Jump to content

Supermarkets in Shetland - prices, ethics and experiences


breeksy
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am retired now but was a qualified accountant and am ceratinly fully conscious as to monetary values.

You'll be well placed to appreciate the big picture then? If Tesco choose to sell fuel then the price and conditions they set will be something that their spreadsheets say makes them more money overall than if they stay as they are and don't sell fuel.

That arrangement may or may not be something that represents better "value for money" for any particular customer, but they will do it to make money in the long term and that is all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually prefer the layout of the Co-op to Tesco however I find the staff at Tesco far more friendly than the Co-op where you get a begrudged grunt if you are fortunate...... :shock:

 

It is fantastic to see some healthy competition with the Tesco extension and non food items which they are now selling. Competition should be welcomed, it can only improve the customer service which at times I find lacking in some of the high street shops. Retailers need to encourage their staff to be friendly and to go the extra mile for the customer. If the high street retailers improve on these small points I for one would always support them. A good example of this is George Robertson electrical store... Tesco may well sell electrical items cheaper.. (I don't know) however I will always shop at George Robertson's because the level of service I have always recieved from them is outstanding. There is a chap there called Lewis who will always go the extra mile and if you get that from a retailer then they will always be supported.

 

So to the Lerwick retailers who are up in arms regarding the Tesco extension my advice is that instead of bewailing something that has happened, which the public want and you have very little probability of changing.....................

You concentrate your efforts and energy into better customer satisfaction!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Will Tesco let you buy cheaper fuel if you have bought your groceries from the Co-op.................No I thought not.

The cheaper fuel is just another incitement to get you into the shop, where you will be fleeced.

 

You are talking garbage with such a comment.

I am retired now but was a qualified accountant and am ceratinly fully conscious as to monetary values. My wife and I shop at Tesco most weeks and I can assure you that I am not fleeced there. We shop carefully and do not waste our money at all.

 

You might not waste money! But I wonder how many people think about where the products bought come from and the sort of deal the producers get. Until we stop thinking about bargains and deals and start acknowledging unfair trade the situation for lots of people won't improve. But thats ok, we saved a few pounds, to hell with anyone else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good points Queenie and Gavva and Poseidon.

 

1. Cheap labour and unfair trade - so true.

 

2. I return to shops in town that have staff that smile, chat coherently, don't grunt and have knowledge about what they are selling. I will pay extra for this (up to a point) and it is worth it imho. I do my homework and most places are happy to do a deal or have prices that are just as good as the mainland. My best example is The Camera Centre. They look after me very well. I have absolutely no complaints.

 

3. Fuel - well, I will be in a huge dilemma. I feel very strongly that we are being fleeced for our fuel but to go to The Temple of Tesco for cheaper fuel goes against everything and to only get really cheap fuel because I shopped there too - well, no.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might not waste money! But I wonder how many people think about where the products bought come from and the sort of deal the producers get. Until we stop thinking about bargains and deals and start acknowledging unfair trade the situation for lots of people won't improve. But thats ok, we saved a few pounds, to hell with anyone else.

 

What if those few pounds make the difference between your children having a proper meal once or twice a week instead of beans on toast, again?

 

It may be hard for some to understand, but most people just dont have the "choice" of buying more expensive items because they make them feel morally superior.

 

It is also a simple fact that behind all the conspiracy theories etc etc most of the good all come from the same suppliers and are just branded according to whether, Saver, Simply Best, Or FairTrade is most in demand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My best example is The Camera Centre. They look after me very well. I have absolutely no complaints.

Those in The Camera Centre are just fantastic ! :D

I ran out of camera battery power when I was in Lerwick last week. I had for a while thought that I needed a spare battery, so I went into The Camera Centre. They had battery for a good price....but there was one problem, new batterys are uncharged.... :? ....NO problem, the girl said, we can speed charge it for you, come back in an hour or so :D

And it cost nothing.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might not waste money! But I wonder how many people think about where the products bought come from and the sort of deal the producers get. Until we stop thinking about bargains and deals and start acknowledging unfair trade the situation for lots of people won't improve. But thats ok, we saved a few pounds, to hell with anyone else.

