SO, on Saturday afternoon we went to our local Aldi. Coronavirus-fuelled panic made the scene resemble Christmas Eve, just with less turkey and no pigs in blankets. We were out to do a normal shop. A normal shop for normal people…. sadly there’s few of them around (normal people I mean, not normal shops).
Quite what people will do with all this toilet roll and pasta God only knows. I’m sure they have plan…. there was empty shelves everywhere (Aldi wasn’t too bad, Sainsbury had been far worse). People leaving with mountains of lentils and quinoa, and you were looking at them thinking you’ve never eaten these before, don’t know what to do with them. You’re just panicking and buying anything because it’s there. Those butterbeans are never going to be opened. This is not the apocalypse.
But anyway, and it’s worth repeating, we were just doing our normal shop. Like we do every weekend. No panic-buying or stock-piling of anything. Just doing the big shop…
So we were quite surprised when the check out assistant told us we could not have all the bananas we’d picked up. We had 5. Not 5 packs, a solitary bunch of 5 bananas. She then pointed to a sign that said customers were limited to a maximum of 4 of any item in the store.
Now, this was a bunch of bananas. In my opinion, and perhaps this comes down to definition/interpretation, I believe this to be a bunch of bananas. Singular. One bunch. We were not trying to buy 8 bags of potatoes, or 10 packs of pasta. There was people in the store panic-buying chorizo – this was one bunch of bananas, containing just 5 bananas. It’s also worth pointing out that we’re a family of four. She was effectively allowing us one banana each, for a week.
We tried to get some sense out of her. Anna even suggested to her, “so you’d me happy for me to leave with four packs of toilet roll, each with 16 rolls?” Yes, she replied. That would be okay. “Seriously, 64 rolls of toilet paper would be okay, but 5 bananas isn’t?” She wasn’t moving, just pointed again to the sign…
So I asked her to hang on…… and got four packs of bananas. Each containing six bananas pre-packed in plastic. This was four items. We now had 29 bananas. She removed one from the bunch. We now had 28 bananas…. 23 more than we’d wanted. We held our breath…. surely common sense would prevail. By now intrigued people behind us in the queue were watching this exchange with increased incredulity. Would we leave with 4 bananas, 28 bananas….. or no bananas?
She still, wasn’t getting it. She wasn’t understanding the irony, or the lunacy, of the situation. No common sense was prevailing. “Okay, that’s fine” she said. She was happy for us to take 28 bananas, as long as we took some plastic packaging too. So we left Aldi with 28 bananas, just to prove the point. Don’t get my wrong, I believe the supermarkets are absolutely right to put into place measures that stop people stock-piling. But a bunch of bananas, which are perishable and won’t last more than 4 or 5 days cannot be considered to be stockpiling.
Please supermarkets of the UK, issue guidance that allows for an element of common sense…. because that was just bananas.
MARK LINGARD, MARKETING