Tesco Language

Tesco is to change the wording of signs on its fast-track checkouts to avoid any linguistic dispute.

The supermarket giant is to replace its current "10 items or less" notices with signs saying "Up to 10 items".

Tesco's move follows uncertainty over whether the current notices should use "fewer" instead of "less".


Whilst '10 items or fewer' is more linguistically correct than '10 items or less', 'up to 10 items' does not just 'clarify' the meaning (who was unclear?) it actually changes the meaning.

'10 items or fewer/less' implies the number of items can be 10. 'Up to 10 items' implies that anything from 1 to 9 is okay, but 10 is too many.

With the change, it's possible that jobsworths on the till might have a resurgence. I hope not! I haven't had one of those in some time.

All this is just fussing round the edges - appealing to the grammar pedants. I'd much prefer it if Tesco could sort out its pricing policy, that'd be a useful change.


I found myself in Tesco the other day, doing a shop. I also found myself getting really annoyed.


It was the pricing policy. With a range of items, it can be hard to compare prices, so they 'helpfully' put on the shelf label something like 57p/100g.

Some may object to the SI system being used there. I don't, in fact, I think it's a crying shame that we're stuck halfway between the imperial system with its funny numbers of subunits and the SI system.... but that isn't an argument I want to get into here, it's a distraction from the main point.

Tesco Mustard Pricing

What I objected to was the lack of consistency of which units were chosen for the shelf label - not between different types of item, but between different types of the same class of item. I won't always go for the cheapest item - but if I am paying more it's helpful to be able to fairly compare how much more I'm paying!

Mustard, for example, had prices per kg, prices per 100g (okay, annoying but not too tricky) and prices per 100 millilitre... what? To make a direct conversion I would have to carry around the density of that brand of mustard in my head. I could make an educated guess of about 1gram/millilitre (i.e. asume it's mostly water) - but that could easily be 10% out, making the final price per 100g roughly 10% out - rendering it pointless.

I didn't really care what the basic unit was for price comparison, only that it was the same unit. By mixing units like this the labels are obscuring the information that they're trying to make clear.

I thought that what's happened is they've got some bit of software doing this which says 'If it's over X pence per 100g, give the price as pound sterling per kg' and the same bit of software chooses whether volume of mass is the appropriate unit (kg is a unit of mass, not weight, there is a difference - imperial doesn't make the distinction). Why on earth can't they make their pricing software say 'It's mustard. Look at the results of the other mustard calculations, and if the majority are prices per 100g, then we'll force that for all mustard and flag up any lines where the mass is unknown for referral to the supplier'.

Actually, it's not even that - as some of the pricier mustards are per kg. What is going on?

It is not an excuse to say 'some jars are labelled in millilitres, and some in grams therefore it's all we can do'. Tesco have enough clout to be able to say to their suppliers 'give us this data if you want us to stock your product' - and this certainly wouldn't explain the 100g vs kg inconsistency (which is annoying but not insurmountable by the customer).

The only reasons I can think of for the status quo and for this bit of logic being missing are:

  1. Genuine oversight.
  2. Deliberate obfuscation, whilst trying to appear helpful (i.e. making more expensive products as price per 100g or price per 10g, whilst making cheaper products price per kg)
  3. Incompetence.

Whichever is the truth, the lack of consistency within product lines got really annoying, and I decided to fill out a comment form. At the front of the store was the 'customer feedback' display board, which contained the usual selected quotes asking for things they'd implemented years ago, with the smug 'reply' underneath. No forms were to be seen...

I went to 'customer service' for a form, waited to be served, and then had to wait for them to hunt for a form for me. I didn't get the impression that they got asked for these often. Hint to Tesco: If you really want customer feedback, make the forms really obvious - don't hide them away.

I've requested a reply. Let's see what they say. I hope they sort it out; every little improvement would help...!

As an aside: Interestingly, the kilogram is the only base unit with 'kilo' in front of its name. I wonder how that happened?

Christmas annoyances

It has been a very annoying day. I wandered around my local county town today. Musak everywhere, the number of times I heard things like 'Rocking around the Christmas Tree' was unbelievable.

The forced jollity pissed me off quite a lot. The same musak all the time. In the end I grabbed a 'coffee' from Starbucks and ran away. (I know it's not real coffee, it's frothy coffee, but hey, I like frothy coffee).

I ran away to find only to find more musak in Tesco (I needed to get some catfood). The same song repeated thrice whilst I was there; some of the staff were wearing deely boppers. Maybe it's a sign of impending insanity?

If only some of the major chains would realise that NOT playing Noddy Holder songs at this time of year would probably keep the customers happier.

I went to PC World to get some photo quality paper. The woman in front of me was buying something inconsequential and the bloke said 'Can I have your postcode?' .... she told him... 'and your house number?' Argh! She was buying a 'How to' manual and happily gave over enough information to receive junk mail forever. I gave him a 'just ask me, go on then' look. He didn't ask. Why do people give this information over freely? Once I was buying a kettle and was asked for this information, the sales drone told me that they could not proceed without it - I asked them if they wanted to sell me a kettle or not - I could easily take my business to the competitor next door (it's not as if they needed to deliver it). They quickly found a way to get around this previously insurmountable problem.

I also found myself getting annoyed at people saying 'sorry' after I bumped into THEM! What exactly are they apologising FOR? From time to time I've got a 'sorry' and asked 'What for?' Only to receive the answer 'erm....'. If people mean 'excuse me', then SAY 'excuse me'!

Having got home, I wanted to print some photos from my ski trip and the printout kept being stupidly stripey. The stripes were less prominent on plain paper, but that is only as the ink spreads out a bit and resolution is lost - the prints are duller on plain paper too.

I cleaned the heads several times, printed the 'test page' with no problem and all seemed well - but it did not clear the problem. I *hate* inkjets!

I am thoroughly peeved. Does this mean I now have a grumpy git frame of mind?

I'll go into work tomorrow to print the pictures there, I'll take in my photo paper and cross my fingers.