Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


Avoiding the front of the shelf

Aisle of cans
Originally uploaded by nyxie

I read this in The Telegraph the other day:

On the rare occasions I have done my supermarket shop via computer, the milk and meat that arrived were already on their sell-by date. I felt cheated. One of the many thrills of being in a supermarket is that you can surreptitiously shove aside the sausages the store displays at the front of the cabinet to find the freshest produce at the back.

I couldn’t agree more. I always pick products from the back of the shelf, and the fact that it’s not in the shops’ interest to do the same when picking groceries for online shoppers makes me very reluctant to use internet shopping for products that can go off (although I hardly ever buy books, computers, trees or holidays offline these days).

I guess the fundamental problem is that a lot of us don’t trust supermarkets to act as critical shoppers in their own shops.

I wonder whether it’d be worth setting up a business to provide 3rd party internet shopping, i.e., the customers would order groceries online, and the website’s expert shoppers would then go into several physical shops to get the freshest produce at the best price. The only problem is that is would end up more expensive for the consumers, and that’s probably not what’s needed during a recession…

It’s a shame, though, both for the consumers and the shops. If somebody came up with a new model so that consumers shopping online would get better produce at a better price rather than worse produce at a higher price, I’m sure supermarkets would start disappearing within a few years.

2 thoughts on “Avoiding the front of the shelf

  • Picking from the back of the shelf is relly just “tragedy of the commons” under a different name.

    When everyone does so, there is nio gain for the individual, just added loss to the merchants who will have a greater proportion of their stock perish. In the end there is only one to pay for that: the consumer.

  • That’s very true, but I think it’s only a percentage of shoppers that do it, and in that case it is in their interest without seriously harming the merchant.
    Anyway, I guess that’s the problem with supermarkets. In the old days, when the merchant would stand behind his counter and hand you the products you asked for, obviously there wasn’t a problem. However, internet shopping tends to be offered by supermarkets, not old-fashioned shops.


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