Consumerism Toxic Custard newsletter

Apples: $5.98, or $6.48?

Over the weekend at the supermarket: I was suspicious of this (which is why I took the photo).

Would these Pink Lady apples be $5.98, or $6.48 per kilogram? (The Granny Smiths to the left were a different price again.)

Apples - how much?

Come the checkout, sure enough… the higher price. Was I ripped-off?

Self-serve checkout

If I had the time and energy, I’d have asked. Perhaps I’ll ask next time if the contradictory signs are still up. It’s only 50 cents, but I think it’s misleading.

I’m not sure where it’ll go in the long run in terms of job numbers, but I’ve come to love the self-serve checkouts. (They came to our area about five years ago.)

I’d never use them if I had lots and lots of stuff, because skilled staff members are faster, but I tend to buy items in dribs and drabs, typically $10-$20 of groceries, but never more than about $40 — in part because there’s a supermarket right next to the railway station so it’s very convenient to buy things on my way home. And unless there’s a long queue, I prefer to be able to pack my items the way I like them for the walk home.

Plus it avoids the dropping of the apples into the bag with a bruising thump, which I have seen occasionally from the human checkout staff.

Amusingly, the self-serve checkouts include a picture of a type of cloth green bag no longer sold — Aldi and Woolworths now sell thick plastic ones instead, though my cloth green bags (perhaps a decade old, perhaps more), live on. Which was the point, wasn’t it.

Update: Typo — thanks Roger!

Consumerism Food'n'drink

Supermarket fruit+veg bags – all the way from the USA #FoodMiles

Anybody who likes to minimise their food miles might like to note this… increasing numbers of Woolworths supermarkets are using bags for fruit and vegetables that are made in the USA.

Fruit and vegetable bags at Woolworths

That’s not to say other supermarket bags aren’t also imported from a long way away. As far as I’ve noticed, the Woolworths ones are the only ones that say so.

It’s a similar story when buying cling wrap — almost all brands seem to be made in China nowaways.

The bags shown above aren’t heavy or bulky, of course, but a chain like Woolworths must go through millions of them every year. It all adds up.

Personally, if I’m buying only about three or less of each item, provided they’re not small, I don’t usually bother to put them in a bag at all.


All the self-serve checkouts are down, down

It was like a trip back in time to… last year. All the self-serve checkouts in Woolies were down tonight.

All self serve checkouts down, down

A long queue at the express checkouts… surprisingly not at the other checkouts (all credit to management, they did have five non-express checkouts open at one time — rarely seen nowadays).

Perhaps the earthquake is to blame. Perhaps not.

News and events

Australia Day thoughts

Happy Australia Day.

Some thoughts:

1. Spotted this morning, some glorious Australia Day supermarket multiculturalism:
Supermarket multiculturalism on Australia Day

2. I was a Flag Monitor in grade 6. Along with my mate Mark, we put the flag up on the school flag pole. Apart from a minor hitch on the first day when it went up upside down for a short time, there were no issues, though I’d imagine doing the same job for the Elizabeth Street roundabout would be somewhat more time consuming:
Elizabeth Street roundabout, Australian flags
(I’m probably safe in assuming they go up and stay up.)

3. I was pondering, as debate about immigration and asylum seekers rages, if our Federal politicians are familiar with the second verse of our national anthem. (It was originally the third verse. There were originally more in the song, but the national anthem only incorporates the original first and third. We used to sing both in high school, at assemblies and so on.)

Obviously one should be wary about determining policy from lyrics written circa 1901 (much of the song was written before 1878, but this verse was added for Federation), but still, I’d love to hear Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott’s interpretation of them.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Bentleigh Consumerism

Coin deposit reduces dumped shopping trolleys – why don’t they all do it?

Since Woolworths introduced gold coin deposits for trolleys at Bentleigh, you almost never see their trolleys abandoned in the streets. The same can’t be said for Coles Bentleigh, who appear to have some trolleys requiring a coin, and some not — I don’t understand the logic of this. On a walk last night, we passed three (non-deposit) Coles trolleys in quick succession on a single block of Jasper Road.

Abandoned Coles trolleys

It seems pretty clear that (like the drink container deposits used in some states), coin deposits reduce the problem. I wonder why Coles don’t go ahead and implement it fully, especially in suburbs like Bentleigh where their major competitor already uses it.

Abandoned trolleys can be reported online for Wesfarmers/Coles group chains (Officeworks, K-Mart, Bunnings etc) here or for most other chains (Woolworths/Safeway, Target, some IGA) here.


