Friday, April 07, 2017


Under the shadow of Brexit, Waitrose is named the ’priciest’ store... 

An attempt at Waitrose Bromley store today to charge a vulnerable widow £250 for a wine carrier bag was uncovered by TheBigRetortOur undercover reporter witnessed the astonished look on his fellow shopper‘s face as the 84 year-old’s bill had wracked up in excess of £300! A considerable increase on her meagre weekly spend; and a considerable hole in her pension too. 

In fact, 'That‘s a bit expensive, isn’t it?’ she said, mouth agog. 

Whilst “Mrs M” stood at the till nervously, our reporter, ever on the lookout for skulduggery, quizzed the cashier... 

She may well have offered, 'Well, that's Brexit!'   In fact the charming young lady was nonplussed and couldn't say why the bill was so high. She suggested that the octogenarian, a Friday regular at the fish counter - 20% percent off! - should visit the customer service desk. So off we toodled.

The culprit it seems was the plastic wine bag (pictured). 

At £250 it was more expensive than the six bottles of wine it held... Was it a Waitrose bag for infinity?

The "error" was quickly and quietly amended and "Mrs M" (the mother-in-law actually, full disclosure) received the added assurance that it would not happen again. 

Thank god for that! 

Many years back Waitrose ditched its old tagline 'Quality food, honestly priced'. Part of the John Lewis Partnership, could the food store's 2017 tagline read, Never knowingly undersold?

In which case we know why.

Saturday, March 04, 2017


The Ayatollah of the Airwaves, James O’Brien, is still raging at the radio ether. His current demons: pensioner investors and... buy-to-let. “It’s not the politics of envy to say they need their wings clipped,” he declared last week. In fact, if you hit the numbers and can’t get through it’s probably because he’s still banging on about landlords and second-home ownership.  Time to take a peek then at the former landlord-turned-gamekeeper’s own dirty “deeds“. A BIGRETORT EXCLUSIVE

In 2014 AD, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby held a head-to-head with presenter James O’Brien; who isn’t usually lost for words let's face it. But whilst His Grace fielded phone-calls from LBC devotees, sat at the other end of the wireless alongside him was not the station's usual attack dog -  instead, in somewhat subdued genuflection, was old motor mouth himself. Choirboy O'Brien claimed he had received an email from a listener: “He says how does the Archbishop feel about the Church's record as landowner and in particular its hardnosed approach to tenants… by further increasing its portfolio it risks becoming just another buy-to-let landlord?” (In O’Brien lexicon ‘scumbag‘.)
The Archbishop countered, the Church had allowed some tenants in Warwickshire a rent holiday after an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Causing O'Brien to retort: “But it's still not quite sell everything you own and ‘follow me’ is it?”

Flash forward a few years... James the Redeemer is at it again. And like Moses leading his flock from Armageddon, he is looking through those scratched bifocals at buy-to-let investment: ‘The chronic unfairness of buy-to-let.' The new plague by all accounts. Delivering the Commandments, gesticulating wildly, Old Moses Mouth rails and rages: “... if you meet a buy-to-let landlord, they’re laughing all the way to the bank!” Throwing up his hands, he adds - “And they’re not all evil people! Please don’t bombard me with violin accompaniments about how tough it is to be a landlord! I appreciate that it’s not easy. But it’s a hell of a lot easier than having to work to pay to buy a house!” A snigger from Old Mortgage Mouth. He should know... 

O’Brien has consistently informed “listeners” that whole generations would ‘never ever’ get to own a piece of the promised land; because evil buy-to-let investors were now letting them at ever inflated rents to the very property hopefuls and innocents that they had gazumped and gazundered. “Pensioner investors,” he spat the other day. Apparently they are busy buying up whole streets across the disunited Kingdom; and, like skeletons wielding scythes, stealing his listeners… “futures“.

Hold on a minute... Certainties shaken. Gasps flabbered. There appears to be some static on those airwaves at “97.3“... James O’Brien? The guy who talks over people, is rude; and who has admitted in the past to having pursued his own ‘brief encounter' as landlord-investor -  THAT James O’Brien?

A word in your shell like, from her indoors.

“We had searched high and low for months for something central enough within our budget and had drawn a blank at ex-council properties or maisonettes until we stumbled across the estate.” journalist Lucy McDonald wrote. Adding later, “It was, and still is, bliss.” [Evening Standard, August 16, 2006.]

The O’Brien buy-to-let investment had a red-clothed doll hanging in the window and a thin trellis growing up the right hand-side flanking its blue front door. However, the "Queen‘s Park" described by Mrs "OB” in the Standard at that time fell between Kilburn and Kensal Green, or North Kensington. The cottage was though in what Westminster Council designated Queen’s Park Estate Conservation Area.

