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.
ASDA TRAINING MANUAL: WHAT CONSTITUTES 'SUSPICIOUS' BEHAVIOUR'?
ANSWER: DARK SKIN. CURLY HAIR, AND LIPS THAT PUT MICK JAGGER IN THE SHADE
EXECUTIVE RELATIONS GO 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