Friday, 11 May 2012

Girls' Night, Skype, and Tesco does OK

The Girls' Night Out was just me and J--- in the end, the others being tied up in some way. But we had a great time. Our village Indian Restaurant is good. They know J--- well, which helps. And the meal was so pleasant that we just stayed on and on, eventually putting away not only a bottle of wine but two liqueurs each. Chatting all the time, of course. I was known to be chatty in my past life, but not on this sustained level! Something has clearly affected my brain, and flicked one or more 'enabled' switches.

Today it was down to Brighton for lunch with my friend A---, another friend J--- joining us. More wine. Well, it was an occasion. A--- had an Australian friend of long standing, a natal woman called E---, who had just moved (following her divorce) to Ballarat in Victoria state. Earlier that day she had moved into her new bungalow, and although barely unpacked, the plan was to Skype her and for the three of us to give her greetings and a toast. Briefly put, we did it, and got a guided tour of her house and a good impression of it, even though it was mid-evening there and dark outside. But it was a video call interrupted by a horrendously poor connection, and we frequently lost all vision, even though most of the time we could still hear E---, and she us.

Even so, I was tremendously impressed by Skype. It was the frst time I'd seen it in action. Amazing to think that we were in touch like this over such a great distance!

I eventually went home, and as the evening came I realised that I needed a few things, such as the Radio Times, some more milk, and so on. Enough to spur me into firing up Fiona and driving off to Burgess Hill. And instead of Waitrose, I chose Tesco for a change.

I reckoned that Tesco would have all the things I wanted (as it did) but I wasn't expecting a high-class experience. Just like I wouldn't expect one at ASDA. Keen pricing, yes, but the wrong atmosphere. However, it was much better than I thought it would be. The shelves were fully stocked; all was pleasant and neat and inviting; and there were enough tills open to avoid a long wait. And my bill was lightweight. It included a DVD - Red, starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren - for only £5.00. What a snip.

So, well done, Tesco. You may just see me again. (I sometimes go there for diesel anyway)

I still prefer Waitrose though. I like their stuff, and I especially like the atmosphere. The staff are always faultlessly cheerful and polite and friendly and - I don't know how to say this without sounding like a snob - somehow more intelligent, or at least they seem to take an interest and a pride in what they're doing, and clearly strive to do it well. Maybe the John Lewis ethos and profit-sharing scheme have something to do with that, but I still reckon Waitrose staff are a cut above even Marks & Spencer. Not that the other stores don't try hard. I consistently have a good experience at Sainsbury's, my 'number two' Big Store. Morrisons are also eager and convincing contenders, and although I don't rate ASDA for high quality food, I've always found the staff there to be exceptionally friendly. But somehow ASDA, taken as a whole, seems unappealing. It just isn't my kind of place.

Funny, I hardly ever shop on price. I go where I will feel welcome and comfortable. And several people at Waitrose in Burgess Hill know my face, and will have a chat with me. That's nice. And whereas Tesco (and Sainsbury's) have both figured in bleak gender-nightmares about being challenged, Waitrose has not. Sorry, Tesco (and Sainsbury's). The image you have is down to your priorities, your staff selection and training, your concern for your customers, and how well the good things you do come across to customers. It's your fault if the vibes are sometimes bad.

But tonight Tesco was fine.

I wonder how much depends on the other customers' behaviour? ASDA seems full of folk who might have a go at you if they don't like your face. And that's probably the main reason I don't go there.

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