Thirty Thousand Streets

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Somerfield



I hate Somerfield. Somerfield is just wrong. Unholy, even. It shouldn't exist, but it does.

Everything about Somerfield seems calculated to offend, in some measure. To make buying groceries just that little bit more troublesome than it should be. Less choice. Greater expense. More insult. More injury. If shopping is a modern drug, then what the FUCK is Somerfield? Aversion therapy?

Whisper to yourself the words "Somerfield" and the word evokes a bucolic pastoral watercolour: golden fields rippling with corn, sun dappled streams where otters frolic and fat trout dance forever, green rolling fields studded with thatched cottages, the smack of leather on willow etcetera etcetera.

The reality could hardly be more different, as Somerfield represents a uniquely bleak facet of modernity: the high street shop that no-one likes. Wheras the general populace emoted the faintest pang of nostalgia for the passing of C&A, the demise of Somerfield would not cause the merest ripple in the dark waters of its demise, so utterly charmless is the franchise.

Somerfield are so unremarkable, they can't even make a virtue of being unexceptional. Everything about Somerfield is so woefully half-arsed it's a small miracle (or rather more significant curse) that they still exist. Tesco might mercilessly promote its own bleak corporate hegemony, but it does at least exhibit a certain brutal style as it stalks the land, crushing all local shopkeepers before it like the tanks in Terminator 1.

Style of course, is somethething Somerfield just doesn't do, the Somerfield brand being itself ugly enough to give the London 2012 Olympic logo a run for its money. Seriously, they'd have probably got a better job done if they'd handed a paintbrush to an elephant. Picked out in a hideously contrasting aquamarine and custard colour scheme, seeing the Somerfield logo is a bit like someone spashing an eggcup full of sick directly onto the surface of each eye: it stinks and burns simultaneously. In fact, it's a bit like the beginning of the Bunuel/Dali collabo, Un Chien Andalou where the eye gets razored apart, only it actually happening to both your eyes simultaneously.

I suspect the rationale (if indeed there was one) in making the brand look so self-consciously dowdy and unlovely, was to promote the notion of thrift. "Shit logo equals value" runs the reasoning (and sings the sign) though this is a fallacy: Somerfield is about as good value as coke in the West End, and "Shit logo equals shit everything else" might be a more truthful maxim.

For Somerfield aint cheap. About the same as Sainsburys, in fact, only massively less pleasant to frequent. In spite of this however, as someone observed to me, it's all but impossible to spend over fifteen quid in there, as there's absolutely nothing worth buying, whatsoever. Their selection is terrible, and what they do stock they don't carry enough of. Visiting the store some evenings is like wandering through a trading outpost in the grip of a withering nuclear winter. The frightened shoppers outnumber the actual produce, and eye each other fearfully.

Some strange counter-intuition seems to govern the system of buying at Somerfield, wherby they whittle down their lines according to merit and desirability. Simply put, anything you might want to buy, Somerfield probably won't want to sell, and if they do stock it, they'll probably stop quite soon. They seem hell-bent on a mission to vend only the most hum-drum of wares at a fairly substantial markup. England is renowned internationally for having crap food, and though I was kind of hoping this notion had been reversed what with having Fat Tongue and Ramsay as our culinary ambassadors, having the likes of Somerfield on our team is surely the PR equivalent of fatal friendly fire. One can only hope that if a tourist actually wandered into a branch of Somerfield they might mistakenly assume they'd chanced upon a wormhole that had deposited them back in Communist Russia during the cold war.

For whosoever it is that ultimately pilots the good ship Somerfield seems to regard anything above the benchmark of the pre-roasted chicken counter as faintly bourgeoise. If I was to envisage the Somerfield of a bleak, Ballard-esque concrete dystopia years hence, it would contain five things: A skip full of chicken scraps, a hopper full of white onions, an aluminium silo dispensing milk, shelves and shelves of white bread, and enough lager to sink the Bismarck. And everything would cost around fifty quid.