Coincidentally. LBC and BBC Newsnight presenter O’Brien has relentlessly waged an intellectual radio war against phone-in infidels - usually aimed at those who don’t have the same mental acuity or verbal gymnastics. What listeners may not know however, is that O’Brien’s 'near' neighbour was Mohammed Emwazi... aka Jihadi John; former drone dodger.

The ink was barely dry on the Evening Standard piece when “Jihadi James" moved from the Kilburn property - described as “bliss” by his journalist wife - to the radio presenter’s current Mecca in a leafy middle-class area of Chiswick. [The Ayatollah of the Airwaves paid the full asking price for the three-bed townhouse.]

In the Standard article, James O’Brien’s “wife” was not only describing the area in which the couple previously lived, but also the home that would later become the buy-to-let property that would lead the couple toward untold riches.

“Untold” because O’Brien never told his listeners how much he made from buy-to-let property. It was ’brief’ - that‘s all they know. 

TheBigRetort exclusive... 

--O’Brien’s second-home-ownership was far from ‘brief‘ - and lasted five and a half years!

--O’Brien’s Damascene conversion from buy-to-let landlord, to saint, only manifested itself after he himself made a veritable fortune, from, ooh, err… buy-to-let! 

--O'Brien's Buy-to-let investing set the then impoverished argument presenter, at the grand old age of 35, on the road to being… a property millionaire!

“But it's still not quite sell everything you own and ‘follow me’ is it?”
[James O'Brien to Archbishop Welby, God's landlord. LBC, 2014. AD]

Buy2LetOBrien - Following James

Raised by Benedictine Monks of Ampelforth College - motto, Dieu le ward. God is the one true landlord. [I think.] Saint James, when he launched himself into buy-to-let, set himself on the path to a wealth beyond that of a monk‘s wildest imaginings. [The Ampelforth monks were subject to The Rule of St Benedict who wrote in the Sixth Century AD a doctrine for fellow monks. Amongst the text: humility; silence; obedience. It was the last two which allowed some monks to ignore certain traits amongst their Catholic brotherhood: who systematically saw vulnerable boys targeted by truly sick “abbots”. Though “homosexual mafia” as one monk reported is not, in my humble opinion, an appropriate tag for a coven of paedophilic priests.]

Crucially O'Brien himself was to retain his former home as a buy-to-let investment - for five and a half years. Yet here was James O’Brien, just twelve months before, denying first-time buyers the opportunity to purchase a home... when he retained his own buy-to-let. [A Google search records that the property was at one time advertised “to let” at just over £2,000 per calendar month.]

A few words from James: “If we’d have invented this [buy-to-let] system now and tried to sell it to the British public they’d-they’d have chased us out of- out of the country. Yeah… what we’re gonna do… we’re gonna create a system in which people have already got a lot of money, they will ‘sort‘ of buy a house. But they’ll borrow a bunch of cash to buy it! You who have got less than them, you’re gonna pay their mortgage for them. [Smiling inanely in his Podcast] Okay! Is everybody cool with that. Yeah..? Rich bloke here, already got a house. Got a bit of money in the bank! Uses it… uses it to get a - put a - deposit in a flat. You! You’re earning enough to pay a mortgage, but you haven’t got a lump some to pay the deposit on-- So you’re gonna buy him another house! Is that okay! You’re just gonna buy him a flat..? By living in it and paying for the privilege. (Smiles) Vote me!”

So says a plaster saint… First time buyers were ‘nowhere near being able to afford’ to purchase his former home - and even if they could, they couldn‘t - because James O’Brien held on to it.

[The “radio presenter” and his “journalist” wife incorporated a company in April 2007, and could not be said to be rolling in it…Brother Micawber of Ampleforth may have explained it ever thus: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." ]

It must have been whilst buttering parsnips in Queen’s Park that O’Brien decided not to leave someone else ‘to it’. In other words, to have a roof they actually own over their heads. Instead... James O'Brien got his 'poor' downtrodden tenants to contribute towards his mortgages. No wonder Queen’s Park was such “bliss”.

“It’s like... like all the big changes in society it’s sort of crept up on us and we’ve been labouring under the illusion that we might somehow… the fundamental unfairness. And of course if you meet a buy to let landlord, they’re laughing all the way to the bank. (Throwing up hands he informs in his Podcast and continues) --And they’re not all evil people - please don’t bombard me with violin accompaniments about how tough it is to be a landlord! I appreciate that it’s not easy. But it’s a hell of a lot easier than having to work to pay, to buy, a house. (Sniggers) Just to own it, to leave someone else to it.“
[James O'Brien, LBC.]

