Tesco vs Waitrose. Tesco wins.

January 10, 2012

My goodness, there’s a lot of hate around, isn’t there? So let’s start the New Year by showing some love – a lot of love, actually – for a thing that is universally reviled: the enormous Tesco on the West Cromwell Road.

Let me tell you, without a trace of irony or mischief, that I am well into this place. They sell those nice City Kitchen meals and the super-big cartons of Innocent smoothies. You have the option of buying small amounts from the meat counter instead of wastefully buying whole packs. There’s a lovely, raised, semicircular fish counter. There are self-service tills. There is easy parking. The food is cheap, and it isn’t nasty. And it’s open late at night. Man, late-night grocery shopping… When I’ve done the weekly shop at 2am, I’ve experienced the sort of exultation Michael Jackson must have felt when he wandered around Harrods after hours. Except this shop is full of stuff you’d actually want to buy, like whole chickens and re-sealable fridge packs of baked beans, rather than tweed jackets and diamond-encrusted candlestick holders (as you may have guessed, I have never shopped at Harrods).

Waitrose, where I also shop regularly, has none of these things. What it does have, in abundance, is queues. There are huge queues at the Kensington High Street branch because there are no self-service tills. At Fulham there’s sometimes a bit of a wait to get out of the car park due to the security guards checking the tickets at the gate (and, nonsensically, they angrily insist on handing back my card receipt, even though I don’t need it.) Over at East Sheen – the only Waitrose I know of that has a proper meat counter – there’s usually a long queue to drive in. This last annoyance is the most frustrating of the lot, because the Sheen branch is the only supermarket around that has trolley-mounted barcode zappers: the time you save by avoiding the checkout is wasted by waiting to drive in.

I think these are all good reasons why, from the perspective of user experience, Waitrose is PC and Tesco is Mac. But if you’re a cycleperson, there are two reasons why you should love the glass monolith glistening over the A4. The first is this: gigantic megabags of pasta and rice.

Buy them, stick them in your cupboard, and you will never go hungry after a long ride ever again. (Or just drastically reduce the chance of not having anything to eat, because even though they last longer you might still forget to replace them when they run out. Look, it’s not a failsafe system. I’m just trying to help, alright?)

The second reason is so extraordinary that you may want to ask a friend or colleague to scroll down while you hold onto either side of your head, because what you are about to see is going to blow your freakin’ mind. Seriously.

You ready? OK. Here we go…

Yeah, that’s right: FIVE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOREEN LOAF.

BANG: Cinammon. BOOM: Fruity Five. KERPOW: Banana. Frigging banana! The cyclist’s main food group! In a Soreen loaf! Plus, of course, the classic malt loaf in sliced and unsliced formats. There is nothing more the modern cyclist could want from a supermarket.

I have had the pleasure of consuming all of these, and each one is delicious. But please keep this secret to yourself, reader. For if I turn up at Tesco at 2am and find an empty shelf in the baked goods section, I shall be heartbroken.

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