You might have gathered I hate this franchise. True enough. The manifestation of a Somerfield in your vicinity is like the appearance of a cracked paving-stone or some visually cumbersome public art. A canker on the civic backside to be afforded as wide a wide berth as possible. Sometimes that just isn't possible, however. Especially if, like my local branch, they employ the invasive tactic of stuffing flyers daily through your front door at a virtually exponential rate: brutally ugly propoganda extolling the supposed value of their 'megadeals'. I did for a while consider collecting all these leaflets, assembling them into a papier-mache reconstruction of the store, then burning it in protest, but I then thought about my 'carbon footprint', and how a much more expedient solution might be to torch the shop itself (that's a joke, by the way).

I think what bothers me the most is that it is so bad on almost every level, and they make absolutely no effort to sort any of it out. Understaffed, understocked, poor selection, poor quality, poor store layout, overpriced.. I could go on.

Ok so all supermarkets are pretty evil and are all at this moment probably queueing up to whack the devil off, but at least they have the decency to attempt some sleight of hand to convice you otherwise – even if it is just paying Bob Hoskins 50 grand to say "Every little helps" in his warm but gravelly voice whilst they mercilessly crush farmers into the eroding topsoil.

Somerfield can't even be bothered doing this, for apart from their execrable direct mail I have yet to witness any Somerfield advertising. No, Somerfield's gameplan is the tried and tested tactic of bum-rushing an area: plonking a store down and hoping for the best, or, to put it another way 'if it gets enough people's way someone will eventually go inside and spend something'.

This is either brutally honest, really stupid, pretty damn insulting, or the last two. if I was to render Somerfield's hapless doctrine as a tagline, it might run thus.

"We're shit, you're shit, we're all shit, so let's eat shit and pay loads for it"

I'd like to say in light of all this that that I exercised freedom of choice and gave Somerfield a wide berth, but the worst thing about it is that I do still use my local branch, as it's the only supermarket in the vicinity and Sainsburys is a good mile or so away over a hill. I do try to avoid it though.

There is much talk these days of private equity buying out (or attempting to buy out) large firms such as Boots, and bringing all their merciless financial acumen to bear in turning the corporation in question into a cash-cow with distended knockers – milking it for all it's worth for a quick buck. Much that has been said is critical of these corporate reivers, but for the lame duck that is Somerfield their intervention cannot come soon enough. Will someone please tell these idiots how to have a piss up in a brewery, or could they hurry up and go into liquidation.

25 comments:

Zeno Cosini said...

Doesn't Barney manage a Somerfield? Sums it up really.

Ade said...

All so true.

I used to work for Somerfield, in a grey overall with clip-on tie. I strongly associate those memories with misery. Neil Walsh was senior to me, for starters (and that really is just for starters).

And more recently (though still a full five years ago) I was in charge of editing their website's homepage. Changes to the god-awful site were only possible via an impressively tedious content management system, that appeared to be designed entirely to get in the way of actually being able to make changes to the website.

It once took me a whole day to swap one image and to change the price of the item it depicted. Had I been able to edit the site in the normal way it definitely would have taken less than ten minutes.

allez-allez said...

great post mate! really well written and funny as feck - i chortled all hte way through!

S

mountainear said...

If you lived in Welshpool (and you must praise the Lord you don't) then the choice is between Somerfield and Morrisons - and believe me there are days when the glacial empty aisles of the former are preferable to bouncing off the lardy pie-eaters that frequent the latter. It's that good.

Little Nutbrown Hare said...

Our local Somerfield at Old Street exhibit all the characteristics you mentioned, and more. They have a walking disaster of a cashier with a name that sounds like "calamity".

The Eyechild said...

Ade:

The website thing sounds believable. Somerfield's body corporate I suspect, underperform at all levels, even when contracted out on a macrocosmic scale. Indeed, if you extracted matter from any SF store and examined it inder an electron microscope, things would surely be wrong, even at a mollecular level.

Allez - Allez:

Cheers son! yo I'm out at your gig tonight.

Mountainear:

A trawl round the charity shops of Welshpool that grey afternoon was enough to convince me that our fates were not destined to intertwine on any significant level.

That said, it did have a lot of pubs.

LNBH:

Ah the staff.. don't even get me started there. Olde Worlde courtesy it aint, though I suppose you can't blame people resenting working for SF.

martynj said...