Laughing All The Way 

Every time he collected the rent on his buy-to-let, former Ampleforth pupil James O’Brien must have felt the weight of Saint Benedict on his shoulders. If he did, this did not stop him squeezing his buy-to-let 'asset' further. O’Brien commenced making several improvements - thereby driving up the price beyond the reaches of many generations to come.

Various planning applications for improvements were submitted to Westminster Council by the Buy-to-let O'Briens. Placed just prior to the sale of the Grade II Listed cottage... some works had been undertaken without planning permission.

However, remarkably, in a later successful planning application the following is found: “We do not use the downstairs bathroom as we have one upstairs.”

But the Buy-to-let O'Briens were dropping a soft-close loo-seat in Chiswick - and had been for the past five and a half years..? A bit of a distance from Chiswick to Queen’s Park, isn‘t it! [Perhaps it’s a typo and they meant “to let” not toilet.]

Weeks after receiving planning permission on the house - which they claimed they needed for themselves - the property was sold: for more than double what they paid for it. It is not known if the works had already been completed, were completed in this time, or were completed by the new owner.

The "eventual" sale of the buy-to-let in 2013 was extremely fortuitous for James O'Brien. A few years later, Chancellor George Osbourne introduced a skip-load of measures designed to gazump buy-to-let landlords. Amongst these: the complete removal of the wear and tear allowance of 10%; all rental payments to be treated as actual income; low-to-no mortgage interest relief removed in increments; and 3% stamp duty increases on buy to let or second home ownership.

So it was not the monastic values of Ampleforth that young James followed in his scurry up the property ladder. Instead, finger ever on the doorbell, O’Brien, was a property denier.

He assured listeners that he had only “briefly” thrown off the scapula of his former faith and entered into O’Brien Economics: Okay for me; but not for you.

Buy2LetOBrien Meets ‘His’ Mecca

The creation of his former home as a buy-to-let investment had obviously percolated in the tortured mind of Brother O‘Brien - the quasi radio monk - for some time.

Like a secret from his dark past, after moving to Chiswick in 2007 - a year after his wife wrote that shameless glowing tribute in the Evening Standard about their former property (thereby inflating the price beyond ordinary buyers’ pockets for ever) O’Brien, caving in under the weight of his tenants' meagre earnings, sold the property in 2013 - one year before he had a go at the Archbishop of Canterbury about God being a buy-to-let landlord. Having offloaded his own buy-to-let, twelve mortgage payments later James O'Brien was free to lambaste others for what he himself had done - including the Almighty!

Chapters 54 and 55 of the Rule of St Benedict taught at his former school advised that the goods of the community should be ‘shared‘. One wise monk explained: “Quite clearly the vice St Benedict wants us to avoid is the all too human trait of acquisitiveness: how easy it is to ensure that our cell is fitted out with all available creature comforts and in so doing create a situation in which covetousness among the monks who possess little flourishes. There is a real need for each of us to watch carefully over what we have in our cell: to ask whether we are really in need this or that item, whether we really need this or that gift.”

And for gift read “guilt”.

James "buy to let" O’Brien’s (apparent) guilt regarding two "cell" ownership may be due to his monastic education. However, truth to say... Saint James, who had lived under a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, experienced an epiphany in a cell of his own making. He had simply sought to profit: and that did not sit well under the shadow of St Benedict.

At this point the former landlord may comfort himself with old parable on property ownership…

Jesus on the Cross

Peter hears Jesus calling weakly from the Cross: "Peter, come thee hither!"
Peter goes to run up to the hill but as soon as he begins to get close the Roman guard shouts "NO!", and with a woosh of the sword viciously chops off Peter’s outstretched arm.
Peter looks at the bloody stump, shaken. But his messiah, growing evermore faint, calls out to him again, "Peeter" come thee hither!
Peter, realising he has been “chosen” above all others, once more moves towards the Cross...
But the Roman guard is having none of it. This time woosh! he lops off Peter’s leg.
Peter’s is getting really pissed off now... He’s lost an arm and a leg, is in a lot of pain; and his new clothes are covered in blood. Nevertheless, he hears his messiah call again: “Peeeter… come thee… hither!”
Peter sighs. This is a test of his faith and so he overcomes the pain and hops further up the hill toward the Cross on his remaining leg: Woosh! The guard chops off his other leg.
Peter’s slides down beneath the Cross holding on to it in agony. His new suit‘s ruined.
“Peeter… come thee… hitheeer!” He hears the messiah cry faintly again.
Peter‘s getting a bit hacked off, but fighting the pain and the fear, carried by belief alone, he pulls himself up defiantly to the Cross - with just one arm and no legs, and in total agony. He sees the guard, sword hovering…
But this time the guard lets the sword fall to the ground.
He kneels in front of the Cross; in awe - a miracle!
Seeing this, Peter, with his remaining arm, and no legs, pulls himself up the Cross... Finally he reaches the top and screams in anticipation: "Yes my lord!”
With that, Jesus replies: "I can see your house from here!"

