Let me start by telling you exactly how I feel about big supermarkets and department stores like Coles, Safeway, Target and K-mart to name a few local chains here in Australia. When you shop at one of these stores, you are doing nothing less than spitting in the face of freedom. And don’t think that I am over reacting. For years these companies have been using their warmonger tactics to take over and destroy competition from smaller, independent retailers. And in the name of convenience we have allowed this to happen.
There is another term that can be used to describe those who look for the convenient option regardless of the outcome. Lazy! And if you’re sitting there thinking “but what is wrong with supermarkets and department stores?” you can throw in the terms ignorant and naive too.
Since the birth of these abominations, it has been their one goal to take over and be the one source of all products, no matter what the cost to us, our culture, society and environment. The first stage was to establish themselves as a place of connivence, where you could go to get many products under the one roof, instead of having to walk up and down a street of individual shops. They succeeded. And for someone like me who hates shopping, they are convenient.
The next stage was to eradicate all competition by using unfair trade tactics and providing products direct to the public, at prices much lower than the competition could possibly provide. In many cases, they sell their products even cheaper than what the competitions wholesale price is. Once again they have succeeded. Unless you live in a country town or a suburb that has resisted the propaganda (and there are a few remaining), independent grocery stores, toy shops, fruit & vegetable shops, bottle shops, bakeries, butchers and many more, are becoming casualties of the war and having to close up shop. They just can’t compete.
This is about where they are up to in their world domination plans. The next stage, which they are beginning to implement in certain areas now, is to start jacking up the prices to increase profit margins. They can do it because there are no longer any threats of competition, other than different chains of supermarket and department stores who are up to the same tricks. But they don’t want to totally alienate us, the customers, so they’ll do it slowly at first so you don’t realise. They also do it along with perceived bonuses so that you don’t mind paying extra. Let me give you an example.
Say for instance that baby spinach leaves were being sold for $4.50 per Kilogram. Yes, I know that’s a lot of spinach leaves, but I must stay strong cause I loves me Olive Oyl… Ok enough of the bad jokes…
I doubt there are many people who actually buy baby spinach leaves by the kilo. You probably get more like 100 to 200 grams at a time and only spend fifty cents to a dollar. The supermarketing geniuses took note of what the average amount being purchased was and decided to offer the spinach leaves in pre-package amounts of 200 grams instead of the loose leaf we’ve all been used to. They then sell the pre-packaged 200 grams of baby spinach for the same price you could get a kilo of the loose leaf. We as consumers are so used to seeing the price of $4.50 a kilo but then associating that price with the amount that we actually purchase of only 200 grams, suddenly seeing the 200 grams now priced at $4.50 doesn’t raise any alarm bells.
Their deception doesn’t stop there. The now pre-packaged spinach leaves are wrapped in a glossy plastic which gives the green leaves a sense of being more vibrant, lush and fresh than the loose leaves. They are doing a similar thing with computer monitors these days too. They use a glossy screen to give the image a much richer and more vibrant look than the traditional matte finishes, even though the image being sent to the monitor is exactly the same.
For one last push to get you to spend more on the spinach for less of it, they now put the nice new glossy pack up at the natural eye level under bright lights that, again add to the freshness look. The loose leaf spinach is usually kept in a cardboard box on the bottom shelf away from the lights so that it doesn’t look as appealing. By this stage, most people have made the transition to paying five times the amount they previously were without even realising it.
Of course the actual prices are going to vary from place to place and shop to shop. I only used these prices as an example of what is going on. Which brings me to a side note… Did you know that if you went to ten supermarkets on any given day and looked up the price of the same items in each, the price would vary depending on the area. The supermarkets that still have competition they are trying to eliminate, keep their prices low while the ones where the competition has been slaughtered, are able to increase the prices for greater profit. They of course rely on your habits of convenience, in a hope that you don’t venture too far from your local stores and become aware of the price variances.
The next thing they’ll do, is get you to pay for things that have previously been considered part of normal running costs and built into the pricing of their products. For instance shopping bags and shopping trollies.
Currently I’m unaware of any shop that actually charges for the use of their trollies (other than the airports). However, have you noticed them preparing you for the idea? Almost all supermarkets and department stores in the Melbourne area, make you put a one or two dollar coin into the trolley to release it from the trolley bay. You then get the coin returned when you return the trolley. This is one of many ways these shops work to externalise their costs. Instead of employing someone to collect trollies from the car park, they now motivate you to do the job for them and for nothing. I would bet that this is a precursor to them actually charging for the use of these trollies. Of course this won’t happen until we have all been trained to return the trollies ourselves and do it naturally.