Christmas is over

Christmas must be over. Reason 1: Dead Christmas trees on the nature strip
Christmas is over.

Reason 2: Hot cross buns in the supermarket… just in time, only four three and a half months before Easter.
Hot cross buns in the supermarket... 3.5 months before Easter

Speaking of the supermarket, it does seem like trolley retention rates are increasing since they started wanting a gold coin deposit… so much so that yesterday they were clogging up the entrance.
Too many supermarket trolleys?


Supermarket trolley deposit

Last week Safeway Woolworths replaced all their trolleys as part of the makeover.

And they all require a deposit — a $1 or $2 coin.

Supermarket trolleys at Woolworths


‘Cos while I don’t usually use a trolley, when I do, I’m sick of them having wonky wheels because people have pushed them for miles and dumped them in the street, where they get damaged. I’m sick of finding them in the park, and in my street, and even at the railway station, clogging up the entrance ramp. And I bet they’re expensive to collect and repair, contributing to higher prices.

Hopefully the deposit will reduce the instances of them going missing.

By the way there’s a notice at the entrance which says the supermarket will have its grand re-opening on the 29th. A bit odd if you ask me, given they’ve kept trading while the renovation’s happened.

Maybe they’ll get the local member of parliament to attend. Whoever that is by then.



Supermarket trolley deposit, AldiSome supermarkets require a deposit (usually a $1 or $2 coin) to get a trolley. Some don’t.

Personally I wouldn’t object if deposits were required universally, given the number of (almost always non-deposit) trolleys that get wheeled away, and end up in stupid places.

Hopefully it’d mean less trolleys get a wheel broken and are thus rendered unsteerable in what should be their natural habitat, supermarket aisles.


The moral quandary of the self-serve checkouts

At the local Safeway, the renovation (and eventual transition to “Woolworths”) is underway, and the self-service checkouts are now operating.

There’s five of them, compared to three express checkouts, and eight “normal” checkouts. From memory there used to be more normal checkouts, though as at most supermarkets, I don’t ever recall all of them being in use at once.

I suppose there’s something of a moral quandary about whether self-serve checkouts will cut the number of staff the supermarkets have to employ. I’m afraid my general philosophy is that if there are long queues, I’ll use whichever option is likely to get me out of there the quickest.

Safeway self-serve checkout

If there are no queues, the staffed checkout is likely to be quicker, as Safeway’s dedicated and tireless personnel are much more likely to know where all the barcodes are, and precisely which buttons to press to choose the butternut pumpkin (or whatever) off the fruit+veg menu.

But if the queues for staff are long, and particularly if I don’t have many items to buy, I reckon the self-serve is likely to be quicker. This goes doubly at places like Big W, because I’m usually not buying lots and lots of small items, and of course there is no fruit+veg — everything’s got a barcode.

So yesterday at Safeway I found myself with a basket full of about fifteen items (eg too many for the express lanes), two normal lanes open, both with 2-3 people queuing with very full trolleys. And no queue at the self-service checkouts (though one of them was out of order).

I chose the self-service, which no doubt was what Woolworths Corp had in mind all along.

Any guilt about putting Rowena (family friend who I occasionally encounter on the checkouts) or her cohorts out of a job was extinguished, this time, by the sheer amount of intervention required from the staff member on duty as I scanned my items.

Putting my green bag into the bagging area, and patting the bottom of it down with my hand to smooth it out set off the Incorrect Weight error, requiring assistance.

Trying to fiddle around to pack items neatly into the green bag also set off the error.

Accidentally double-clicking the Fruit+Veg button got the register to incorrectly charge my butternut pumpkin as mandarins, and reversing it required the staff member yet again.

All in all it probably took twice as long as a transaction handled fully by a human staff member, and certainly required a lot of intervention. I’m not sure if it got me out of the store more quickly than it would have if I’d queued, but I don’t think there was a lot in it.

I think in future unless (a) there’s a long queue for the human operators, (b) I’m buying only a handful of items, and (c) that includes nothing that has no barcode, I’ll avoid the self-service checkouts.


Cling wrap

Speaking of shopping for cheap alternatives, but preferring locally-made goods: initially I avoided buying the Aldi cling wrap because it was made in China.

Then I noticed all the brands of cling wrap are now made in China, including OSO and Multix, and the one that’s in common use as the generic term, Glad Wrap.

At some stage in the few years, production of my favourite shampoo also moved offshore, from Australia to Thailand.

So I’d like to buy a local product to support Australian jobs and reduced shipping distances for goods, but sometimes you can’t really do it.