It was all about property ownership, even back in the day.

Not really... Saint Benedict himself found property ownership unacceptable and lived in a cave.

But the Prophet of Ampelforth had two properties and made as much money as he could. He then offloaded the buy-to-let the moment his monastic “certainties” got shaken up - and after the money was banked. After making a mint, Saint James once more embraced the teachings of Saint Benedict and renounced all his worldly possessions: or one at least. The mortgage on the house in Chiswick he must have paid 'down' from the proceeds of his buy-to-let. [Pensioner investors don't need to do this, James. So please stop saying this.]

So, how much did Buy2LetO’Brien make from what he sometimes terms his ‘brief’ foray into buy-to-let? 

It’s the old, If ifs-and-buts were pots and pans…

IF his Queen's Park property turned over a veritable fortune in rent… (it was advertised for let at over 2k monthly) - that’s £136k that he pocketed from those forelock-tugging tenants...

IF rising property values soared - after being talked up by poorly paid journalists? - which they did... [Purchased for £325k, it later sold in 2013 - for £645,000] that’s another £325K profit...

IF a similar house in the same Chiswick road where he now lives sold for one million three hundred and sixty thousand pounds… which it did a few years back...

IF Capital Gains Tax won’t be applied to any future sale of the present Chiswick house, and very little or "none" was applied to the sale of his buy-to-let (former residence) - that listeners, is an astonishing additional… £612K into the O’Brien coffers.

In fact, Buy2LetOBrien‘s ever so ‘brief' five and a half years retention of an investment property, and purchasing of another, which also saw considerable growth, is over… ONE MILLION POUNDS, AND CLIMBING!!

Back to 2006 whilst talking-up property prices in Queen‘s Park, wife Lucy hyped: “Council schemes have helped reverse the estate's fortunes. Whilst gentrification has been slower than in neighbouring areas, making it more affordable.”

However, with its present-day value fast approaching a million pounds, it is doubtful if the O'Brien former buy-to-let remains so.

But then, the Rule of Benedict surely applies...

‘If he teaches his disciples that something is not to be done, then neither must he do it.’


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

UKIP: Paul Nuttall Named In Honours List

Paul Nuttall:  - TheBigRetort uncovers the truth behind "the lie".

Apparently UKIP leader Paul Nuttall responded to the BBC'S Andrew Marr that he was not responsible for a LinkedIn page that claimed he concluded his PhD in 2004. He retorted:

'No, I've never claimed I've got a PhD. It's not on my website. 'It's on a LinkedIn page that wasn't put up by us and we don't know where it's come from.'

But how about Companies House filings: do they solve the mystery of the Nuttall Honours?

Documents filed for the UKIP leader's company THE SONICA MUSIC FOUNDATION LTD (06049348), page 5, signed 4th December 2006... the answer lies under Honours etc, ... "BA MA Cert Ed."

Friday, April 22, 2016


Sainsbury's shoppers may be delighted to learn that there has been a recent change in the store's misleading pricing: and it's due to... TheBigRetort.

A can of Napolina Plum Tomatoes was recently on sale at various Sainsbury stores at 50 pence. Why then was a sleeve of 'four' selling at £3.50 in the same store? 

In other words, the pack of four was 37.5p per can dearer than a single can.

Sainsbury's responded: "As you can imagine, in line with industry standards,  we promote different pack sizes at different times. For example,  since your first email [the one the press office did not answer?], the offer on a single can of Napolina has finished, while the four pack is down to £2, from £3.50...."

In words of the canny shopper... we realise we have been rumbled; and so we have stopped misleading shoppers, by reducing the correct item...  instead of the one that allows us to hoodwink you; repeatedly.

Sainsbury's claimed that it was the single can itself that was on 'special offer'  - and not the carton of four; thereby reducing a single from £1 to fifty pence - as and when it suited.

Apparently Sainsbury's pushes the single price of a can of tomatoes up and down throughout the year. However, unsuspecting customers do not usually expect a single can to cost 'less' than a carton of four, and so this seems to be somewhat convenient... for Sainsbury's.

A carton of four is presumed to be cheaper, isn't it? Otherwise people would just buy four single cans, at £2, which then cost less than the pack of four - at £3.50. [In fact, a certain sharp-eyed shopper did this, and saved £1.50.]

The questions that shoppers to Sainsbury's should surely be asking: Is that "special offer" really that special.

And if so... special to whom?


