Editor’s Note: This week Alex tackles the issue of shopping. When you are unemployed you have to shop smart not hard. But can young people today crack it?
This week I’d like to guide your attentions towards good old food shopping. Having worked in retail for a number of years I not only understand how shops are set out (merchandised) but I’ve also know how their procedures and staff training are carried out – or barely carried out in some cases.
In my current position of unemployment I cannot afford to search endlessly for the best customer service in town. I can’t go looking for the flashiest stores or the most cheerful and welcoming stores. I have to go for the best value I can find whilst reserving enough room for acquiring decent quality produce, especially as one’s general health is at stake.
So where do I turn? Farmfoods and alike are out of the question as plastic food tends to lack nutrients, I’ve heard. I try as much as possible not to buy too many items from any more conveniently located shops. Instead, like most of us, I shop at the most reasonably priced supermarket, ALDI. This is a company I’ve been both reliant upon and had issues with as time’s gone by. The foods they produce vary from relatively healthy to very good quality and I’m lucky enough to live quite close to two of their stores.
However, and I’m going to get picky here, the way ALDI stores are run and the varying attitude of the staff I find to be questionable. Like many of us I have a good degree of common sense and luckily enough I’m not disabled in any way, but the untidiness and poorly equipped state of the stores has them bordering on hazardous at times. Their system for dealing with deliveries of stock seems to be arguably archaic compared to most, which I believe is due to factors relating to availability of warehouse, shop floor and shelf space.
Earlier I spoke to an old friend of mine who has worked for ALDI for a number of years. All in all he echoed my thoughts on the occasionally erratic ALDI shopping experience:
“I think a lot of new customers are a little bemused by the way you are hurried through the till and made to pack at the bench. This is mainly due to the general public used to being waited on hand and foot”.
My friend also added:
“The company are constantly at their staff about having good customer service. However this can be compromised by the company’s constant want for speed and efficiency”.
It is un-doubtable that we all expect a little too much as customers, and the lower priced stores aren’t responsible in ‘wowing’ us every time we visit; yet I have experienced neglected caring in many shops as well as ALDI. I’m not implying there should be more lawsuits for ‘slips and trips’ either. In my experience working in a shop it is difficult to meet every need at busy times. All I’m hoping for is better ease-of-access when it comes to navigating around sections for the weekly food shop, thus a little extra care for those of who are less able to get around.
In the end, though, let’s focus on the positives of ALDI. At stores such as Co-op and Tesco it can be a process of ‘pot luck’ shopping when it comes to a having a low budget, as I would pan across aisle to aisle checking for promotions and discounted items. Without an infinite amount of patience I find myself having to compromise by either spending more money on more expensive products, or paying less for cheap and poor quality products. At ALDI there is cohesion of both low prices and medium to high quality, albeit at the risk of tripping over boxes and packaging on the shop floor!
Let it be noted that I don’t wish to slam the company, as some weeks I’d be lost without them, but in an ideal world we could all enjoy the finest ingredients served with a smile, for as little as the coppers you came with. Ideally, anyway.
Before I end I’d like to mention the shocking levels of immaturity and know-how I see from young shoppers, most likely university students. A lot of elder folk will naturally agree with me, but even before I reach the age of thirty I find people merely five years or so my junior an embarrassment when it comes to their overall understanding on how to purchase good foods and indeed how to cook.
Perhaps I’m being pompous, impatient and pretentious. And maybe it’s more a testament to my well-rounded upbringing that I, at the very least, know what ingredients go into a Spaghetti Bolognese. The other day, for example, three women in their early twenties, still in their pyjamas at two o’clock in the afternoon, took several minutes deciding on whether to buy pre-grated cheese or a block of it. I cringed, as surely it is obvious that pre-grated cheese is not only cheating, but it is not good value at all.
This all seems like a non-issue, but to me exemplifies how young people aren’t being encouraged to help in the kitchen as much and have a distinct lack of cultural understanding when it comes to cuisines and cost effective shopping. They wonder, as they helplessly meander around the shop, whether they can even achieve the goal of a properly cooked meal.
I’ll leave you with one final example, and it’s a good one. Living for almost a year in university halls of residence I came across a young man who asked how you make toast. I almost fainted.