Devil's Advocate: Is our Tesco even good?

YES (42%) — Summer King

Tesco’s — first port of call to over ten thousand half-witted, sleep deprived students and the remaining food shoppers who desperately try to avoid them. It’s no secret that the British are notorious for bland and generally unappetising foods, which is why when my hall serves a dish that I’m convinced will butcher what's left of my taste buds, I gather my last three brain cells and storm off to the only food shop that can help me save my dinner.

Justly centered right in the middle of this three-street-town, Tesco stands as ground zero for food shoppers, desirous student alcoholics and adventurous wanderers alike. The bold iconic letters that mark the store, are a precursor for the greatness that lies within. Much like the red lobster or the ruthless seagulls that police this town, Tesco is a core and essential institution to those who live in it. Cheap, yet tasteful, chaotic, but well-managed, the food shop is here to serve your every home-staple need. From fifty pence cutlery, to advent calendars, the store carries any commodity you might want, at the price you definitely need. When you’re feeling down, Tesco is here for you, embracing you with open arms and gifting you with undeniably moreish cheese bread for the low price of one pound. This miraculous building stays open for a glorious eighteen hours; so when you don’t feel like waiting the mandatory forty-five minutes for a late-night Shawarma or Empire snack, simply pop on over to Tesco’s and appease your late-night cravings.

While Tesco may not be the bougie establishment that is Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s luxury line of Chardonnay Salt and Vinegar Chips truly embodies the affluent aura of the St Andrews student community. At any other store you can endlessly wander the aisles searching for the groceries you need, but at Tesco’s you don’t search for food, the products simply find you. Maybe you didn’t enter needing Ferrero Rocher, but now you are exiting the store into the brisk air, arms filled with chocolate and drain cleaner. While one may argue that nothing is left by 2pm, I would counter that nothing has contributed more to my healthy diet and budget, than the empty shelves lining the dimly lit halls of this glorious home-away-from-home. I’ll admit — I never believed that my university cup noodle obsession would have led to me shamefully buying six or more ramen boxes per trip — but at Tesco’s there is no judgement, only acceptance from fellow manic shoppers.

Tesco’s signature services make it the star of the grocery chain hierarchy. The efficiency of the self-checkout lines is most useful in the rush between classes; a couple of barcode scans and the tap of a card and you're on your way to your next tutorial, with the fuel you’ll need to keep you alive. Naturally you pay for all this with a club card that you share with six other friends, granting you extreme savings on your favorite items. Let’s not forget the crown jewel of the UK grocery system: the holy “Meal Deals”. Tesco’s combo of a three-pound snack-meal-drink has saved more lives than given credit for. Especially given that Sainsbury’s meal deals cost fifty pence more than the Tesco’s; as a friend of mine once said to me, “I’ll take cheaper any day!” The affordability of Tesco’s means that every resident of this town can appreciate and participate in the shopping ritual. Which other store has such a diverse range of constantly out of stock three pound wines?

Unlike any other food shop in this town, Tesco hosts daily class reunions — where else will you run into your sneaky link while buying a six-pack of toilet paper? Between the greyish flickering lights and the off-white tiles, the ambiance of the store is carefully crafted to create a healthy and relaxing environment. Even the music played over the Tesco speakers have proved to occasionally be better than the beats in 601. Naturally Tesco’s customer service excels, I know that the workers pacing around the self-checkout, frantically tapping the machines, would protect my purchases with their life.

Our Tesco isn’t just “good,” it’s sensational, and most of all it’s critical. No other store could keep up with the energy and pace of the hungry students of this town. I’d even argue that the store has taken up a sort of parental role in our lives, giving us food and teaching us how to cook and clean, or throw budget birthday parties with cheap colorful garlands. Even if you don’t like the store, you need it. Tesco has earned its right to appreciation from the St Andrews community and it’s time we give it the credit it deserves.

NO (58%) — Paul Brull

We’ve all been there. It’s 8pm on a Tuesday night, and you’ve had nothing to eat yet; a guilty conscience and an ever-increasing stack of dominos pizza boxes compels you to the kitchen to make something. You open the door to the refrigerator and then…nothing. So you must walk to Tesco to get ingredients for dinner and find one of two scenarios: A) Everything has been picked clean and they haven’t restocked in three days or 2) somehow every single produce item needed for your recipe is below par (I still don’t understand how broccoli can be so… rubbery). If you actually do make it to checkout with the necessary ingredients, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. I hear the cashiers carry bonesaws just in case.

The St Andrews Tesco is only open because of its location. Unlike the reasonably priced, reasonably stocked stores in the badlands... it is notably not in the badlands. For those of us closer to the university, a trip to Tesco takes scarcely 30 minutes rather than the likely hour/hour and half to Aldi or Morrisons and back. I’d argue, though, that the extra time is more than justified.

The first notable reason is, of course, price. For the most part, we’re all broke-ass university students with a limited income. Although we may delude ourselves into thinking we have infinite sums of money after hearing the siren song of another pint, reality is a bit harsher. Parental generosity is limited, wallets eventually run dry, and we occasionally scramble a bit to pay off our growing pizza debt (Charlie, if you’re reading this, I still don’t have your “goddamn money”). Although Aldi and Morrisons don’t make up for all the cost, they do a pretty good job of contributing. Just this last week, I got four chicken breasts (over 600g) for £4. At TESCO I’ve scarcely gotten 400g for those prices. Granted, my chicken might be worse than TESCO chicken, but I’m from America. Quantity is all that matters and quality is for commie suckers.

Of course, price isn’t all the badland stores have to offer, they also offer a selection outstripping anything Tesco offers. Both Aldi and Morrisons put Tesco’s baked good section (the most important section) to shame and the sheer variety of frozen meals at Morrisons still astounds me. What’s more, these myriad options are consistently stocked. No matter when I show up, Morisson’s always has a plethora of every produce item I’m looking for, whether it be broccoli, bell peppers, or green onion. Tesco, on the other hand, is often picked as clean as every store’s liquor section the night before raisin.

The walk to the Badland stores is even pleasant. I live in DRA, so I get to amble through a variety of quiet streets, otherwise unoccupied by cars or pedestrians. It provides a reasonable excuse to pull myself away from my computer and school work to enjoy the weather while the sun is still out. If the sun isn’t out, I justify the rain-soaked jaunt by noting how much it builds character, and prepare a story to tell my future children about my “struggle.”

For the culinarily inclined and walk-amenable, though, these motives alone might push one over the edge to take the long road to the badlands stores. For those whose wallets are less strained and more time-pressed Tesco’s pull might be irresistible. To them I ask: are you really saving time? Walking to the badlands is maybe the only motivation I have to plan and buy a week’s worth of food rather than two day’s. Though I hate to admit it, Tesco is convenient, but that convenience breeds weakness and daily dependency, sucking time like a vampire for every meal purchased. And truly, what is scarier than hypothetical time sucking vampires?

Finally, customer experience is simply better in the badlands. Both Aldi and Morrisons have space to spread out and have a less dense clientele. I dislike people, so meeting them (and literally bumping into them) unexpectedly is a less than an ideal morning/afternoon/evening for me. Morrisons replaces the dense cluster of students with a few pleasant locals, less likely to swarm the place at precisely 9:40pm.

In the end, I cannot judge you for going to Tesco. It is, after all, more convenient. If, however, you want more for less, desire better for the less you spend, and are willing to brave the badlands of St Andrews; consider joining the few and the bold who make their way out of the three streets, to something more extraordinary. The bounty you will carry home will be greater than your wildest dreams…or at least it will be reasonably priced.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

61 views0 comments