 

What if those few pounds make the difference between your children having a proper meal once or twice a week instead of beans on toast, again?

 

It may be hard for some to understand, but most people just dont have the "choice" of buying more expensive items because they make them feel morally superior.

 

It is also a simple fact that behind all the conspiracy theories etc etc most of the good all come from the same suppliers and are just branded according to whether, Saver, Simply Best, Or FairTrade is most in demand.

 

I wonder how many of those people using the few pounds to buy a proper meal have crisps/chocolate/ready meals etc etc in their trolleys. It maybe comes down to what you call a proper meal. Supersaver chicken that has as much fat as a burger??

 

I fully understand people find it difficult to choose ethical food but I'm sure for a lot of people if they thought about lifestyle choices it might be easier. I can't think that being "morally superior" is a bad thing, I sleep easier at night in the knowledge that hopefully I don't perpetuate the exploitation of my fellow humans.

 

I'm sure the children making clothes to stock Tesco's bargain shelves would love beans on toast and probably have to work for a month to be able to afford that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and those same children are making the branded named goods as well. what happens to those children when there are no more orders. what do they eat then. its very moral to say boycott this seller for whatever reason but you really do need to realise that your efforts could make there lives harder.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and those same children are making the branded named goods as well. what happens to those children when there are no more orders. what do they eat then. its very moral to say boycott this seller for whatever reason but you really do need to realise that your efforts could make there lives harder.

 

Sorry but that argument doesn't hold a drop off water.

 

So I could choose to buy Tesco or a branded item made in appaling conditions by people paid pittance.

 

Or

 

I could choose to buy something that is produced with some ethics and fair trade principles applied.

 

It's about choice and thinking before buying. Why can't the seller think less about profit and more about fairness. I don't see it as that hard.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

^^ Thanks. The only one there though associated directly with clothing and Tesco is the last BBC one from 2006 where they state categorically in 2006 that - "All suppliers to Tesco must demonstrate that they meet our ethical standards on worker welfare, which are closely monitored".

 

This is now 4+ years later. Does anyone have an up-to-date understanding on what is what? Looking for some perspective here, a recent one to what their buying practice is. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can anyone provide actual linkage to stories relating to such use of child labour? Hearsay, conjecture?

There is plenty of stuff out there saying why Fairtrade is actually quite a bad idea – but I’m working and don’t have time to produce a comprehensive list.

 

Here’s

1. a link to a Guardian piece:

2. a bit from The Economist[i/] (can’t just give a link as you need a subscription to see this page)

3. a piece written by a friend of mine who is an Oxford economist. Clearly since there is disagreement at the highest levels over whether or not the Fairtrade movement is useful or pernicious, people will have different opinions. But it’s not just as easy as buying Fairtrade automatically puts you on the moral high ground.

 

What about Fairtrade? Its aim is to address “the injustice of low prices†by guaranteeing that producers receive a fair price “however unfair the conventional market isâ€, according to FLO International's website. In essence, it means paying producers an above-market “Fairtrade†price for their produce, provided they meet particular labour and production standards. In the case of coffee, for example, Fairtrade farmers receive a minimum of $1.26 per pound for their coffee, or $0.05 above the market price if it exceeds that floor. This premium is passed back to the producers to spend on development programmes. The market for Fairtrade products is much smaller than that for organic products, but is growing much faster: it increased by 37% to reach €1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2005. Who could object to that?

Economists, for a start. The standard economic argument against Fairtrade goes like this: the low price of commodities such as coffee is due to overproduction, and ought to be a signal to producers to switch to growing other crops. Paying a guaranteed Fairtrade premium—in effect, a subsidy—both prevents this signal from getting through and, by raising the average price paid for coffee, encourages more producers to enter the market. This then drives down the price of non-Fairtrade coffee even further, making non-Fairtrade farmers poorer. Fairtrade does not address the basic problem, argues Tim Harford, author of “The Undercover Economist†(2005), which is that too much coffee is being produced in the first place. Instead, it could even encourage more production.

