Tuesday, 2 April 2013

#CamShopLocal-Could You Give Up Supermarkets & Chains?

Over the last few weeks, you may have spotted a fair few bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters going on about “CamShopLocal” and you might be wondering what on earth it’s all about... 
Well, it’s simple really... The idea was discussed and the lovely Carri Pavitt (previously of Pavitt’s Pies fame) has decided to push the idea of supporting our local & independent retailers by shopping locally 
from 2nd - 8th April. 
This basically means trying not to use any chains or supermarkets and to use the extensive list of ever growing independent traders and retailers, including particpation, comments, photos, ideas, tips etc from anyone and everyone - It’s going to be an interesting experiment to say the very least. 

And I’ve agreed to get involved, although my views may differ from some, I would actually like to take a moment to fight for my local supermarket - Please don’t stone me for it hehe, hear me out... 

I'm a girl who proudly shops at my local Supermarket (Morrisons in Cambourne, as we have not much else for MILES around) and because they are friendly in EVERY way and the staff always go beyond and above their duty no matter who I ask or for what. I always leave this place feeling good, satisfied of a great service and their produce is not half bad, I really have nothing to complain about other than their naff cake selection... But then I'm a cake snob nowadays so it takes a lot to please me!
Liam on the fish counter is a fantastic font of knowledge when it comes to dinner inspiration and I don’t see this counter as a *chain* counter, although it may well be, it’s the staff that make it a great experience for me and there is always sense of community in this shop, we bump into acquaintances around every corner and the entire village came together to raise money for charity when one of the checkout staff (the lovely Paul who EVERYBODY loved and went to purposefully when he was serving) died last year, he was a loss to our community and he helped to put your bad day into perspective when you could see he was in visible pain in his job, but carried on, not moaning once. 

I’m a young lady who was brought up by, what I guess you would call a “working class” family, my parents did us proud, my mum worked evening shifts and my dad worked early hours and he went on a lot of shoots, bringing back pheasants, pigeons, rabbits and the like for Sunday Roast (being brought up on a farm had few perks) and he often encouraged my sister & I to spot wild mushrooms in the nearby fields, so we were encouraged to use local produce as much as possible. Saturdays would include a drive out to a few villages away to pick up duck & geese eggs from an old school friend of dads, I still crave them to this day! This sort of “shopping” has slipped out of my mind with the supermarket on my doorstep, so this challenge is going to help me to re-kindle this excitement for food again and I hope to last way past a week with this forgotten mind set. 

Here lies my challenge this week... I'm not going to vow to never stop using my local supermarket, as I don’t think personally I could do this for absolutely everything, but I will try to use my local independents where possible and most importantly, viable for me. I do support local traders regardless, be it through hosting an event or one of my Clandestine Cake Club meets at a local venue, or through my blog, local reviews for the Cambridge Evening News or the Cambridgeshire Journal or simply through word of mouth and I have been doing this locally for a few years now, however perhaps I am guilty of not doing it enough, so I do vow to shout out more about the fabulous shops we do have in our region and not just keep them to myself ; ) 

I find that when it comes to shopping, especially for food, the whole experience is also down to you and what you put into it, striking up conversation with the shop staff, being friendly as the customer, courteous even. It's simple manners, sometimes long forgotten.  

However, when I shop in some independent shops, of which I find are usually a step up in cost from what I can afford on a daily basis, I expect not only quality produce, but a superb service. Some shops in Cambridgeshire (I could name names, but I don’t think fair) would give me an expectation to have an amazing "above and beyond" experience whilst shopping or eating with them. However, at every one of an entire list of places lately, I've had nothing but bad experiences/rude customer service and it doesn't make me want to go back readily and part with my pennies anytime soon after visiting..!

This doesn't always put me off going back if I like their produce/offerings I must admit. I've just been back to a local deli this week for a "number 3 and 7" on their takeaway sandwich menu (yup, it's a treat, I know the number to order as its so bloomin' good and WELL worth the cash!) but with this, we get rude service and a confused wait with no idea as to where we should stand, it's a bizarre layout. Yet we still like to support them, as we believe in their produce. But, it's not just the staff at these independents that have been rude to us, but our fellow shoppers too. I don't think I'm a snob and when I'm shopping at my local Indy establishments, I'm parting with the few pence for luxury that I have to play with, especially as I've just been made redundant(!) I'm now doing this challenge as a cost saving exercise for myself. I can't afford to do a full weekly shop at these deli's, so some tips and tricks are going to be learnt I'm sure. 

