by PAUL COLLITS – CORPORATIONS, these days, especially after the organised destruction of Australian small businesses during the pandemic lockdowns, do much to engender the hatred of their customers.
And they do not care. Supermarkets are especially prone to this syndrome.
Being the purveyors of products that everyone simply has to buy helps no end. No discretionary spending here.
Their list of sins against the consumer is long and growing. Collusion with fellow crony capitalists, over-pricing (aka gouging), ripping off our farmers, making customers do their jobs and then making self-checkout as difficult as possible, regarding all customers as thieves, and so increasing surveillance, getting rid of express lanes, locking up their spray deodorants, and – of course – meddling endlessly in Leftist politics.
I tried the supermarket joke out with a teenaged kid at Lithgow Coles a little while back. Naturally, there were no checkouts open and so the only option was self-checkout, something I avoid as a matter of principle.
So, I asked when and where the Coles staff Christmas party was on, so I could attend. Given I ‘d been working for them all year. He seemed not to understand.
Coincidentally, the work of the American scholar Chris Andrews on supermarket travails surfaced in Australia this week, in particular, in the matter of self-checkouts.
The self-checkout experiment has failed to achieve what it was supposed to, the American professor specialising in the technology declared.
“They haven’t lived up to their promise; they haven’t saved stores money,” he said. “They’re not faster and more convenient.”
Professor Andrews said, broadly, self-service checkouts were brought in on the guise of consumers receiving benefits such as savings. This hasn’t happened, he claims.
“For consumers today, self-checkout doesn’t really offer any sort of economic incentive.
“It just invites you to work for free for the supermarket.”
End of story. But Andrews continued.
Prof Andrews, who in 2018 authored a book titled Overworked Consumer: Self-Checkouts, Supermarkets, and the Do-It-Yourself Economy, said that while the tech was common in supermarkets, it was quickly spreading into other sectors.
“Companies like hotels, airlines, supermarkets, retail stores, they see customers as the next frontier of really not even cheap, but free labour for them – and to help them with their bottom line and profits,” he said.
Like governments and the ruling class generally, as US ethical psychiatrist Aaron Kheriaty says, they think we are stupid.
Also, people don’t like being bullied nor nudged. Supermarkets might go on about customers “wanting” to use the technology, for convenience.
This, however, is self-serving rubbish. The supermarket chains played “look over there”. They squeezed their manned checkouts. De-manned them. As they were introducing self-serve.
So customers thought they could get out quicker by doing the self-serve. That is the only reason their use increased. Oh, and they also cut out their express lanes. This was shape-shifting. Yes, they think we are stupid. And, sadly, many of us are.
Woolworths is full of such stunts. Like its sister company Big W’s sly removal of its price check machines.
An employee told me, with a roll of the eyes, that this was in order to get customers to use the app. Of course.
They all want you to use “the app”. This is nudging 101. It is standard operating procedure for what US political satirist CJ Hopkins calls “Globocap” and what the great evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein terms “Goliath”.
Peter Dutton, who played the “Prime Minister” like a fiddle during the Voice referendum farrago, has called on consumers to boycott The Fresh Food People over its tedious but totally expected anti-Australia Day play.
Supporting or even recognising our national day is now seen as a deeply racist act, so, naturally, corporates don’t.
Australia’s temporary, acting PM, Airbus Albo, chimed in in clueless fashion: “The Prime Minister has chided Peter Dutton over his ‘bizarre’ call to boycott Woolworths, highlighting the hundreds of thousands of Aussie jobs that would be put at risk.”
Bizarre? I don’t think so. Jobs at risk? I wasn’t aware that Woolworths still employed anyone. If they do, they all seem to disappear when the checkout queues get lengthy.
When your supermarket treats you like rubbish and simultaneously dictates to you your politics and morals, things can get overheated.
