Tag Archives: 30 days

30 days without supermarkets #26: defeat in Prague and glory of kitchen departments

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An onion-storer for the fridge

Much as I feared, I had to abandon the challenge today as the prospect of quickly finding a suitable independent food retailer  in central Prague was as likely as finding a greengrocer in Oxford Circus. There is one big fat supermarket in Prague, and it’s Tesco. I’m intriqued to know why by last year they had completely rebranded it in natural green and orange and with the name ‘My národní‘ with the Tesco logo and colours almost invisible in a tiny patch on the front of the 6-storey building.

One of my favourite shops in Prague is the household department of Kotva. The only thing that even nearly approaches this is the basement of Peter Jones, but this is several leagues better than that. This is a shop where you can buy several sizes and brands of  implements and devices whose function you can only guess at. This is a shop where you can get something that will slice a cucumber into one continuous spiral, or a bag of metal lids that can be clamped onto storage jars with the right jar-clamper, or a curved tube that turns a bottle of water into a jug, or a plastic screw-top onion that can be used to store unused bits of onion in the fridge (left).

I couldn’t quite place why I love this shop so much, and why it feels so different to similar shops in England, until I realised that it’s because it’s full of things that help you to do things yourself, rather than convenience and the pre-packaged.

30 days without a supermarket #6: Goodbye ‘the faceless mute’ at Tesco

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Mary Portas speaks about how supermarkets are killing communities. The sad thing is that I’ve come across some great staff at supermarkets, but they’re not rewarded  for their interpersonal skills. There’s a script to be followed that forbids the staff to take into account the actual personality and mood of the  other person in the equation, the customer. Ask the customer how they are today, even if they look like they just want to be left alone.

There are a couple of people that I’ll miss seeing behind the checkouts, but they tend to be the mavericks who are probably unlikely to stay. Like the intelligent and knowledgeable teenager in Dixons that advised me against buying the television I was interested in a few years ago.’Why?’ I asked ‘Because it’s a f***ing piece of shit. Look at it! The remote doesn’t even work properly’. I’m sure he’s gone far, and I’d buy something from him wherever he works.