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The hidden costs of soulless supermarkets

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Supermarket aisles can be tempting but confusing places

Supermarket aisles can be tempting but confusing places

Supermarket aisles can be tempting but confusing places

I wonder how many others share my intense dislike of shopping in large supermarkets.

You know those great ugly sheds, situated out of town with enormous car parks and interiors the size of football pitches. Shopping in such places means navigating around long aisles which provides enough exercise to equal going to the gym.

A bigger problem is that, while you are searching for what you need, you pass shelves that are groaning with processed foods, so your chances of eating healthily and avoiding the stuff that piles on the fat requires great will power.

Impulse shopping is what makes supermarkets so profitable. The foods they want you to buy are always at eye level, with the more popular items difficult to find.

Locating an assistant is nigh on impossible so, like a total idiot, you keep walking, around and around while your blood pressure soars.

Have you noticed how basic everyday needs like milk are always located at the furthest point from the entrance?

Or how the shelf lay out is continually changing with something less frequently purchased located in aisle four today and in a few weeks has moved to aisle eleven?

I find that really frustrating but their strategy is to keep us moving and passing by tempting items that we mightn't have set out to buy.

Even the background music is arranged to control our actions with relaxing tunes playing in the mornings to encourage us to browse slowly and thereby purchase more. When the shop is busy, the pace changes to brisk, fast tempo tunes to get us walking faster and allow for a larger turnover of customers.

It is all very clever and manipulative, but is it enjoyable?

I certainly don't think so and would far prefer to return to the system from my youth where you handed a list in at the local grocers and while your items were being gathered and packed, you could relax and enjoy a chat with the owner or the other customers or if in a hurry, come back later when everything would be ready for you.

Don't you just long for the days when the pub, grocers, post office and petrol pumps were all one and you could sit on a sack of spuds enjoying a pint while a shop assistant gathered your requirements. There was even credit in those days and receiving a bill every three months was normal.

This was civilised shopping, carried out at a gentle pace and often providing food items produced by neighbours like jam, eggs and butter. Many families would have gone hungry without the kindly and caring attitude of rural shopkeepers who knew well that a woman with six children and a husband labouring in England or wherever could not be expected to pay promptly each time she received a bill.

Large out-of-town supermarkets are draining the life out of our small towns and villages, killing off local businesses and forcing us to drive miles to shop.

The price wars they engage in have certainly reduced the cost of food but in return, this comes at a heavy cost to the farmers who are now subsidising the consumer. Supermarket buyers have a reputation for being ruthless in their methods of doing business.

I know two small food producers who went bankrupt as a result of their purchasing strategy.

It's a tough world out there and is perhaps the reason why so many small scale businesses now prefer to stick with famers markets and other similar outlets for selling their wares.

Below cost food comes at a huge social and human cost. We must try to retain our remaining small grocery shops, drapers and newsagents along with our rural post offices by using them more frequently.

Shop local and try to make less trips to that out-of-town, foreign-owned supermarket.

Regarding supermarket etiquette, if you are female and checking out a large trolley of goods, please remember that there may well be a man behind you who has just one or two items and who would prefer not to hang about aimlessly while you stand idly chatting to the checkout girl.

Why not pack your bags while the goods are being scanned? You can pack and talk at the same time. And please have your credit cards, club cards and those maddening vouchers ready rather than slowly rooting for them in in your bulging handbag only after your trolley has been reloaded.

Think of my blood pressure.

 jbarry@ independent.ie

Indo Farming