Mary Dejevsky: All I wanted were my Cheerios

Share
Related Topics

The new boss of Marks & Spencer, Marc Bolland, responded to customer complaints about the difficulty of navigating the stores by sending scouts incognito to buy 10 specified items within an hour. They all failed. I'm not surprised, but it's not just our M&S. I take my own Marc Bolland test every week or so – except that mine has around 20 items and it's called a shopping list.

It's an unusually efficient trip when I don't have to ask at least once where to find some utterly basic item, such as flour or ground coffee, or eggs. A few weeks ago, I stood nonplussed in the (relatively small) Sainsbury's City, having walked the aisles twice in quest of breakfast cereal. With those huge boxes they sell it in, you would have thought it would have been hard to hide. But they had managed just that, by consigning it to a corner the "wrong" side of pet food. If you weren't on the prowl for Whiskas, you weren't going to find it.

As it was explained to me, (I had the nerve to ask), head office had told them to make room for "non-food", such as crockery and saucepans, so they had moved the cereals to where the detergents had been (I couldn't find those either until I chanced upon them next to – you'll never guess – ice cream.)

The navigational nadir among my local stores is a cavernous Sainsbury's near Victoria Station, branded a Sainsbury's "Market". I don't know how many more of these "concept" stores there are, but I go in there only if I'm after something the smaller store doesn't stock, and even then I regularly dump my half-filled basket at the exit in frustration, so long have I spent wandering and so fruitless the search. Every visit, I cross paths, often several times, with would-be shoppers despairing of finding the most elementary things, or wringing their hands at the lack of price labels – even as stickers scream two for one or second one half-price. It's a jungle and a mess.

The idea, apparently, was to replicate a "market", by having "islands" of produce that look a bit like stalls. The impression is pretty, but it's not what you go into a supermarket for. I always shudder to think of the wastage levels in the fresh food sections, even as I marvel at the regular disappearance of English muffins and Continental blend coffee. I suspect that if the store were more logically organised, its turnover, if not its profits, might soar. If Justin Green wants volunteers to run his own Marc Bolland test here, I'll happily join the queue.

Then again, if Bolland really does rationalise his stores, he might soon find himself at odds with what I understand has been a basic principle of supermarket geography. You're not supposed to find things too easily, lest you neglect the tempting – and pricey – novelties the marketing people want to put in your way. It's a bit like those pesky internet pop-ups, or a more discreet version of the Ikea one-way "maze" model. They don't want you to buy eggs and milk, they want you to buy some new-fangled extra-dark chocolate biscuits and super-organic low-fat farm-fresh yoghurt, with a higher mark-up and a mysteriously absent price tag.







Hard stuff that presidents usually keep hidden



With George Bush, an avowed teetotaller, you knew where you were: for all the gossip about his occasional lapses, it was orange juice or alcohol-free beer. With Barack Obama, well... The day after he had clearly relished a pint of draft Guinness in Ireland, he offered this aside during his acclaimed speech in Parliament. "As I said the first time I came to London as President..., the days are gone when Roosevelt and Churchill could sit in a room and solve the world's problems over a glass of brandy – although I'm sure Prime Minister Cameron and I would agree that some days we could both use a stiff drink..."

I practically jumped out of my skin when I heard that. I doubt you would ever hear a US president, or any American politician with a career still ahead of him, make any reference to strong drink in the United States – unless it is referring to a relative going into rehab.

So heavy does the shadow of Prohibition still hang that any suggestion you might need "a stiff drink", even occasionally, risks creating quite the wrong impression. Obama's quip is evidence either of the US getting over its Prohibition hang-ups, or – more likely – of the European sensitivities that make him suspect to right-wing Republicans even now.







Does classical music really need this kind of makeover?



Casting around for something to watch on TV on Sunday night, I alighted on the Classic Brits – the awards that used to be the Classical Brits, for performers of classical music, but now, I'm not quite sure. I stuck it out long enough to see Myleene Klass give a couple of giggly presentations; I winced through some MTV-style videos and was introduced to a bunch of tenors called Il Divo. Then I gave up.

I'm not averse to popularisation: widening the audience for opera and theatre by beaming live performances into cinemas or piazzas is a delightful adornment to public life. But the Classic Brits was something else entirely: the elevation of showmanship and hi-tech trickery above all else; easy listening played by and for beautiful people. Even junior members of today's star-struck pop generation might, I suspect, demand something more when they grow up.

Alas, the pop makeover of classical music has even reached high-culture France. The intellectuals' newspaper, Le Monde, did its best to report objectively this week on the industry that, it said, was growing up around "branding" of classical music stars: the tie-ins, the videos, the product placements, the computer games, the apps, the "concept albums". But the reporter could not quite conceal her distaste. Neither, I have to say, can I.





m.dejevsky@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links