“Brown rice, free-range eggs and muesli; do we need anything else from the health food shop? No? Ok, can you pass me an old carrier bag? No, not a Tesco one!”
Good grief, you wouldn’t believe the politics behind the label of your used carrier bag.
OK, we all know that the billions of plastic carrier bags we accumulate from the supermarkets are not helping the environment, so if we can’t avoid collecting them then we should at least be reusing them at every opportunity.
Sunrise Wholefoods – our local health food shop – happily takes donations of old plastic bags to reuse for its customers, in case they forgot to bring one along themselves. However, while waiting to be served one afternoon I overheard a conversation with the customer in front as to whether they accepted Tesco carrier bags. The temperature dropped by several degrees as the offer was politely, but frostily refused.
Before we moved to this corner of Scotland, I ran a web design business in Alloa, a small town in Central Scotland that was considered to be a European Black Spot in terms of unemployment and poverty. The town had been built on coal mining, the textile industry and breweries. One by one they had closed down or moved out, leaving an area with twice the national unemployment rate. In a town that was dominated by pubs, betting shops and 99p stores (every item under £1), when Tesco announced they were to build a superstore it was greeted as a turning point in the town’s fortunes and they were welcomed with open arms for being one of the first waves of investment into the community.
The attempt to establish a Tesco store in Castle Douglas, on the other hand, was met by a great deal of hostility, primarily from the local shops who feared that Tesco’s renowned bully-boy tactics could create widespread closure of many businesses. 8 months after they opened, and there’s been no noticeable change in the high street.
Whether the fears were over-hyped or the effects are more likely to be felt in the long term are unknown at this point, but for many household items and groceries, the simple fact is that the quality is pretty good and the price is even better, so we have been known to shop there. In a divided community, however, it doesn’t always pay to advertise the Tesco brand on your used carrier bags.
A quick rummage through the pile, avoiding anything with white, blue and red on it, I happily grabbed a green plastic bag and headed for Sunrise Wholefoods.
Was that a funny look she gave me as I put the muesli into my not-Tesco-used-carrier? Perhaps it was a slight whiff of disapproval that I hadn’t insisted the brown rice be organic, or maybe she’d noticed my shoes were made with leather uppers. But no - it wasn’t until I got home that I realised my bag was advertising rival health food store chain, Holland & Barratt.
UPDATE - Sunrise Wholefoods