Like the graffiti man in Brisbane. Perhaps a late contender for Australian of the Year. The graffiti written on the exterior of the supermarket store read “5 days 26 Jan Aussie Oi Oi Woolies F*** U”, and the words “Boycott Woolies” was spray painted on the entrance doors.
I can confirm I was nowhere near Teneriffe at the time of the crime. I don’t even know where Brisbane’s Teneriffe is. I thought it was in the Canary Islands, where big planes crash. Inevitably Dutton was blamed.
Naturally, by The Guardian: “Residents in the Brisbane suburb of Teneriffe call on opposition leader to ‘apologise for dog whistling’ after he advocated people boycott the supermarket.”
Really. As if Australians needed Peter Dutton to draw attention to Woolworths’ myriad misdeeds against us. I will confine my activity to shopping in an Aussie T-shirt on Australia Day, if I am enjoined to attend to the grocery shopping on that day.
There is also an inquiry going on into the supermarket duopoly, being run by Julia Gillard’s old boyfriend, Craig Emerson, a Hawke-Keating man and possibly Labor’s last minister with the remotest understanding of economic policy.
Yet calls are growing for an ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) inquiry, with little faith in the Emerson show: “A review of the food and grocery code of conduct by former competition minister Craig Emerson would likely do little to address the pressures farmers and families face as a result of supermarket power abuses, Xavier Martin [of NSW Farmers] said.
“Power abuses”? Mr Martin got that right. If only it were confined to price gouging. Perhaps those now lambasting the big supermarket chains remember without affection Big W’s (mercifully short-lived) campaign in support of the Yes vote last year, blasted over its loudspeakers in the ears of customers.
Or the relish with which the corporates collaborated with the COVID State. In came the social distancing, the signs on the floor, the perspex barriers at checkout, the vaccine mandates for staff (introduced in 2021, removed in late 2022), the track and trace machines.
No one should underestimate the anger out there. The polls, showing great and enduring affection for Australia Day (both its date and its existence) have lessons for the big corporates. You are messing with core values. Very unwise.
Just because we have to shop with you, it doesn’t mean we like you. And because we have to keep shopping with you, that only means an uptick in hatred. The only surprise is that the Teneriffe anger was confined to a little graffiti.
Shareholders wouldn’t be impressed, either. As United Australia Party’s Craig Kelly notes (at his Telegram channel): “Since announcing their ban on selling Australia Day merchandise, Woolworths shares have crashed 4.47 per cent – that’s around $2b wiped of the value of the Woolworths shares.”
Only that much? Let us leave the last word to The Australian newspaper’s Robert Gottliebsen, a journalist who knows a little about both business and politics:
“Maintaining national icon status requires providing good, low-cost service to customers and staying out of divisive politics. Like Qantas, Woolworths’ management seems to have forgotten that.”
Overseas, companies are taking note of their customers: “Our customers have told us this over time – that the self-scan machines that we’ve got in our stores … can be slow, they can be unreliable [and] they’re obviously impersonal,” Booths managing director Nigel Murray told the BBC.
The British retailer announced in November 2023 it would remove the kiosks from all but two of its 28 grocery stores.
Smart guys. There is no such intent here.
If you are crap at business, you had better be great at not offending customers’ values, and not tell your customers what to think.
If you insist on insulting your customers on a regular basis, you had better be good at business.
When you fail both tests, even when you provide what amount to essential services, you are in very big strife. And with (potentially) four inquiries coming at you, that is commercial pressure.
Well might the Davos brigade label this year’s meeting “rebuilding trust”. If only we thought they meant it, and were intending to do it.
We know BlackRock is in Davos, because the Rebel News team was asked by BlackRock to get off their patch. Since BlackRock (inevitably) owns, along with Vanguard, a great chunk of Woolworths, I wonder will they hand down the message to the Aussie management.
Just as Australians have abandoned the major Parties in politics, with the big two now struggling to get a third each of the primary vote at any given election, we might well turn to micro and local supermarkets, and hang the expense.
In our minds, many of us are already there.PC