What pisses me off the most (there are many things) about Somerfield, is that they acknowledge their shitness and revel in it. The fact that in our little corner of SE5, they've shamelessly bought up two supermarkets opposite each other, and another one up the road, just to make sure that anyone without a car (most people in that area) is forced to shop with them says it all!

They then abuse their monopoly and up the prices, under-stock anything on special offer, and provide *the worst* customer service I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing in a supermarket. How hard can it be to smile at customers and utter something more than a grunt?

The Eyechild said...

MartynJ:

Yeah monopolies aint good (just look a QuarkXpress)

Though it sometimes seems to me that there is something almost feudal about the modern supermarket system, with companies all but building checkpoints in areas in an attempt to keep competitors out, and their business anti-competitive.

We just have the extreme misfortune to live in Somerfield's weedy barondom (if Somerfield were a tyrant, it would probably be only on the level of Baron Greenback from Dangermouse).

Anonymous said...

If Somerfield was a person it would be a bastard manipulative deceptive staff tourturing bully with a great face and a black heart secretly hidden behind it!

I work in somerfiled and i was told i would work in the bakery in my interview and i spacificaly wrote in the application that i didn't want to serve customers. On my first day they told me i would be working on the kiosc, two years later they laugh at me when i ask if i can change my shifts they ignore me when i ask to change my job role and when i didn't expect to still be working there and asked for my 21st birthday off at short notice having found two people willing to cover my shift they said no and told me i had 21 years to plan a day off. Even though the store managers pets get their birthdays off at short notice and call in hung over and are told sure have the day off. Forget about the corporate beast that is Somerfield and think of the poor bastards like me that work for them and get treated like shit by them and the customers and still put on a smile.

My manager purposly leaves reduced products weeks out of date neer the tills to sell them and when we tell him that we put them with the out of date stock in the ware house he tells us they are for staff to purchase and to put them back at the end of the tills. Yeah because customers won't see them there.

Somerfield is a FUCKING HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and i feel sick every time i go to work PHYSICALLY Sick !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I work in a Somerfield store and I hate it with a passion. Its the most depressing experience of my entire life. I started working there just over 4 years ago as I needed cash and then when I became a student I needed the money to fund my degree(of which I am just starting my fourth year). I started working 25 hours a week, and it was fine for a while, the place was a constant shithole in the warehouses, the staff facilities were so poor that most staff left the building for lunch, the management sat around all day chatting in the office while the CSA's did all the work. The shop has the most rubbish product range, stocking total useless products no one ever needs and not stocking or never having enough of the essentails. Their own brand is so naff I wouldn't even consider it and all the rest of their products are so overly prices in comparison to other supermarkets its no wonder everyone moans about shopping there. Everything in the store is old, tired, and grubby. The cleanliness of the stores is across the board substandard and so are the work practices. Out of date products are sold on with the dates covered as a reduced price(Illegal), out of date instore defrost bread is redated and sold on defrosted meat and fish is refrozen if a freezer packs in rather than waste it and loose some of their precious profits. I now only work under 10 hours a week as I hate my job so much. Just walking into the building makes me want to vomit, there have been cases of verbal abuse in my store, with bullying from management occuring frequently and most of the senoir staff are backstabbling c**ts!.

They treat me and all my colleauges like shit, messing us around, refusing to be flexible with regards to changing shifts or having days off yet they insist staff work overtime. They demand that all holiday for the year is booked by May(what the f**K) and they refuse to allow job role changes when staff are unhappy. They are sly, manipulative and deceitful, I hate the company, I hate the name, I hate Somerfields and the sooner I leave the better.

The Eyechild said...

@ anonymous & anonymous

Whoah... the more people post comments on this post the more it starts to resemble some kind of Channel 4 Dispatches special...

I guess it pretty much confirms what I suspected about the place really: that NOBODY LIKES SOMERFIELD.

All the best at getting out of there guys...

Anonymous said...

working at somerfield has made me want to kill myself, damn right anon and anon! it's all true...
worst thing is, i've only been working there for a month and I'm already looking for a new job!

Lucy said...

