Hitler, Franco and . . . Clarke?!?
Drawing comparisons between Tesco CEO Philip Clarke and Hitler or Franco is really stretching it, if not downright ridiculous and quite frankly extreme. But then again, so are the actions of the giant UK retailer when store management moves in like proverbial storm troopers to stop a consumer journalist from writing down prices of bottled water.
That’s right, according to store management it’s illegal. Or to quote consumer journalist Patrick Collinson in recounting how he was accosted by the store in questions’ managers “It’s illegal to write things down and you can’t take any photographs, either. If you want to check the prices, take the item to the till and pay for it there. The price will be on the receipt.”
I had no idea that the grocery business was a hotbed for such intrigue. Maybe the produce guy at my local supermarket is really watching me and recording my fruit and vegetable preferences and reporting it back to the Canadian secret service to see if I am a banana subversive?
The fact is that as a self-confessed extreme couponer (I am not even sure if that is a word), who reads the fine print to see if I can use more than 1 coupon per item, and then fastidiously seeks out store specials which have seen me pay as little as .97 cents for a regularly priced $7.99 item, Tesco’s actions are oppressive and warrant a public outcry followed by a lengthy boycott!
Imagine telling a consumer that you have to buy something to obtain a record of the price!
Now some of you may be inclined to say that sure, I understand your consternation if Collinson were a regular consumer. But he is a consumer journalist and his activities had nothing to do with personal consumption. Here’s the thing, the store management did not know that he was a journalist. And even if they did, so what? What does the retailer have to hide?
Can you imagine if car dealerships had a similar policy or for that matter any other store where goods and/or services are sold. I can see it now, gas stations no longer posting their prices but instead making you fill up the tank before giving you the cost per liter. How many of us would frequent that kind of establishment?
Let’s not forget about the Internet. What if eBay insisted that you bid on an item without posting previous bids?
At the end of the day and for whatever reasons Tesco has for forcing patrons to buy a product in order to walk out with a record of its price, one thing is certain . . . if it is truly a company policy and, given the opportunity to do it differently, would the store’s management perhaps have chosen to look the other way had they known that it would end up in an article?
One thing is for sure, the next time I am in my local supermarket the Rockwell song somebody’s watching me will be playing in the back of my mind.