News Media as a Positive Force to Help Beleaguered Customers?

tesco-bridgendBy Denis Campbell
Coincidence? You decide.
A little over 3 weeks ago we ran a UK supermarket pricing story and its accompanying photo essay in partnership with BBC Wales’ X-Ray consumer news programme.
Tesco, PLC “cherry-picked” items I discovered from the X-Ray programme and attempted to discredit my findings with a written statement to X-Ray’s producers read, as sent, on-air. I take journalistic issue with application of the “equal time standard” when anyone can say anything without fear/chance of a rebuttal. That is also why I tip my hat to the Wenner Media Group and the current newsstand issue of Rolling Stone magazine (RS 1091) where columnist Matt Taibbi who wrote a stunning series of articles about the financial crisis called Wall Street’s Naked Swindle is allowed to respond to the Wall Street flak who responded to his story (see image L).
That kind of courage in today’s litigious, antagonistic press environment is a rare thing. However, in this case, the sheer weight of the findings in the print article and photo essay showed more persistent trends/issues.
UK Progressive was away on a Washington DC field trip/visit the last two weeks and yesterday I re-visited one of the stores highlighted in the article. While it may be too soon to tell if this represents a complete change of heart, there appeared to be major changes inside this one store and the timing was such that one could easily suggest they were a result of the story. While certain Tesco, PLC would deny any linkage and say the changes were already planned, my initial impression walking through the Bridgend store 3-weeks on, was, in a word, WOW!
While unable to conduct more than a cursory inspection during my shop, these were my observations:
  • Clean! Indeed dazzling! The floors were whiter than ever noticed before. It looked as if someone had come through with an industrial professional cleaning system to remove years of dirt and grit worn into what had once been a white store floor surface. (It was very bright and white again.)
  • Shelves organised and items were there to be found on the shelves (only 1 on the list not found as opposed to the usual half dozen or more), stock seemingly rotated (was routine to find expired product everywhere) and I found two end cap deals on the shopping aisle as well.
  • Confusing walls of yellow deal stickers? GONE! I could see the 1-2 items in a category on special offer and everything was clearly marked with product smartly ‘faced’ (grocery term from when I stacked shelves in the late 70’s where you bring items forward for the customer to easily see/pick).
  • Front end supervisory staff dressed smartly in Tesco blue Colbert blazers, responding to cashiers rather than gaggling and… talking to customers!
  • Twice during the shop someone asked if I needed help finding an item. (Got ‘the vapours’ on that one.)
When I got to the checkout I asked the friendly cashier if there had been a management change. “Oh yes, we got a new manager about three weeks ago. (A later phone call to the store confirmed it was a Mr. Reno Psaila).
I was so gabsmocked I speed-dialled the BBC Wales X-Ray producer Paul Forde on the way out the door to tell him of my findings. He was very pleased to learn that perhaps one of their stories had led to positive change and informed me it was their highest rated episode of the past season.
So here is something I never thought I would write in this lifetime: kudos to Tesco and Mr. Psaila.
While certain you will say these were merely coincidental long planned changes, for long suffering Bridgend Extra store customers the change has been favourably and duly noted. Now the longer term challenge is to keep it up.
One thing is for certain, we’ll all be watching.

Denis G Campbell View more

Denis G Campbell
Denis G. Campbell is founder and editor of UK Progressive magazine and co-host of The Three Muckrakers podcast. He is the author of 7 books and provides Americas, EU and Middle Eastern commentary to the BBC, itv, Al Jazeera English, CNN, CRI, MSNBC and others. He is CEO of Monknash Media and a principal with B2E Consulting in London. You can follow him on Twitter @UKProgressive and on Facebook.

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