Once upon a time, in a land just down the road, I went into a local shop because I needed a few bits and pieces. While there, I decided to buy some tobacco because this was in the days before Man with a Van and because I couldn't be bothered going all the way to the supermarket just to save a few pennies.
The counter was staffed by a raddled harridan who didn't like smokers and made it plain. She was all sweetness and light bleeping through coffee and butter and the rest, but when I asked for an ounce of baccy the very air froze and the contempt was almost tangible.
I don't know about you, but I don't like being treated like that so I never went in that shop again. For anything. It's still there, the loss of my custom has not closed it. I have no idea whether the raddled harridan still exudes ice at smokers, nor whether they even still sell tobacco, and I am not interested in finding out. The shop continues without me and I continue without it. There are plenty of other local shops to cover my needs and presumably plenty of non-smokers, and masochistic smokers, to cover theirs.
Recently there was a Tesco in Bristol that had the temerity to open its doors and offer goods for sale. There was Outrage. Small shops will close, there will be nothing but Tesco and everyone will have to shop there. We were told that ninety-five percent of residents didn't want this Tesco and about one percent were prepared to smash it to bits to prove that.
If ninety-five percent don't want it, where's the problem? Let it open. When Tesco finds that no more than five percent of locals use it, they'll soon close it again. None of the other shops will close because they will lose, at most, five percent of their customers. The other ninety-five percent don't want to shop at Tesco.
When faced with a shop I don't like, my only protest is to never enter their doors again. I used to be a regular at PDSA but have neither contributed nor bought anything there since they announced they believed in second-hand smoke affecting pets. Fine. Believe that nonsense if you want. This smoker is not giving you any more money or contributions, but you carry on until you have alienated everyone. It's your business. I'm not going to stop anyone else going there because I no longer care whether you thrive or fail. For me, the shop has simply ceased to exist. Forever. I have never, to this day, dropped a grudge.
Those Bristol protestors knew perfectly well that most of their neighbours would have switched to Tesco prices at once. They knew, in their weak and unprincipled hearts, that they would shop there too. They care nothing for those small shops. All they care about is bashing the rich guy, despite the fact that the Tesco workers in that shop are almost as far from 'the rich guy' as you can get. They have to close the shop, or ninety-nine percent of their neighbours will shop there and they would be supporting the Evil Rich.
At this point, I have to say I don't like Tesco very much, apart from the whisky aisle. Oh, I buy stuff in there, they haven't annoyed me personally so they have never invoked a grudge, but I don't like their business practices.
There was a paint shop here, not cheap, but convenient and they had all the colours of paint you could ever want. They even had a thing that would let them mix up a colour if they didn't already have a tin of it.
Tesco stocked paint, but only in the most popular colours. The paint shop could not compete on price. With people buying the most popular colours in Tesco, the shop was left with the few customers who wanted unusual colours, and that's not enough to sustain a business. The shop is gone.
There was a book shop here. Tesco sell the fast-selling bestsellers at prices no small bookshop could possibly match. The bookshop stocked odd and unusual books that no supermarket would ever touch, but denied the high volume sales of things like Harry Potter, they could not compete. The bookshop is gone.
The thing is, Tesco's paint range is now only white and magnolia. The book range is also limited. It almost feels as though they are closing the little shops not for the business but just out of spite. So no, I am no champion of Tesco. Especially since the only thing they could ever sell of mine are the books and they'd discount them so far I'd be lucky to get a bean per book. The phrase 'On sale at Tesco' does not make an author's heart soar.
Having said that, Tesco is a business. Not a charity, not a government organisation, not a social club. Like every other business, including mine, it exists to make money. I produce cures for intestinal diseases but when I'm not making money I stop doing it. I receive no public funds or donations so I don't owe it to the world to hand over everything I've learned. What I know, I worked to know, and that has value. If you don't think it does, don't pay me to produce the stuff. Easy.
Businesses exist to earn money. Do you imagine Glaxo exists purely to find cures for things? No, they exist to make money and finding cures is how they do it. Bus companies exist to make money and running buses is how they do it. The local lentil and soya-bean shop exists to make money and catering to the hippies is how they do it. The council exists to make money and demanding it with menaces is how they do it.
Any business that does not make money does not stay in business very long. That's called 'reality'.
So when Tesco decides to throw the council's recycling bins out of their car parks and install their own instead, that's business. There's money in recycling it seems. The councils have been doing very nicely out of it by placing bins on supermarket property and keeping the money.
I've always thought that recycling would be better and more efficient if private business did it. They would only collect what could genuinely be recycled and they would definitely recycle it. Private business would never collect rubbish and pay for it to be shipped to China for dumping. That does not make sense in either business or ecological terms.
The councils are scrambling for excuses -
'We have various targets we have to hit in recycling rates.
'If we are collecting the material ourselves, we can account for the figures quite easily. But if they [Tesco] are insisting on doing it themselves, these materials will be disappearing from our waste stream and we won't be able to work out how much rubbish is being recycled.'
All they need is a monthly report of weight-per-type from Tesco and they will have those records anyway. Does it really matter who does the recycling as long as the recycling is done?
Ah, but the councils are losing money -
Tesco is going to be making millions from this, and we will be struggling.
'We made around £80,000 a year from the bins, and all this money was pumped into maintaining less-widely used recycling bins in other areas.
So all the money just went into running non-useful bins? Therefore the taxpayers were getting... what? Collection of stuff that was loss-making paid for using all the money from collections that were profitable. Where is the logic in bothering with that business?
Tesco claims it will inject the money back into local projects of its choosing, such as school sports programmes.
So the locals benefit if Tesco recycle but if the council does it, it's a zero-sum business. Yet Tesco are the bad guys here. They are going to choose what to spend their money on! The horror!
'...Tesco, who seem to want to make a profit out of it'.
Um... it's what they do.
But on recycling, none of that is what interests me. Personally I get nothing out of council zero-sum nonsense nor out of any kind of sports programmes. What interests me is this from the same speaker as above, without a hint of irony -
'In terms of aluminium cans, you can make quite a sizeable profit out of them.'
Oh really? So whether it's the council or Tesco, why am I handing them over for free? Worse, why am I paying council tax to have them collected? It sounds as if I am paying to have something valuable taken away.
I'm a business too. This needs investigating.