Thursday, November 26, 2015


Following heavy defections by shoppers to Aldi and Lidl retail chiefs at WalMart may be wondering why ASDA's customers across the Pond are choosing to lay their sheckel at competitors' tills. TheBigRetort....

ASDA, Deptford.... Time: Late afternoon-ish. As previously reported...

Before he would allow me to leave the store the security guard wanted to search my shopping bag. He wouldn't say why. After some rummaging he failed to find whatever he was searching for. He waved me off - without apology. When she listened to my complaint at the telephone the new store's manager wasn't at all happy. The 'incident' - as she termed the illegal search - was not the face of ASDA that she would like to present to the people of Deptford. The guard would be... 'retrained'. She seemed keen for me to accept the 'good will' voucher... I resisted. I didn't want to darken ASDA's Deptford door again. She persisted... I could use it in any ASDA store 'in England'. Letter of apology? Confirmation that the guard would be retrained? And a goodwill voucher, for an unspecified amount? No doubt the value of the voucher would match the seriousness of the incident. The ASDA price of goodwill. Less is more you know. Days passed... however when the letterbox moved it was either to the sound of the usual paraphernalia dropping to the hallway floor, or the wind. An apology - from ASDA? You‘ll be lucky, the letterbox mocked.

'Being a people person'

Andy Clarke claims in press releases that 'being a people person‘ is uppermost in his top-tips for retail success as ASDA's chief executive. If my experience was anything to go by the reality is anything but.

So TheBigretort put it to "Andy Asda"

Is ASDA (Deptford) profiling its customers based on the colour of their skin?

The question may have seemed left of the shopping aisles. But the thought had been niggling at the back of my mind like the locked wheel of a shopping trolley.
At odds with his man-of-the-people image, Lisa Sutcliffe in executive relations responded on Andy Asda's behalf:

“I’m sorry you were upset after being stopped by my colleague after you had visited the new store. If we see any suspicious behaviour then we are able to stop and request to see the contents of bags which you may have and also ask to see a receipt for those items." Sutcliffe added, ’We don’t profile shoplifters however, there are some behaviours which will arouse suspicions.’

Andy Asda-speak... Certain shoplifters display behaviour that we, err... profile.

Remarkably Sutcliffe was also claiming that ASDA is not only able to stop and request to see the contents of bags but to also see receipts for items purchased elsewhere - which a big porkie pie. (Forget English law... It's an American-owned firm. Think 'Asdanimo'.)

Andy Asda had trumped my old-race-card with a my staff get-out-of-jail-free one.

BUT... I wasn't impressed. ASDA was dealing from a stacked deck. The guard had much to gain from justifying his actions... surely Sutcliffe wouldn't be relying on his word alone - would she?

If so, CCTV would at least display what these ‘behaviours’ were. (In truth, I felt certain that the only thing it would show is my receding hairline. )

There is no smoke without fire. But there is too no fire without fuel. And even more damning to ASDA... it would reveal that it must have been something else which fuelled the guard's 'suspicions'. Some nebulous thing that was not in and of itself behavioural. The fact that the behaviour defence was placed after the manager spoke to me at the phone offering her apology and a good will voucher and staff retraining being of course notable.

Be that as it may... if Andy Asda wasn't profiling shoplifters that day - based solely on the colour of their skins - then one would have thought that such a question alone would have merited production of the CCTV evidence in support of the 'certain behaviours' excuse put forward: Because that is all it was.




Perhaps it was pure coincidence. But Sutcliffe went on annual leave, after I requested the CCTV footage. (The old annual-leave-trick is like the military AWOL.)

ASDA it transpired seemed reluctant to release footage of the incident that would confirm it had acted correctly, without bias, and within the law. Three things that it did not do that day, unfortunately.

However, I pressed on...

It is oft stated that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing... however this seemed to be really a case of Asda Andy fully realising what the hand was doing at Deptford that day - and in which direction the middle finger may have been pointing.

Reuters: “They have all been hurt by a price war, as they attempt to stem the loss of shoppers to discounters Aldi and Lidl, and by commodity-led deflation.”

Now there's a retort... Could the former shelf-stacker from Grantham be so paranoid that when he opens a new store in Deptford, that he blames his retail losses on those that his staff claims 'we do not profile'?

In the next GRIPPING instalment, the CCTV footage goes AWOL, along with the security guard - TheBigRetort

Friday, October 16, 2015


Andy Clarke, the rabidly rugger-mad chief executive of ASDA, lists ‘being a people person‘ amongst his top tips. It is this dealing directly with the shopper that catapulted the 17 year-old shelf stacker in Grantham to an “all together better” - is it really? - stewardship on the top rung of the Walmart retail ladder. However when a question was put to chief executive Andy on the racial profiling of his customers, there ASDA be silence. TheBigRetort

The new ASDA customer-friendly store in Deptford High Street is said to be one of the smallest London retail stores. However, part of the retail group's ‘southern strategy‘, I was impressed with its size and space which gives the shopper the impression of the freedom to roam the aisles. Unfortunately it was a freedom that was not reserved for all its customers.

