Tesco and its Hackney champ duck the question

Tesco: Newsstand showing newspapers laid flat (apart from local paper) @ Tesco store Morning Ln Hackney E8 291114 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Elaine Price, Tesco champ (supplied pic)
Price: champ (supplied pic)

ONE OF Tesco’s ideas in its attempt to solve the dilemma of being the country’s most-used supermarket chain at the same time as being supposedly loathed was to appoint what it calls community champions.

Ten were named for London, including the friendly Elaine Price at Hackney’s big Morning Lane store, pictured, even as the company was risking public ire by putting mini branches on every possible site around the borough.

Tesco sees its borough community champions as bringing it closer to its clients and co-ordinating activities that benefit the area. “Lead store managers” would  “support the champions from a store level”.

By working with councillors and local people, Tesco says it has helped with donations to homeless shelters, refurbishment of youth clubs, fruit donations to schools and community-garden replanting.

So a customer question about whether the milk sold in Hackney Tesco was from a company that was using ethically dubious farming methods should be easily answered. It seemed, however, to flummox the Hackney champion and her higher-ups.

Not only did a response take several days, the query was sidestepped.

The customer had tweeted Elaine Price ‏@TescoHackney to ask whether Tesco stores in the area bought most of their milk from Grosvenor Estates.

This huge agribiz firm, owned by the Duke of Westminster, is switching its diary in northwest England to a US-style intensive system in which the cows spend the whole of their short lives inside a building. The result is yields many times above the natural rate.

The Hackney champion replied that it wasn’t her area of expertise, and that @tesco could perhaps help.

Or perhaps not: the reply, five days after the question was first put, was extraordinary, as Tesco head office chose instead to big-up the company.

In two linked tweets it bragged: “We’re British agriculture’s biggest customer and sell more British milk, cream, butter and own label yoghurt than any retailer. all our products are clearly labelled to give our customers a choice. Thanks – James.”

Neither an answer to the question, nor even a mention of Grosvenor.

If this is what Tesco means by “community” engagement, it is no surprise that the chain is struggling where once it was leading.

Hamish Scott 190215

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