This I witnessed in my local shop on Sunday afternoon, and not for the first time. It was a telling moment; a point frozen in time when Tesco’s problems were, to me, crystallised. I wish I’d videoed it and sent it to the Tesco board.
It was when one Tesco branch just gave up on performing its most basic function; selling people groceries.
Everything in modern business is, supposedly, about speed, efficiency and throughput.
Not round my way last Sunday.
Nothing was being sold manually; nothing was being sold by a machine; nothing was being sold full stop. No turnover, ergo no profits.
Hot, weary customers looking on in despair at the poor staff trying to cope.
I saw one would-be customer come in to buy a newspaper, look at the long, static, queue, sigh, put the paper down and leave; a painful sight for a journalist to witness.
There are other things wrong with the Tesco Locals I’ve used, including some of the emptiest shelves this side of Zimbabwe, and stuff presented in an almost wilfully unappealing way (plus an odd reluctance to stock bananas).
The staff generally look bewildered, as well they might.
My Tesco Metro? I’d rather it were a Sainsbury’s or an Asda - maybe even a Co-Op. If it were not so brilliantly sited on my way home from the station I wouldn’t bother.
That is the reason why Tesco still commands such a market share; it certainly isn’t the service.