As I made my way through the exit the guard stopped me, abruptly, and demanded - quite loudly - to look inside my Morrison's bag for life. Why?

He declared that I had not paid at the till for the items inside.

Which was technically true; I hadn't.

He also claimed ‘by law‘ - which law he didn’t seem to know - that he had the right to search my Morrison's bag for life, without any reason given, and to stop me leaving, until I allowed him to do so.

A misleading set of rights if ever I felt sure... The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 gives the police statutory powers to search a person without making an arrest. But had the right now been extended to ASDA?

My own rights to one side, the ASDA guard informed me that he would physically detain me if I tried to exit the store. I tried to remonstrate... Asking him why he felt the need to look into my bag... But all to no avail. He would neither summon the manager, call the police, or conduct his search in a more private place. 

As I was by now experiencing a feeling that I can only describe as quite rage, I decided to let him have it.

The Morrison's bag for life that is.

However, there was a more compelling reason for acquiescing to his questionable demand: the more I refused the more ‘suspicious‘ I became in the eyes of 'the others'. And many eyes were upon me.

And so it was, following an open invitation by Andy Clarke to look around his new store, his 'southern strategy', that the inquisitive fingers of his security guard rifled over the pages of my free Evening Standard on a quest to find the reason behind the true decline of ASDA’s retail losses.

‘Simpleton’ was written on this guy's name badge and he nosed further into the bag like a ferret. Suddenly he found something fishy... tuna from the fishmonger on the high street, right? Casting this aside he now homed in on a brown sliced loaf. Caught bang to rights!

However, this one was crusty and very tasty, he instinctively knew it was not purchased at ASDA. (Percy Ingle’s High Class Bakers, 31-33 Deptford High Street. Established 1954. Yummy.)

His face crumbled… His accusatory eyes settled on mine. The gist went something like this.

‘Where did you buy… this?‘ He held up a large bottle of sparkling water.

Apparently not only had he been trained by ASDA, or some obscure security firm 'sarf' of the Thames, but he had the right to know.

‘Know‘… know what?


The neurons in his brain seemed to leak out of the pores of his skin as if saying surely there must be something - anything - damning.

He explored further.

'Where did you get this?’ He moved the bottle of water away as if I was going to gulp the evidence down.
‘Where’s your receipt?'
'I don’t have one.'
'Then you can’t leave.’
'No receipt, you can't leave.'

‘Can you prove it’s from your store?’ I countered weakly.
He paused. ‘I don’t have to,’ he said triumphantly.

‘Look,’ I sighed, ‘do you even sell that water?’
‘I don’t know,’ he admitted. But without irony.


'Did I say you was stealing? I'm just giving you the opportunity to pay at the till.'  ASDA speak. It was pure Python

 ‘It could be ours,’ he countered before I drew breath. There was no end to the one liners.‘Where is your receipt?’
‘What for - water that you don’t stock?‘
‘I don’t know that - do I?’ he said dryly.
‘Did you see me put it in my bag?’
‘I don’t have to. I must see your receipt.’
'It's not from your store.'

As far as customer service was concerned, this was uniquely ASDA.

Fortunately, suddenly, just before an index finger was pushed up my backside, another member of staff joined the scrum. A look of outright uncertainty on his face. ‘We don’t sell that water,’ he said somewhat sheepishly.

In fact ASDA didn’t sell any of the items in my bag... Which is why I had not used the till.

'Well..?' I waited.
‘Okay, you can leave,’ the ASDA security guard said.

In my conversion at the telephone with ASDA headquarters I enquired if the Deptford store was - in a largely ethnically mixed area? - being targeted by dark skinned shoplifters and that this was the reason why it was seemingly specifically profiling ethnic customers: based on nothing more than "race".

The call was quickly passed via Andy Clarke's executive staff back to the Deptford branch. Manager Kerry” gamely assured me that this was 'not the case'. But conceded that members of staff would have to be 'retrained'. She also offered 'a goodwill voucher'. 

Be that as it may or may not be.  Although I didn't realise it at the time I had become the oval ball in a game of retail rugby. A curve ball meant for ASDA's chief executive had been intercepted, and passed back to its local store manager as a customer complaint.  The manager then grounded the oval ball, then placed it between the posts, or kicked it over the crossbar, into the long grass - following which the opposing team, call them the All Blacks, had been presented with a free 'good will' voucher. I didn't know how much the goodwill voucher was for but I hadn't made plans to visit Jamaica. 

