Monday, 1 July 2013


It was my wife who said this to me after a particularly large shopping trip at Waitrose where we’d divided the list into two halves. Needless to say I finished first, in a frenzy of item-snatching that brought back to memory those “a much as you can get in your trolley in two minutes” competitions supermarkets used to run.

She, meanwhile, was thoughtfully assessing the ripeness of avocadoes and the quality of the plaice fillets  in fact she’d struck up a real rapport with the fishmonger with whom my relationship had not advanced beyond those “two of those now please”) . It was the smell of my victory plus years of working in fast moving consumer goods marketing that made me so assertive and objectionable I guess.

I thought nothing much of it until I started watching husbands shopping with their wives, the men resembling either failed summer puddings, soft and oozing with self-contempt and self-pity (“Ooh I wish I wasn’t here…what on earth do I have to do for sex and supper?”) or trying to be super productive “try this – no that one makes you look very fat – not white nor any colour in that shape – turn round – blimey! No nothing but ‘there she blows’ – sorry, sorry! -  – how about a hat? – oh, come on, you’ve got enough shoes – I put my foot down on shoes… foot down on shoes… heh! heh!”

Yet the boards of retailers are full of men playing boy’s games and re-enacting the Third Reich. A girl I heard about who was reputedly a tough nut, joined Tesco and after two weeks of sexism and extreme alpha male behaviour resigned and joined, as she put it, somewhere sane like the Royal Bank of Scotland.
I reflected on this when I heard about t Tesco’s AGM  last week at which Sir Terry Leahy’s predecessor, Lord MacLaurin, filleted, fried and despatched the erstwhile businessman of the year Sir Terry:-

When you judge the performance of a Chief Executive you must not only judge the performance of the day-to-day business but also his legacy.  I think we are all very sad in this hall to see the legacy Terry Leahy left …. I think he lost the plot.

RIP Tel ….join the other ex-heroes of the boardroom John Browne, Fred Goodwin and James Crosbie … all of them dictators who had things their own way.

It’s not that power corrupts it’s that their familiarity with the problems and mechanics of a business and the heady smell of success make virtually all leaders want to go out on a high on their terms.

For my part I’ve decided to be a more collegiate and empowering shopper in future – I’m staying at home… and sticking to the plot. My wife knows best when it comes to shopping.

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