Mr Bretman of FLO International disagrees. In practice, he says, farmers cannot afford to diversify out of coffee when the price falls. Fairtrade producers can use the premiums they receive to make the necessary investments to diversify into other crops. But surely the price guarantee actually reduces the incentive to diversify?

Another objection to Fairtrade is that certification is predicated on political assumptions about the best way to organise labour. In particular, for some commodities (including coffee) certification is available only to co-operatives of small producers, who are deemed to be most likely to give workers a fair deal when deciding how to spend the Fairtrade premium. Coffee plantations or large family firms cannot be certified. Mr Bretman says the rules vary from commodity to commodity, but are intended to ensure that the Fairtrade system helps those most in need. Yet limiting certification to co-ops means “missing out on helping the vast majority of farm workers, who work on plantations,†says Mr Wille of the Rainforest Alliance, which certifies producers of all kinds.

Guaranteeing a minimum price also means there is no incentive to improve quality, grumble coffee-drinkers, who find that the quality of Fairtrade brews varies widely. Again, the Rainforest Alliance does things differently. It does not guarantee a minimum price or offer a premium but provides training, advice and better access to credit. That consumers are often willing to pay more for a product with the RA logo on it is an added bonus, not the result of a formal subsidy scheme; such products must still fend for themselves in the marketplace. “We want farmers to have control of their own destinies, to learn to market their products in these competitive globalised markets, so they are not dependent on some NGO,†says Mr Wille.

But perhaps the most cogent objection to Fairtrade is that it is an inefficient way to get money to poor producers. Retailers add their own enormous mark-ups to Fairtrade products and mislead consumers into thinking that all of the premium they are paying is passed on. Mr Harford calculates that only 10% of the premium paid for Fairtrade coffee in a coffee bar trickles down to the producer. Fairtrade coffee, like the organic produce sold in supermarkets, is used by retailers as a means of identifying price-insensitive consumers who will pay more, he says.

As with organic food, the Fairtrade movement is under attack both from outsiders who think it is misguided and from insiders who think it has sold its soul. In particular, the launch by Nestlé, a food giant, of Partners' Blend, a Fairtrade coffee, has convinced activists that the Fairtrade movement is caving in to big business. Nestlé sells over 8,000 non-Fairtrade products and is accused of exploiting the Fairtrade brand to gain favourable publicity while continuing to do business as usual. Mr Bretman disagrees. “We felt it would not be responsible to turn down an opportunity to do something that would practically help hundreds or thousands of farmers,†he says. “You are winning the battle if you get corporate acceptance that these ideas are important.†He concedes that the Fairtrade movement's supporters are “a very broad church†which includes anti-globalisation and anti-corporate types. But they can simply avoid Nestlé's Fairtrade coffee and buy from smaller Fairtrade producers instead, he suggests.

 

Why Fairtrade makes me angry

The problems of third world poverty and development are difficult and complex. Gathering and making sense of vast chunks of data, and developing useful models to explain and predict development, is a fiendishly difficult subject. It is at least as complex as a physical science (if not more so, since we're dealing with thinking agents and not particles). Usefully, that's why there is an entire field of study devoted to that subject - viz. development economics (micro and macro).

 

The Fairtrade movement has leapt from the (not implausible) claim that the systems of trade that exist right now are unfair, to an ad hoc patchwork of 'Fairtrade' requirements that appeal to our unreflective liberal sensibilities - viz. minimum wages, and collective ownership of farms.

 

Now, economists aren't all right-wing libertarian boobalubes (some of you might remember that my position regarding the just distribution of natural resources is somewhere to the left of Karl Marx). We do, however, care about what works - and realise that intuitively appealing schemes meant to do good can end up quite counterproductive. (See: Protectionism, political discretion over monetary policy, etc...) It's plausible, for instance, that collective ownership of farms (by tying workers to the land, etc) lowers the rate of rural-urban migration and impedes long-run industrial development. Similarly, minimum wages may lead to unemployment among less-skilled farm workers, which is especially dangerous in poor countries with no effective social safety nets.

