The Price Drop Con

We got a letter through our letter box yesterday from Tesco Club Card. It trumpeted their new price initiative Price Drop where they claim they are dropping their prices on up to 3000 items in order to make our lives a little better in these tough economic times. On the whole it seems like a very good thing for them to do until you read on…..

At the bottom of the letter they go on to explain that in order to do this they are reverting their clubcard points back to one point per pound spent as opposed to their double club card points scheme they’ve been running for a few years now. Incidentally they did this on petrol a few months ago reducing the points to one point for every £2 spent but they kept that very quiet at the time.

As it is we needed to go to Tesco last night so we got the chance to check out some of their claims

The first thing we noticed was that they had dropped the price of a 4 pint bottle of milk from £1.49 to £1.25. At first glance that would seem good but I know that until 2 weeks ago they were running a promotion of 3 for £3 on that line. So if we had bought 3 bottles last night we would have paid £3.75 an increase of 75p. Now that’s hardly a good start. We only bought 1 as we can get a 2 litre bottle of milk at out local corner shop for only 95p and while this bottle is slightly smaller it still works out cheaper. If our local shop can sell it for this price why can’t Tesco with all it’s buying power.

Then there were other things that didn’t seem right. A tray of cat food where the “old” price was advertised as being higher than what we remembered paying for it the week before (I had remarked that it had only been 1p more than a rival brand and now the Price drop tag claimed it had been more than 50p dearer). Other things had been reduced from prices that we felt were higher than we had been paying. About the only thing we found that did seem cheaper was a loaf of their baked in store bread that seems to have been reduced by 5p to £1.

Obviously we didn’t check everything but the overwhelming feeling was that maybe the Price Drops had been exaggerated somewhat.

So in order to take off a few pence here and there Tesco have dropped back their rewards program. My understanding is that market analysts have been predicting this for sometime as they felt it was unsustainable to keep it at 2p in the pound. Tesco’s are obviously claiming that we will benefit from the Price Drop reductions but we will only do that if two things happen. Firstly we will have to buy the things that they have reduced the price on. Personally I would prefer to get 2p in the pound back on my shopping rather than 1p and a few dubious price reductions which, and this is the second thing, could be slowly forgotten about in the coming weeks and months once the shock of the points reduction has subsided – classic smoke and mirrors.

Tesco must be working on the principle that all their customers are stupid – not a great way to treat the people who come into your stores and spend the money you need to keep your empire in the profits to which you have become accustomed!

While we are on the subject of Tesco I must have a bit of a moan about their new Gillingham store. The store was expanded last year to become a Tesco Extra and since then it has seriously gone to the dogs. As customers we put up with months of works to end up with a store that has become overcrowded and so badly stocked it makes me wonder how they keep going. The first thing you notice as you enter the store is the lack of space. There is hardly any room inside the door and once you’re inside the aisles are narrower than before and most of them are piled with displays of booze, clothes and other non essential stuff. We were really looking forward to the new store opening but in order to add space for LCD TV’s DVD’s and the like the store has been completely ruined.

Week after week we are faced with half empty shelves, sometimes of really basic things – they had a real problem with constantly running out of milk and this got so bad that they had to put a sign on the milk shelves pointing out to their staff that it was a priority fill item! Last night they had no bags of sugar and there were items where the shelf had been empty when we last went on Saturday and still hadn’t been filled up! If you go in the evening the staff are filling the shelves and really don’t give a toss about the customers leaving trolleys all over the place, blocking aisles throwing rubbish around, and stacking food in front of the shelves so that it’s difficult to reach anything.Outside isn’t any better with a few safety issues. One of the doors to the store is such that as soon as you exit it you are virtually in the road and it’s so blind it would be easy to step in front of a car! The carpark itself slopes so badly that in certain areas it is impossible to let go of your trolley without it rolling down the hill and into other cars. (Incidentally it will be interesting to see if a really heavy rain storm will have the same effect as there is nothing to stop the water flowing into the store!). The entrance to the petrol station regularly becomes a bottle neck and the new trolleys they got are designed so badly that they jam everytime they are stacked inside each other.

A few years ago we shopped almost exclusively at Tesco but now we find ourselves making the longer trip to Asda on more and more occasions. Their store is much more spacious that the Tesco one but they too still have things that annoy me. It’s sad for Tesco that the only saving grace they have is that the opposition are that much better than them!

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Cooking up a storm

A few years ago we went on holiday to Wales and while we were there, we went on the Vale of Rheidol railway which runs from Aberystwyth to Devil’s bridge up a spectacular climb, for a narrow gauge railway, through some beautiful countryside. While  we waited for the return journey we went into a cafe for a cup of tea. This was the first time I can remember trying Bara Brith which is a local fruit based bread made by soaking the fruit in tea and hence is sometimes known as tea bread.

I really liked it and later on during the holiday I decided to buy a recipe book in order to make it when we returned home. As I said that was a few years ago and I finally got round to making it last Sunday! I think one of the problems was that you need to soak the fruit overnight in a jug of tea and obviously if the whim takes you one day to make it then you can’t go back and put the fruit into soak! Last weekend though I finally managed to think ahead and buy the ingredients on the Saturday and put the fruit into soak overnight. It was quite easy to make and I was pleased with the way it turned out.

While I was in the kitchen I discovered the cooking apples I had brought home a few days earlier. I’d been driving through Chislehurst on my way home when I got stuck in traffic. As I was sitting there I saw some boxes with a sign saying Cooking Apples please help yourself. I pulled over and picked up half a dozen big green ones. I got home and put them in the cupboard until I decided what to do with them. I did think of freezing them but the freezer was quite full so decided against it.