That evening an ASDA home delivery van stopped and blocked my driveway. I opened the door, waiting for my letter of apology, and possibly too a case of wine from my new bezzy mate Andy. But the driver commenced delivering the shopping to the neighbour across the road. He did not apologise for blocking the driveway. ASDA it seems never does.

Demand respect or expect defeat. Rugby talk and profiles of the CEO of ASDA go hand in hand. I decided to tackle Andy on his own ground. I fired off an email. Besides seeking a written apology I suspected that the guard was part of a recruitment process to specifically use ethnic thugs to target “effnik” shoppers; thereby nixing any cries of racial prejudice if ASDA then got it wrong. There is a feeling amongst some Londoners that this is a strategy followed by the Met police in a drive to counter any claims of racial prejudice... but ASDA? In Deptford? 'You're having a laugh.

So, the question I put directly to Andy Clarke from Grantham as he sat in his ivory tower: ‘Is ASDA (Deptford) profiling its customers based on the colour of their skin?’

TheBigRetort. Coming soon... All the President's Men (and women); respond.

Friday, October 02, 2015

To go or not to go

Now that NASA has discovered water on Mars it is actually forbidden to land its craft and astronauts anywhere near it. Which rather defeats the object. What if you have a thirsty crew in search of life as we know it? Or in search of life as we don't?

Surely the rules will be bent enough to ensure that NASA boots may boldly go - yes go boldly -  where other boots have already gone before; right on the head of a little green Martian.

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, was drafted in the late 1960s and signed by those nations interested in the preservation of celestial bodies via non-contamination. The Treaty declares:

"States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies."

So what is 'harmful' in this context that wasn't in any other. Think Mars rovers that have already driven across the not-so arid soil? Thereby ensuring that if  those waters contain life 'as we know it' an interplanetary war of words may have already begun back on Planet Earth.

To go boldly indeed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014



Saturday, March 08, 07:30 AM. MH370 ‘lost contact’ with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am. The B777-200 aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am . It was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am that same day. The flight was carrying 227 passengers (including 2 infants), and 12 crew members. Malaysia Airlines activated its Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. 

Saturday, March 08, 09:05AM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines issued its 2nd Media Statement following the above, it read in part:
The passengers were of 13 different nationalities. "Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support."

Saturday, March 08, 10:30 AM MYT - 3rd Media Statement.
There was speculation that the aircraft had landed at Nanming. The passengers were of 14 different nationalities, one additional from the previous bulletin. These were:-
1. Chinese – 152, 1 infant

2. Malaysian - 38

3. Indonesian - 7

4. Australian - 6

5. French - 3

6. American – 3 plus 1 infant

7. New Zealander - 2

8. Ukrainian - 2

9. Canadian - 2

10. Russian - 1

11. Italian - 1

12. Indian - 5

13. Dutch - 1

14. Austrian - 1

15. Chinese Taipei - 1

The pilot was Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. A Malaysian, aged 53, he had a total flying hours of 18,365 hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, a Malaysian, aged 27, had a total flying hours of 2,763 hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.  
On Saturday, March, MA issued an update at 2.30pm
“We are currently working with international authorities on the search and rescue mission and as at 1400 hours, 08 March 2014, we have no information on the location of the aircraft.” MH370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, was on a ‘code share’ with China Southern Airlines.

Saturday, March 08, 07:20 PM (MYT) - 5th Media Statement

[There is no 4th statement.]

Repeated the nationalities of the passengers.  The French nationals total increased to “4” from the previous “three”.

Sunday, March 09, 02:00 AM MYT - 6th Media Statement

After more than 24 hours since MH370 disappeared at 1.30am, the search and rescue team is yet to determine its whereabouts. An international search and rescue mission from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam was mobilized yesterday morning. It failed to find evidence of any wreckage.

Sunday, March 09, 02:43 PM MYT - 8th Media Statement
[Note. There is no “7th media statement”. Perhaps Malaysia Airlines withdrew it or made an error in the numbering system, eight being used instead of “7”. This also happened to the 4th statement.]
The need to provide regular updates is understood. MA primary focus is the families of the missing. Initial financial assistance has been given out to all families. Caregivers are already assigned to each family and they are trained staff and volunteers from Malaysia and Australia.” MA also arranging flights for these families.
Monday, March 10, 10:00 AM MYT - 9th Media Statement

