Plain Jane 221113I like Laura Sandys. While not a natural inhabitant of the same neck of the woods, politically, as our good MP for Thanet South, (to quote my esteemed colleague Right Mike’s lament, I can be “dangerously pink”) I applaud her commitment, her hard work for the constituency and her genuine compassion and concern for the people and future of Thanet.

Indeed, I have found, via informal chat over the years, that many of her views – of whatever hue, officially – coincide closely, even pinkishly, with mine.

Until, it seems, we come to the vexed question of supermarkets. Or to be specific, their “dodgy promotions”.

Laura is cross with the big stores, recently exposed by a Which? report, for being a bit iffy on their was / now pricing, contravening the statutory length of time goods must have been at a higher price before “discount”, and for hiking the price altogether when presenting a multi-buy offer, so that sometimes it is more expensive to buy ON offer than off.

Basically, if I might paraphrase, for being conniving, duplicitous swindlers who enjoy pulling the wool over our eyes.

Laura is urging the Government to “take some proper action,” saying that for families in her constituency on a tight budget, these false promotions are “totally unacceptable” and that the companies “must be held to account.”

So far so good, couldn’t agree more (I’m quite sure my beloved Waitrose would never be involved!)).

I waver, however, over Laura’s solution. She proposes that supermarket chains found up to no-good should be “put into the equivalent of the ‘village stocks'”. No, sadly, she does not mean the board of directors get pelted with their own over-priced tomatoes, but that the shops should be subject to “a one minute shut-down” per scam, at “their busiest time of the week.”

Her press release spells it out in full: “lights out, tills closed, doors shut – trade totally stopped”, she declares. “It would be a signal to everyone in the store that their supermarket was being punished for attempting to mislead them.”

I hate to rain on such a bold parade but I foresee problems.

1) How long is it going to take to get everyone out? That woman who’s spent half an hour opening every egg box on the shelf and peering inside – by the time you’ve distracted her from her mission (what is she looking for?) it will be time to reopen.

2) What about our trolleys? There we are halfway up the cereal aisle, receptacle piled high with (very probably crookedly priced) three-for-two cornflakes, when the shout goes up and we’re all herded to the doors. Then we have to re-find the right one (which quite frankly is difficult enough when you move a metre away during the Christmas rush). Chaos.

3) Will there be special dispensation if you’ve just reached the till? Picture the scene. You’ve queued, you’ve waited, you’ve stood by while the old boy in front finds his vouchers, gets his token, demands that his tin of beans is changed for one that’s not dented, queries the total and tells the checkout girl about the gout in his bunions (she doesn’t care, bless you, she really doesn’t). You’ve unloaded everything onto the belt and Pow! Time to go. When you get back someone else has shoved in front or that till’s now closed for ever.

4) Who’s going to head up crowd control? There’s a freezing wind, it’s pouring with rain and five hundred shoppers are stuck in the car park. It might be a moment for the Dunkirk spirit. On the other hand…

5) The “busiest time” for a supermarket has been shown to be late Saturday afternoon. Serious delays could mean the nation will miss Come Dine with Me and might even be running late for Strictly. If you thought there was trouble brewing already…

Sorry, Laura. I like your thinking, love. But it’s never going to work.


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