Never glad confident Sainsbury's again

Working woman in a hurry, who only comes for basics, can never get in and out in less than an hour
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The Independent Online
Some trends are not to be bucked. Sainsbury's, I read, is losing market share, which means that many besides myself have resolved never again to do their household shopping at Sainsbury's. Delia Smith is only part of what makes the Sainsbury's environment unbearable to any woman of spirit. The whole sanctimonious set-up makes an average sinner want to scream. Plus the grossness of Sainsbury's success, the car-parks crammed from dawn to night, seven days a week, so that the working woman in a hurry can never get in and out of Sainsbury's in less than an hour.

The brainwashing starts as you enter the car-park. Only the disabled and people with small children may park within sight of the entrance. There is no parking bay marked "working woman in a hurry". So she parks on the outer limits and trudges, at ineffable danger to life and limb from child- and disabled-filled vehicles, across the car-park to the only entrance, to find that the fancy trolleys to be used by the disabled and people with small children are the only ones parked anywhere near the door.

Working woman has to scramble down an alley to secure a trolley and struggle to steer it on its jammed wheels back to where the scores of parents with children and disabled folks, who seem to have come to the supermarket for fun, fool about with theirs. Once she gets to the door she finds the entrance encumbered by a stall offering free tastes of some grim convenience food, which all the fun-loving leisure shoppers line up to try, discussing each munchie at length with a middle-aged woman who is impersonating an 18th-century dairymaid in mob cap and frills. The other side of the lobby is filled with an enormous raft of greetings cards of which the leisure shoppers seem determined to read every single one. Working woman in a hurry has no option but to wait patiently until the way before her should clear. She has been on Sainsbury's premises for 15 minutes and so far has nothing in her trolley.

If she is to negotiate the "fresh" produce section, working woman had just better hope that Delia has not found some hitherto undreamt-of use for grenadillas, custard apples or lemon grass. It stands to reason that a grenadilla flown in from Grenada will have cost its weight in aviation fuel - that is what you are paying your money for, supposing the checkout staff have the faintest idea what those critters are when they're in your basket. Supposing you are fool enough to put them in your basket.

"New" potatoes from Egypt are tastefully decorated with peat, by way of hinting that they have just been raised from the virgin sod. Packaged herbs sell for a hundred times their value. The prepared vegetables sealed in plastic bags saying brightly "stir-fry", "green salad", "mixed salad" are already wilting; by the time you get them home the vestige of taste that is all that remains after the ferocious flaying and washing will have disappeared.

This working woman, who has her own home-grown vegetables and eggs from her own hens, comes to Sainsbury's for basics. Pasta, for example. And finds that she is practically forced to buy Sainsbury's own brand, which is the kind of pasta that cooks from the outside in, so by the time the middle is anything but brittle, the outside is slimy. Which is unimportant if you're going to bury the pasta in a slobber of sauce, a slobber of Sainsbury's ready-made PC sanctimonious Delia-Smithified sauce. Pasta should have flavour and character; it should be possible to enjoy it with olive oil and garlic alone. Most of my Sainsbury's pasta ends up in rubbery heap in the hens' trough. Do Sainsbury's give me an option? No, they don't. If I want good quality Italian pasta, and I don't mean "fresh pasta", which is synthetic muck, I have to go elsewhere.

If I have been putting up with these conditions for years, why has the worm now turned? The last, the very last, time I was in Sainsbury's I spied a plastic bottle of T-Cut car polish and popped it in my basket where it leaked on to my lemons, my crumpets, my pasta and my digestives, though not on to my elderly sour passionfruit or my cous-cous. Most of what was in my trolley I didn't really want, but after the ordeal of getting into Sainsbury's you have to buy something. I didn't buy the Tocai del Veneto that I really wanted, because there wasn't any and no one to ask whether there would ever be any again. I discovered the T-Cut disaster after I had got to the checkout. I asked for a cloth to wipe the stinking stuff off my hand and was given a J-cloth black with grease by a woman who had a pile of clean ones at the till beside her. A bell was pressed and a bad-tempered blonde appeared, glared at me as if I had sabotaged my own bottle of T-Cut, and began taking the goods out of my basket. "You can't have that," she said, "Or that. They're contaminated." Clicking her teeth with exasperation, she picked up three-quarters of my hard-won shopping and carried it off.

I waited, the queues got longer, and all that came back was a packet of crumpets. "Did you want the other things?" asked the woman at the checkout. "Oh, no, I was just giving them a ride in my trolley," I replied, sweetly. "Some people ..." I heard her say to the couple behind me, who could have been excused for wanting to murder me.

And so I got home too late to walk the dogs and without the two things I really did need, washing-up liquid and salt. From now on I will not be dragooned into saving up my shopping until I have a list long enough to warrant confronting the misery that is Sainsbury's. I will pop in and get salt and washing-up liquid on my way home, from the Asians', from the Co-op, from Budgen's, from Tesco. From anywhere but bloody Sainsbury's. This morning, as the dogs and I beat along the frosty hedgerows, I found a snagged Sainsbury's bag bobbing in the wind.

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