I cried on the tills in Somerfield yesterday. I booked next week off, but they had put me down for working on the Sunday.
My line manager promised me she'd sort it out; she had five days to sort it.
Yesterday, she was at home and still hadn't sorted it, so she just said 'Yeah you're working next Sunday.'
I was like

But .. but I have a week off .. I booked that Sunday off .. The store manager verified it and everything ..

and I just started crying, I couldn't take it anymore.

Its like you're going insane.

Eventually, the store manager took pity on me, and he's decided to let me have Sunday off. But it will be unpaid.

Nevermind ..

I want to get into Care Work, and I'm still waiting for a reply from the old peoples' home.

Somerfield will have to do for now. Although it's been a year and a half now; I don't know how much more I can take ...

Brilliant Blog entry btw. It really sums it up.

george said...

Eyechild, you are a total legend! The amount of truth in that blog is phenomenal haha. I also work at somerfield and i gotta say i fucking hate it!

Its a shambles, always short staffed, not enough people to do a certain job. And they expect CSA's to run around like headless chickens while the managers take days off. Ive been there nearly a year and need to get the fuck out of there. I feel everyone elses pain who has worked for them, but hopefully they will be shut down soon :D

Anonymous said...

yes somerfield suck fat cocks.no choice,expensive,tospot attedants.i fucking hate the place.bunch of bastards.

Anonymous said...

Hi there all, i work at somerfield on dairy and its a shit hole, i cant wait until they go bust, there already cutting hours because they cant afford to pay out. which leaves me to do all the fucking work and this is from a store in newcastle. apparently we are turning into the co-op. THANK FUCK! they will probably treat us better, well paul mason and john lovering you's both run ONE SHIT COMPANY. FUCKING WANKERS!!!

Anonymous said...

There's one thing i have noticed about ALL somerfield stores, there is always, in every store a young slapper/slag working on the checkouts !

Anonymous said...

I can relate to a lot of the comments left on working for Somerfield.
Since my time working for them (unfortunately still am) we have had 2 managers, the 1st one leaving suffering from a nervous breakdown, and the 2nd more recently making some good yet also some bizarre changes.
Our store is no longer alowered to start any current day reductions (fresh) during the morning, earliest being the afternoon, late at that when theres actually a memeber of staff available to even do them.
Theres hardly any staff, scheduling is ALL wrong and told to ignore, im still demanding my contract hours be changed up to the longer hours im currently doing, for during holidays etc, im losing out £50+ a week when away.
Morale is low, CSA's feel stretched and pressured into doing overtime all the time.
Supervisors days and hours are always changed.
If Somerfield actually payed higher than minimum wage then its workers may actually care a bit more. Supervisor rates are even less than Tescos CSA's.
All i can say is try to have a laugh and not let anything get you down working there, it really isnt worth it when management dont care about your well being.
When Somerfields new overtime scheme is completed DO NOT DO ANY OVERTIME whatsoever! From what i have heard, when implemented, you will NOT be payed any overtime worked until the end of the year in one lump sum (illegal).
New Milton

The Eyechild said...

Thanks for the comments guys...

Sounds like there might be some 'institutional management issues going on there...'

Good news for shoppers in Camberwell where I live, at least – I hear it through the grapevine that the two branches there are to be replaced (by Morrisons, I think).

Happy Days are here again...

Norman Vickers said...

I too have suffered at the hand of Somerfields and I am writing to inform all who will listen about an embarrassing series of physical and psychological injuries that occurred as the direct result of buying an ‘avocado’ from a Somerfield store.

I have very poor eyesight as well as being colour blind, and being 74 years of age I rely on Somerfield checkout staff (and their visual vegetable-reference sheets) to decipher similar fruit and vegetables from one another. Now, I can only assume that the colour-saturation on the printer has gone to cock, either that, or ‘Lee’ the checkout assistant has never seen an avocado before…not that that’s a problem mind, thanks mainly to rationing I didn’t eat my first banana well into my late teens.

My problem began when I tried to make guacamole with this ‘avocado’. Forty-five minutes I was mashing that unripe sod with a fork! Enid and I had to take it in shifts in the end (which was difficult for Enid given her bad veins) but we persisted. Enid has also never eaten guacamole before – so she didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be orange.

I had only made guacamole once before in 1984 - I remember this because we were watching the TV premier of Star Wars Episode iv ‘A New Hope’ (My son Stuart was six at the time and he thought it looked a bar-snack he saw in the space pub where Harrison Ford meets that monkey).