Then there is the debate of plastic bags. A number of supermarkets and department stores around the country are conducting trials, charging for standard plastic carrier bags. Now I don’t know who started this one, but the supermarkets and department stores have certainly taken the opportunity to profit. I have a feeling that it began when the environmentalists kicked up a stink about the adverse effects, plastic bags have on the environment. I’m not going to get into the environmental debate here, but instead of doing the right thing and swapping over to biodegradable bags and being done with the issue, the supermarkets and department stores came up with the ingenious idea to charge the customer to have a plastic bag instead. Not much, just the small fee of around ten cents per bag.
Ten cents… Not much at all really, until you realise that 500 billion to a trillion plastic bags are used each year worldwide. I had a look around and found that I could order biodegradable bags for as low as two cents a bag. I’m sure when the supermarkets and department stores place orders in the millions, they can get them a hell of a lot cheaper than that. If they all started charging their ten cents a bag, that would put at least $40 billion in their pockets. The supermarkets and department stores claim that this is to deter us from using plastic bags so that the environment benefits. Not a bad profit for helping the environment.
If they truly cared about the environment, there is a lot more they could do to solve the problem. It is at this point that I must applaud one department store that seems to be doing the right thing on this issue. Bunnings, a giant hardware store (mind you, this is a hardware store that destroyed all the independent competition in the country, so I can’t applaud them too much), has stopped using plastic bags altogether. Instead they offer cardboard boxes for free. Basically all of the boxes that their stock arrives in, is placed in a holding cage near the exit for customers to use. Not once have I seen boxes available as an option in the majority of other supermarkets and department stores.
So you see, supermarkets and department stores have destroyed all competition and in doing so, have taken our freedom to choose where to shop. In the past if we did not like the service we were getting or the prices being charged or even the smell of the cashier, we could choose not to spend our money at that store and find another one with service, prices or the odor of a cashier that was more to our individual liking. That freedom is gone. We can choose not to shop at theses supermarkets or department stores, but for many items, they are just no longer available anywhere else. Without the freedom to go elsewhere, we no longer have the power to protest the things we don’t like. If we get bad service at one supermarket chain our only choice is to choose a different chain with equally bad service.
I’m not entirely sure what the solution is and fear that these Goliath’s have established too strong a foothold within our communities to be removed. I do however do my bit as an army of one. If a store is charging for bags, I’ll fill a trolley up with items go to the check out, let them scan all of the items and then when they ask if I want to purchase bags I’ll look disgusted at the idea and tell them if they charge me for the bags they’ll loose the sale. Occasionally they have given me the bags to avoid a “scene”. When the don’t relent, I walk away and leave them to clean up and put all the products back. This has cost the store a lot more than the three or four bags would have.
Whenever I need a trolley, I walk up to the help desk and tell them that I need a trolley to do my shopping but don’t have any coins. They then use a special tool to release the trolley for me. No coins required. I’ll then leave the trolley where I park so that a trolley retrievalist can have the job of collecting it.
If there is a choice of packeted vegetables as well as loose ones, I’ll pick the packeted version and then take them out of the packet. This way I get it at the loose price. I’ll leave the packet on the shelf in plain sight, so they know they have been beaten at their own game.
I know these things can appear petty and pointless, but what else can be done? Of course, wherever it is still possible, make the choice to shop at the last remaining independent stores. I am lucky in that there are still have a couple of independent butchers nearby. By shopping there, not only am I fighting against the supermarkets, but the real butcher has far greater range at much better quality. By putting in that extra little bit of effort to go to a separate shop, both myself and the community are benefitting. Imagine if we all acted this way. The supermarkets and department stores would bow to our pressure when it is costing them their precious profits. And that’s the way it should be.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is a place in our communities for supermarkets and department stores. They help to serve the masses in ways that small independent shops would become overwhelmed. I just wish they’d play nice, and understand that there is also a place in our communities for the small independent stores. There is plenty of room in the marketplace for both to operate. It is greed that has driven the supermarkets and department stores to crush the independent retail outlets. I’d love to hear any suggestions and solutions you may have, or ways in which you are protesting. Just leave a them in a comment below.