So I decided to make an apple crumble while the Bara Brith was cooking. When I opened the bag of apples I discovered that one of them had gone bad but the rest were ok. So I peeled and cooked the apples before making the crumble topping. Initially I had a few problems but eventually it stopped looking like dough and more like bread crumbs! We had the crumble with custard that night and even though I do say so myself – it was jolly nice!

Generation eh?

I finally finished reading the latest Douglas Coupland book today almost a year after I originally bought it. This is not a reflection on the book but I will come back to that shortly but more because I just haven’t been in the right frame of mind for reading for quite some time. Curiously the day after my cluster headaches went I had an uncontrollable urge to read again and this was the first book I wanted to read.

I’m a big fan of Coupland and have read most of his fiction. I always find reading one of his books follows a distinct pattern. When I first start reading I always find it difficult and often struggle at first with what appear to be quite random twists and turn and no discernible plot. However before I know where I am I’ve been sucked into the story and once I have I can’t put the bloody thing down.

This book was no exception which probably explains why I put it to one side after a few chapters but again once I’d picked it up again….The only thing was this time I found the end to be quite disappointing and a bit of an anticlimax.

Next I’m going to see if I can finish my fellow Deadhead Stav Sherez’s second book – The Black Monastery.

Space Invaders

I’ve been commuting into London by train this week and once again I’m amused by the regular commuters who stand in groups along the platform at regular intervals.  I can’t believe that they are so sad that they know exactly where the train doors will be when it stops at the station! If there’s a larger than average gap between two groups that will be where the first class compartment will be!

I stood watching them this morning and I noticed that people who have just arrived on the platform walk straight up to a group and stand very very close to the people already there. In any other situation someone walking up to you and standing in such close proximity would cause you to be very nervous and start worrying about them invading your personal space. Personally I prefer to enjoy all the empty space on the platform and really don’t feel the need to be first on the train when it stops especially as it is very rare that I don’t get a seat.

The other thing that amuses me is that the same people probably form the same group every day and even though they probably recognize each other there is rarely any attempt to acknowledge each other let alone bid their fellow space invaders a cheery good morning or heaven forbid strike up a conversation! How very English!

End of the Cluster

I haven’t blogged for a while due an episode of Cluster Headaches which began on 19th July and went on unabated until the 20th August when they just suddenly stopped. We had left home on the Wednesday night to go and visit our friend who lives just outside Birmingham and we arrived there at about 10:30 after a four hour drive (most of which was just getting through London). I’d been fine all the way and still felt ok as we went to bed. However after I’d been asleep for a short while I woke with the usual blinding pain above my right eye.

Cluster headaches are usually unilateral in that they only appear on one side of the head at a time (thankfully) – however sufferers can have headaches on both sides. The pain is usually always on one side of the head during a cluster so that even though during this cluster the pain is on the right hand side the next time it could be on the left. Occasionally the pain will swap sides during a cluster – I don’t ever remember this happening before but it did this time. When the cluster started back in July the pain had been above my left eye but after about 3 weeks it swapped sides and started on my right. I also noticed that the pain seemed to be greater on the right hand side and that the itching feeling in my nose that sometimes signals the onset of a headache appeared only after the headache changed sides.

There’s nothing worse than having an attack in someone else’s house – at least at home you know where to get comfortable to ride it out but that’s not always possible when you’re in a strange house. I’d discovered that splashing icy cold water on my face helped a lot but even that is fraught with danger when you go to a strange bathroom and forget there are two steps down just behind the door! The headache subsided after a while and I tried to prop myself up but not long after I got back to sleep another one kicked in! I had a very restless night and kept Sarah awakw a lot (another thing that’s easier to avoid in your own home). I eventually got up early in the morning when headache number 3 started. I went and sat on the doorstep outside the front door where I stayed until it had gone.

The next day we were going to drive up to Sunderland to spend time with my step mum and help sort out some of the stuff left in the garage after the death of my Dad and Grandmother earlier this year. I did feel tired but we’d spent the morning mooching about with our friend and then hit the road about midday. I was fine most of the journey but stopped at a service station on the M1 for a break when I started to feel tired. Almost as soon as we hit the road again I started to feel that tickle in my nose that made me realise that another headache was on it’s way. Driving on a motorway is not the best place to get a headache but somehow I managed to hold on to the next service area although it took a supreme effort to do so. Once there I went to the toilet to splash my face with water only to find they only had hot taps! Luckily by the time I had got back to the car it had eased off so we could continue the journey.

The following night was just as bad. We were staying in a Premier Inn and luckily for me we had booked it for 2 children but only had one with us. This meant there was a spare bed and lots of pillows so I could prop myself up and ride out the pain. It wasn’t as comfortable as the sofa at home but it did the trick. Once again I had 3 headaches during the night and by the time morning came I was feeling very tired.  So after two very sleepless nights I got into bed the following night absolutely exhausted and as Sarah had also crashed out decided to prop myself up from the start. It wasn’t very comfortable and I didn’t sleep very well but I was pleased that I managed to get through the night without a headache for the first time in a month.

The following night I lay down to go to sleep hoping that the cluster had finally come to an end. I’ve had it happene d before where you have a pain free night and then the following night it kicks off again but something told me it had finished and for the first time in ages I slept for a whole night lying down – it was wonderful! I haven’t had any pain since so hopefully I will now have a break before they start again – hopefully a long break but you never know – sometimes it can be years but it’s more likely to be months.

The good news is that I now have  an appointment to see the neurologist in October so hopefully they will be able to find something to ease the pains when they come. The anti-convulsants that seemed to do the trick during the previous episode didn’t do anything this time. I’ve found that though right through the clusters I’ve had over the past 16 years that sometimes the thing that worked last time has no effect this time. It’s a bugger it really is!