Tuesday, April 22, 2008


After reading some of your interesting comments posted, on Philip's recommendation I checked out the low-budget documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price, a fairly devastating study on some of that company's practices. While there are some important parallels to be made between Wal-Mart and Tesco, there are clearly some differences too (one being that Tesco isn't even cheap).

Those comparisons aside, as I see it, the herds of shoppers, who dutifully provide the foundation for these voracious enterprises (without which would fail), are not making any conscious statement on any of the issues one way or another. They are not being deliberately malicious or uncaring towards Asian slave labour for instance, they just don't really care - and in fact, part of the success of the supermarket/retail giant is achieved by this desensitising and pacifying process. The battery hen of a customer is no longer able to discern any more between a flower that has a real fragrance, any more to a strawberry that has flavour, any more to chocolate that is beyond mere flavouring and sugar, than is he or she any longer capable of seeing the terrible toll being inflicted by their acquiescence, not only on others but ironically on themselves.


Anonymous said...

It must be nice for you to be able to afford to pick and choose what you eat and where you get it from and then criticize others for not doing the same. We are all sheep here, it's just that some sheep are more privileged than others. We look forward to the Whitehouse Travelling Farmers Market.... power electronics and fresh peppers at a shed near you.... SOON!

William Bennett said...

- Tesco is not a cheap option
- I'm not criticising their customers, reread what I wrote more carefully this time
- I am not privileged

flora_mundi said...

as someone who's worked on the "inside" (as a supplier) to both wm and tesco, i can assure you that what you see in "the high cost of low price" is the tip of the evil iceberg. i could go on about this for hours...

to "fat", in all seriousness, cost is an issue for most people and if you are looking for an option that maintains low cost goods, but has a better corporate track record, shop at costco. they're big enough to put goods out for cheap, but they have a far superior record interms of how they treat their employees, the standards to which the hold suppliers (including in the orient) and their attempts to mitigate damage to the environment. far from perfect, but a choice you can feel better about.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to reread the original post as I read it as carefully as it deserved the first time and I feel I don't need to reinforce my opinion or offer a reappraisal. My "privileged" remark was not directed at you or any specific individual, apologies for not making that clearer.
Costco might be an option to some but seeing as the nearest branch to my cave is approx. fifteen miles away and with public transport virtually nonexistent here i think I'll still be shoplifting at the local Tesco for the forseeable future, regardless of the global implications. About 10 years ago I made a commitment never to travel by air because of the damage it did to our environment. Second biggest mistake of my life because I'm so damned trustworthy.

Richo said...

I think my biggest problem with such arguments is that I feel I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to being a complete and utter hypocrite. Helpless to a situation, yet likewise a hypocrite. Slave labour's existed since man realised he could exploit and take advantage of those around him, plus arrives in many, many forms. We could contend that anybody who can justify feeling 'overworked and underpaid' (i.e., a tremendous amount of people, from all walks of life and every country) may feel exploited, cheated or akin to a 'slave'. I know I did in my last job, despite the relative comforts afforded by us 'rich' westerners, who can pick and choose whether to buy nothing but the finest seedless grapes to accompany a new book and, uh, a Mahler CD collection after supping an unusually flavoured cup of tea.

Choosing to not shop anywhere won't make the slightest bit of difference to anything. As sure as I am that certain people get trodden on more than others in this world, I am as sure of this.

I've always criticised people for being generally complacent when it comes to many things, but I'm just as guilty.

Although, generally, I don't shop at large supermarkets of any kind (especially since having moved to Krakow from Herne Bay), there have been times (especially when I've returned to the UK) where I've had to turn to them purely because I've been compromised by both the convenience and, indeed, my hunger or thirst. Regarding the latter, I may not care WHO has sold me that bottle of Buxton water, apple and packet of crisps, either, because my own needs surpass such considerations...

Besides, as implied above, I'm of the opinion that other people elsewhere are just as trampled on. I mean, I bought a pineapple from a fairly inconspicuous shop a couple of days back and I'm sure that everybody from the person who actually picked it to the person I bought it from feels, and even IS (to varying degrees) 'enslaved'.

As I said before, I feel helpless to all of it. Nothing I, or anybody else, says or do will change it, either. This is the ultimate truth behind it all.

We'll die and everything will continue in the manner it already does.

I used to get on my soapbox about so many things, but slipped on the mat marked hypocrisy as soon as the need arose. Because this is what we all do.

I don't like certain animal farming practices, but I still eat meat. I don't like pollution, but I'll still drive, fly or, indeed, work at a power station (teaching English mostly to the middle-management there). I don't like violence, but have still been in fights or bought books about serial killers. And so it goes on...

We are all hypocrites (almost a Pop Group album title!), and I think I'll have THAT engraved on my fucking headstone (which'll doubtlessly be carved by slaves of one form or another...).

Miss Kerry said...

"Welcome to Costco, I love you."
Idiocracy ( film)