by Andrew Taylor
The cuts that the Coalition have introduced don’t even make a dent in our fiscal problems but are their way of getting people used to the idea. They are eventually going to have to increase the pain so we had better start preparing ourselves. I hope to write a series of articles on how we can make life a little easier for ourselves, and the first is on food.
Food prices in general seem to have shot up recently in Tesco in Ballards Lane and it no longer offers the low prices it used to. One problem is that the store caters more for large families with large freezers than for smaller households. For example, a pack of two salmon fillets costs £4, but if you buy three packs, you get them for £10, a saving of £2. Great for the large family but not for a couple or single person, especially the poor pensioners who are suffering the most. This is just one example, and if you expand this across your weekly shop you can work out that, unless you are catering for a large family, prices are high.
Did you know most supermarkets put the higher-priced items at eye level, the medium price items on either the top shelf or the one just below eye level, and the lowest price items on the bottom shelf? And they put their cheapest brands in easily identifiable wrappings so you feel embarrassed at the checkout? This way they cater for everyone but make more money from the unwise shopper who has more disposable income.
My wife has taken to going to the Friday morning market in the Lodge Lane car park in North Finchley. Although most of the stalls are for clothes and household items, they have an excellent butcher’s where we buy our meat, and their large eggs are so much lower in price than those in Tesco. They have a large fish stall which has an excellent selection. There is also a greengrocer’s and my wife finds their prices are also much lower than Tesco’s. On our way home we call in at Cafe Buzz and each have a nice hot coffee, and even when taking that into consideration we still save a lot of money.
However, if you work on weekdays, there is an abundance of greengrocers around Finchley and this competition helps to keep their prices lower than the supermarkets. If you can’t make the Friday morning market, check out their prices and you will be pleasantly surprised.
One of the coffee bars I like to call into, in Ballards Lane, isn’t attracting as many customers as they used to and I noticed they have put up their prices. I find this very interesting as, back in the fifties, I spent three years in the United States. And, through the years, I have noticed some marked differences between businesses in the USA and the UK.
Over here, if there is a recession, the first thing to go is advertising and marketing. In the USA they increase advertising and marketing as they know many companies will fold and they want to get their customers as soon as that happens. Another point in the USA is, when customers are thin on the ground, they lower their prices and increase their deals. In the UK they raise their prices so they can get the same income from the remaining customers, and then wonder why those remaining customers start going elsewhere. This is the case with the coffee bar, which, incidentally, I shan’t be going into all that often now.
The one trait of the English that many foreign shopkeepers lament is that, when unhappy with a shop or business, English people never complain, they just never go back. This is very cruel to a struggling business run by people who may not understand what English customers want, and we then have another empty shop in the high street which will end up as an estate agents or nail bar! If you aren’t happy with a shop or business, complain politely. If the shopkeeper is understanding, go back, if not, don’t go back. But at least give him a chance to rectify your issues.