 

Economists therefore get (understandably) incensed at the raft of ill-designed prescriptions that are part of Fairtrade accreditation. Many of them (such as the collective ownership requirement) seem to stem from an ideological distrust of markets, and a rose-tinted view of rural communal life, rather than solid evidence that they produce good consequences. Most doctors would be outraged at a charity that collected money to subsidise homeopathy or healing crystals in the third world. Worse yet, if they were subsidising the use of potentially poisonous poultices with no medical testing. Many economists, and economists-in-training, are similarly disturbed by Fairtrade: The Fairtrade accreditation requirements seem to have been cobbled together with little consultation of evidence or awareness of their likely economic effects. They seem an amateurish set of prescriptions, many of which (our subject tells us) are potentially quite damaging. This lacuna is then hidden behind a slick marketing campaign that implies that Fairtrade is, simply and unequivocally, a good thing.

 

You may not always trust the experts; but unless you're ardently anti-intellectual, you probably regard persons who've studied and thought about the relevant subject matter for entire careers a pretty good authority on the subject. Some of us, when explaining the potential problems Fairtrade might cause to non-economists who like Fairtrade, have literally met the response "But your objections are grounded in economic theory, and therefore can't be true." That's a bit like telling a doctor, "Your objections to our homeopathic charity for treating AIDs are grounded in medical theory, and therefore can't be true." Which is why I've likened Fairtraders to surgeons who deliberately operate with no preparation or forethought - and indeed, little inkling that they're dealing with complex systems where 'feel-good' remedies often go bad.

 

So, just as doctors would ask for double-blind medical tests before approving a charity proposing to distribute a new drug to fight malaria in the third world, I ask the following:

 

1. Where is the model? What do Fairtraders suppose the underlying incentives and strategic situation to be, that their proposed mechanism would lead to betterment? Have they estimates of the relevant constants (e.g. the price-elasticity of demand for farm labour) that would allow us to gauge their scheme's likely effects?

2. Where is the evidence? Where is the multivariate regression that tests the hypothesis that Fairtrade improves the standard of living within a region? What is the standard error on the estimated coefficients? Does it control for the problems of omitted variables and reverse causation? Have you tested for mis-specification of functional form? Were any randomised trials conducted, and if so, with what methodology?

 

When I ask for evidence, instead I typically get presented with a "but I visited village X that runs a Fairtrade scheme, and things are really nice there". Which is a lot like the old stories that go, "My aunt tried homeopathy once, and she said that really worked for her rheumatism." Anecdotes gathered by gap-year wanderings are poor statistical evidence.

 

So:

To would-be donors to Fairtrade, I ask: Just as you would refrain from sponsoring an anti-malarial treatment with no medical theory or evidence in its favour, please think twice before spending the premium to get that Fairtrade latte. If at all possible, please avoid it. Spend it somewhere more useful:

http://www.givewell.net/charities/top-charities

may have some good suggestions for cost-effective spending.

 

To would-be advocates for Fairtrade, I ask: Have you any economic training, and if so, have you examined the arguments and evidence for and against Fairtrade with a critical eye? If you have no knowledge of economics, please think twice before shilling for Fairtrade simply because it feels like a good thing. You wouldn't try your hand at Medecins Sans Frontières with no medical training - and the economic systems of the third world are at least as complex as a human body. You could do real damage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

and those same children are making the branded named goods as well. what happens to those children when there are no more orders. what do they eat then. its very moral to say boycott this seller for whatever reason but you really do need to realise that your efforts could make there lives harder.

 

Sorry but that argument doesn't hold a drop off water.

 

So I could choose to buy Tesco or a branded item made in appaling conditions by people paid pittance.

 

Or

 

I could choose to buy something that is produced with some ethics and fair trade principles applied.

 

Yes you could. If you knew.

 

The fact is many products come from exactly the same raw resources whether they be Tesco's brandnamed or the latest high-street designer whatever they may be.

 

My point was that you can still buy morally and healthily if you give it some actual thought, rather than just effectively saying you have more money than the "morally corrupt people" who have to live within their means, so can buy dearer items and feel better..

 

Paulb was 100% correct.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...