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.


The data mining behind loyalty cards shows just how devious they can be

Flybuys cards, whether you wanted them or notThis interesting article about data mining shows just how devious they can be. For example, a casino:

The system collects data each time a gambler uses their casino loyalty card – be it for gambling, purchasing food in the restaurant or paying for snacks from their room minibar – to create a pattern of their behaviour.

The system can see, for example, that the last few times Gambler X visited the casino, they stayed for two days and lost between $200 and $300, then promptly left the gaming floor, spent no more money and went home the next day.

”As a casino operator you don’t want that, you want to make people happy and spend more money,” Quinn says.

Enter Tibco’s event processing software. When the system detects the customer is falling into a particular pattern, such as the consistent losing streak that caused them to leave during their last visit, it sends an automatic note to a gaming floor attendant to offer the person a free meal, or ticket to a show.

The idea is to distract the gambler long enough that they’ll come back later and continue to play and lose money, albeit in more palatable amounts.

Ingenious. For the cost of a meal (and installing the computer tracking in the first place) the Casino gets heaps more money. No wonder gamblers get sucked into losing lots of money.

IMAG0462The same type of logic is the real reason behind loyalty cards like Flybuys, and why Coles would like nothing more than for absolutely everybody to have one.

They apparently want this so much that last week they sent me two cards “to the householder” even though I’ve never been a member — and I hear I’m not the only one.

I do have a Woolworths loyalty card, because I more often shop there. It earns me Frequent Flyer points which sometime in the next couple of decades might add up to enough to take a flight somewhere (or more likely will earn me a small discount using Points+Pay… or a thing such as the barbecue I got via the Qantas FF shop a few years ago).

But I happen to know that you don’t earn any points for transactions less than $30, so I deliberately don’t present the card for those, ‘cos really, they don’t need to know too much about my spending patterns.

You can call me paranoid if you wish, but note the comments in this article the other day:

But analysts said that the programs took from customers as much as they “gave back”, in terms of valuable information on their shopping habits. “This is essentially just a new form of marketing,” Citigroup equities analyst Craig Woolford said. “There are two globally perceived benefits – one is retaining your customer, and the other is developing insights into your customers’ shopping behaviours.”

Oh, I also love this quote from someone at Coles:

“Australian customers tell us they want discounts on the products they buy the most,” Coles finance director Tony Buffin told BusinessDay.

Well duh.


Drink-driving, anyone?


Perhaps the smallprint says “Do not use the fuel and the alcohol simultaneously.”


Anti-pigeon defences

And now for something completely different: anti-pigeon defences.

Pigeons can get everywhere, making nests, leaving droppings. These ones seem very interested in the next trains from Caulfield.
Pigeons 1, Metro 0

It’s probably gone mostly unnoticed, but over the past few years, various methods to prevent them roosting have become commonplace.

In the case of Caulfield station, they’ve put in a lot of netting that cordons off parts of the platform roof areas, including the tops of the signs. (I haven’t checked if they’ve fitted the sign above, which is in the subway.)

Solar-powered road signs now often have spiky bits on them, as do increasing numbers of shop signs, including big ones like this. (I think it looks a little odd up close.)
Anti-pigeon defences

On this building in Centre Road, Bentleigh, there are fake owls around the top. I’m not sure how effective they are.
Fake owl

But despite these methods, sometimes the pigeons still win.
Pigeons 1, Shop sign 0

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.


Coles vs Woolworths… Why pay $10 when you can pay… $9.88?!

The supermarket war of Coles versus Safeway/Woolworths has heated up, with roast chicken.

First, Coles went to $10.

Coles: Roast chicken $10

…then Safeway/Woolworths struck back with… $9.88.

Woolworths: Roast chicken $9.88

These posters were prominently displayed en masse around the Bentleigh Woolworths last night.

“Why pay $10” “Only $9.88”?


Or to put it in percentage terms, Woolies are 1.2% cheaper.

And if you pay cash for just the chicken, the price will be rounded up to $9.90, so you’re only saving ten cents.

Did Woolworths design the poster before they knew what their price would be or something? It’s one thing to advertise your product — it’s quite another to highlight that the saving compared to your competition is a measly twelve cents.

If you are tempted by this extra special offer, don’t spend it all at once.

(I was not the first to notice this outstanding offer.)


Supermarket specials that aren’t. Deliberate, or just careless?

AdvertisementI’ve turned into one of those boring people who looks out for specials in the supermarket.

This deal is from this week’s Safeway/Woolworths catalogue. If you happen to occasionally buy frozen fish and frozen chips, it appears to be a pretty good deal, saving $3.55.

(Sometimes I’ll use this type of thing; sometimes I’d prefer salmon or barramundi fillets on the BBQ, but either way, combine with lemon juice, mayonnaise, spinach leaves, cheese and perhaps a slice of tomato in brown round rolls… there you go, that’s my fish burger recipe. A good quick dinner for work nights.)

At the supermarket, they’ve stacked the fish and the chips in the special together with a big sign pointing you to it.

So, it’s just a matter of grabbing the fish, grabbing the chips, and heading to the checkout to enjoy your savings, right?

Not so fast.

Specials in Safeway/Woolworths

If you try that, keep a watch at the checkout, because the items came up for me with no saving. On querying it, the lady said she wasn’t familiar with the special, but suggested it might be for specific items only.

But, I protested, they’re all piled together, highlighted as one. The “special” display includes about 4-5 fish varieties, all 425 grams as specified in the special. And there are straight chips and crinkle cut, again, all in the special display.

I hadn’t even seen it in the catalogue, but had found it via the display, and had grabbed the straight chips and the Deep Sea Dory original fish.

With the display set up in this way, how is a punter meant to know which specific products need to be combined to get the special price?

Sure, the small sign on the freezer door shows the items to be combined for the special, but it’s far from clear that it’s limited to just those two items, and the context implies it’s not.

Note that both the frozen fish and the frozen chips normally live elsewhere in the frozen food aisle. There’s no reason to be putting the items which are not part of the special into the cabinet with the big “Special” signage.

In my book, the advertising, the programming of the cash registers, and the presentation of these products don’t all match up. Is it carelessness, or deliberate?

And how many people just grab what they think is a special, but don’t notice at the checkout?

I swapped the fish for the one covered by the special and got my $3.55 saving. How many others might notice, but not bother querying it?

As always, it pays to check the small print.


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.


Bye bye Safeway

I’d been wondering how they were going to swap the very-high-up Safeway sign for a Woolworths sign. With a very big crane, that’s how. They did it yesterday.

Swapping Safeway to Woolworths

Many of the other Safeway signs have already disappeared.

I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to get used to calling it Woolworths.

Woolworths sign


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.