Fort-eight hours since lost contact. Search and rescue teams from Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and USA. At least one caregiver is assigned to each family. These caregivers are well-trained staff and volunteers from Malaysia and other organisations. One hundred and fifty "Go Team" members consisting of senior management and caregivers at Beijing to attend to families. In Kuala Lumpur, a different group of caregivers are attending to the families’ needs. Families from other nations apart from China arriving at Kuala Lumpur since early yesterday. More are expected at this date. Malaysia Airlines working closely with the government of China to expedite the issuance of passports for the families as well as with the immigration for their visas into Malaysia.
Monday, March 10, 05:30 PM MYT - 10th Media Statement
The purpose of this statement is to update on emergency response activities at Malaysia Airlines. A few common queries from the media were also addressed. How did the passengers with the stolen passports purchase their tickets? Malaysia Airlines was unable to comment as this was a security issue.   
Tuesday, March 11, 11:15 AM MYT - 11th Media Statement
Day 4. Aircraft yet to be found. Search and rescue teams (SAR) have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang. All angles looked at, with no possibilities ruled out. Assets deployed to cover the search and rescue said to be “extensive“. In total there are nine aircraft and 24 vessels deployed. Apart from the search in the sea, search on land in between these areas conducted. Search and rescue teams analysed debris and oil slick found in the waters. Did not belong to MH370. The craft underwent maintenance on 23 February 2014, 12 days before its final flight. The maintenance was conducted at the KLIA hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft which had e recorded 53,465.21 hours with a total of 7525 cycles. All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically. No distress calls and no information relayed. 

Tuesday, March 11, 05:29 PM MYT - 12th Media Statement

Statement in reference to the many queries on the alleged five passengers who checked-in but did not board MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing despite having valid tickets to travel. Malaysia Airlines clarifies that there were four passengers who had valid booking to travel, but did not show up to check-in for the flight. The issue of off-loading unaccompanied baggage did not arise. The claim that their bags travelled without them was untrue.

Tuesday, March 11, 11:30 PM MYT - 13th Media Statement

Malaysia Airlines concerned by the allegations made against First Officer, Fariq Ab Hamid, who is said to often invite women travellers onto the flight deck. “We are shocked by these allegations. We have not been able to confirm the validity of the pictures and videos of the alleged incident. As you are aware, we are in the midst of a crisis, and we do not want our attention to be diverted. We also urge the media and general public to respect the privacy of the families of our colleagues and passengers. It has been a difficult time for them. The welfare of both the crew and passenger’s families remain our focus. At the same time, the security and safety of our passengers is of the utmost importance to us.”

Wednesday, March 12, 01:00 PM MYT - 14th Media Statement

One hundred and fifteen family members in Kuala Lumpur taken care of by 72 different caregivers. At least one caregiver is assigned to each family together with a Mandarin translator for the families from China. Malaysia Airlines' primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. All costs borne by Malaysia Airlines.

Wednesday, March 12, 11:30 PM MYT -- 15th Media Statement
A total of 94 caregivers including the Senior Management members of Malaysia Airlines were deployed to Beijing immediately. In the days that followed, an additional 18 caregivers were deployed. Regular briefings are conducted to update the families on current progress. During these briefings, the team also takes questions from the families to clear any doubt that they may have.
Thursday, March 13, 12:45 AM MYT - 16th Media Statement
Malaysia Airlines clarifies the claims that some families of the passengers were flown to India instead of Malaysia. Not true. MA flies directly from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur without a transit. There are also no Malaysia Airlines' direct flights from Hong Kong to Mumbai or any part of India.

Thursday, March 13, 11:10 AM MYT - 17th Media Statement

As a mark of respect to the passengers and crew of MH370 on 8 March 2014, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes retired from the Malaysia Airlines’ Kuala Lumpur- Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route. With effect from 14 March 2014, the new flight number to replace MH370 and MH371 will be:-

MH 318 – Kuala Lumpur - Beijing
MH 319 – Beijing - Kuala Lumpur

No changes to the frequency of the services. The company operates its daily services to Beijing.

Friday, March 14, 12:13 PM MYT - 18th Media Statement

Malaysia Airlines answers the “on-going media speculations”. Nothing further to add to the information already provided. Malaysia Airlines to continue to provide regular updates to the general public via the media and its website on all matters affecting MH370.

Saturday, March 15, 05:45 PM MYT - 19th Media Statement

MA confirms that MH370 ‘may have’ remained airborne for several hours after contact lost. Information gleaned from satellite signals alone used to identify the location of the missing commercial airliner. “This naturally took some time, during which we were unable to publicly confirm their existence,” MA stated. “We were well aware of the ongoing media speculation during this period, and its effect on the families of those on board. Their anguish and distress increases with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading media report. Our absolute priority at all times has been to support the authorities leading the multinational search for MH370, so that we can finally provide the answers which the families and the wider community are waiting for.”







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