On this occasion I had planned to make guacamole as part of Mediterranean welcome-spread to celebrate the arrival of Stuart with his Greek wife Magda and the grandkids.
Imagine the look on her face when they arrived later that day to see mango pulp served with crisps! – and WE are the ones entrusted to look after the grandchildren during their trip home!

To make matters worse my wrists started to swell an hour later - the fork mashing had inflamed my arthritis…

Two weeks on and I’m phoning the speaking clock twice a day because I can’t even wear a watch...my forearms are so swollen they are basically the same width as my wrists – and no matter how hard I tighten the watch-strap there is just no purchase. I look like a bloody elephant seal - an elephant seal who isn’t trusted to look after his Greek grandchildren in case he gives them the wrong food!

Sincerely

Mr. Norman Vicars

Ps. Note – thanks to my wrist injury, It has taken me the best part of two and a half hours to type this message.

Anonymous said...

Well since last reading this post probably over a year ago I still work in the Shithole that is Somerfields! Been working for the company for nearly 5 years now and I what do I have to show for it?, 6 faded polo shirts, 1 yellow packing knife and a folder of payslips and disciplinary letters. As my hatred for the company my attitude towards working there became less and less concinentous, I am now well into my 5 year of employment with the company and to date I have had no credit given to me for the 4 years of blemishless service I gave but they were very quick to slap me with 2 discipliarys for an unauthorized absence and for some minorly discrediting comments made on a social networking site.

I feel wholeheartedly sorry for the Co-op who despite being a supermarket(generally considered by most enlightened people as the parasite of modern society) are much better rated by myself for their ethical standpoint on many issues. I wish the co-op all the luck in the world trying to maintain their very good image whilst trying to absord somerfields and neutralize the aspic vile poison that somerfields leaches from every orifice.

My manager is a rude, arrogant git, my supervisor is a moron of the highest quality and the staff are made up of a few good friends who are far too loyal to the store and the rest are a bunch of morons!

Never did I think that Turqoise, Orange and Navy Blue would represent such a miserable working experience!

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

Ever so true! Somerfield makes me want to puke. It was like it was invented to show what a distasteful and unpleasant shopping experience the human race could conjure up. They have more money than Aldi, but yet they refuse to inject any kind of style or pleasure into the shopping experience of the customers.

The Eyechild said...

Well friends, I think they've all been bought out by Co-Op, so their hour has well and truly come.

There was a spot on the Beeb's consumer affairs programme watchdog, earlier in the year, where all of the major supermarkets had sent along a representative to sit in line, squinting and shifting on stools under the studio lights.

Somerfield was noticeably absent, but then they did come last in the league table of customer appreciation.

Oh well. The end of one era, and hopefully the start of another, brighter one for supermarkets.

Anonymous said...

I worked for Somerfield for two years and towards the end, everything grew more and more stupid. The amount of things staff were able to get away with was terrible. The shop was dirty; the shelves hadn't been cleaned in probably six years judging by the dust. There was no proper cleaning equipment, and the cleaners were lazy!
The customers were pretty much the same: Just dirty .. apart from a selected few, including the elderly - They were really sweet and were always greatful and kind. But some were terrible, they treated you like crap and took Somerfield for a joke ..
The staff at the store I worked in, most were really good people and always happy to help - It was just the higher management, and of course, the bigger boys who made Somerfield so crap. I had thirty minutes worth of induction. I was never offered a promotion (i.e supervisor, team leader, etc) even though I was good at my job and they knew it. Once I wanted to go on to another department and management never said Well done for being keen, or offered to train me on that department.
I often wondered how could a company actually be "proud" to be owners of such a run-down business and how they could let it get in such a state. The area manager always used to come in the store every so often, thinking he was the dogs b*ll*cks... I mean, look at Morrisons, they are not in the top three supermarkets, they're in the shadow still. Yet their stores seem good. So why did Somerfield fall down? I don't understand it.
I had some fun times at Scummerfield. Only because I got away with everything. Tescos and Sainsburys would probably die of shock if they knew how bad Somerfield were as employees, haha. ;)