What really gets my goat is the rudeness of the customers in said deli this week. One lady was there with her friend and 3 kids, 2 of which were hammering on the glass fronted case and smearing their hands all over it whilst they ran up and down and bashed us about... The mother completely uncaring until people (namely us) started scowling at our bags being whacked about. She then proceeded to talk to the lady serving like a piece of dirt, no please or thank you and very belittling in everything she said to the girl. Another couple with a baby stood behind me for a while sighing then asked if I was in a queue to which I responded that I had ordered and was waiting, they tutted and moved around me. I smiled and jokingly said that there wasn't really any order to the queuing system here to make conversation and they just stared at me and pulled a face which said to me "Don't talk to us!"... Is there truly any need for this sort of snobbery? I don't get that in Morrisons! 
... In my mind, if customers at these local delis and shops are as rude, if not ruder, as THESE arses were then NO WONDER the staff are so rude in return, they don't deserve to be treated that way.
It's probably the only way to go once you've taken it for a while in your job, just disgraceful, it makes me ashamed to be part of Cambridge when I see such behavior.

Only yesterday I had been on the train back from London and a young guy in his early 30's caught a glimpse of my V&A museum bag and asked if we'd been to the "David Bowie is " exhibition.. We had been and we continued the rest of our journey having an amazing conversation with him and swapping business cards, he was a designer and equally obsessed Bowie fan... It makes me realise that it truly doesn't take much to strike up a conversation and make an effort when in the same company, no matter who or where you are.

What I'm trying to get at is that when I go to my local supermarket, I get this with the staff, they natter to you, they say hello on their way past you to work if they recognise you in the village, there's a real love of this shop for me personally. As a result, I don't begrudge spending my earnings there. 
No matter if bakery, butchery, cheese, wine, checkouts, there's always a smile and excellent service.

The fact that these supermarkets and large chains are seemingly taking over the high street is frustrating, I understand this and although it may be the case, mine certainly offers me a better service than most independent shops and deli's from my personal experience lately. 
I'm confused as to why my experience of local independent establishments doesn't offer the same warm feeling for me, so I’m using this week to put my faith back into this element when it comes to our local farm shops, deli’s, etc. 
Why the snobbery here, that I see so much? - I really don't know. 

It's all well and good saying these places need our support, I'm all for it, (I promise!) but in return, we, their customers deserve an equal amount of respect back and I'm using this week to see if I can gain their mutual respect back as their customer. No matter how penny pinching I may be... I think I personally and financially represent a lot of people in Cambridge who would fear or dislike or dislike this weeks’ challenge for similar reasons to mine, so I hope this helps to inspire, if even just one person to know it’s not hard to shop locally and that it’s OK if you can’t do this all the time, that’s simply the case for some. 

I'm out of central Cambridge and am stuffed when it comes to independents on my doorstep, there is usually a long drive involved. But I will vow to try my best to try new independents where I can and help to promote local businesses of which I am very passionate about doing regardless where I can and where I've had a good experience. 

Watch this space for my findings - I will be blogging the good, the bad and the ugly!

Foremost, I want to do this challenge to see if I can actually save some pennies too, as my one error when supermarket shopping is picking up the crap I don't actually need, so this might help me to resist the temptations of doing just this and avoid the useless BOGOF’s!

Shopping locally to me means supporting the people like Tom Shearing, a local framer in Duxford who runs a fantastic framing & furniture restoration company, no fuss or frills and friendly service. It’s also supporting the local events and supperclub scene in Cambridge, be it Leo at “Steak & Honour”  who runs a gourmet burger van and pop-up supperclub nights at Fitzbillies or the lovely Alexa at “The Clandestine Gourmet”, supporting our local talent in such unusual ways is a fantastic way to get value for money and meet new friends. Not forgetting a shameless plug for my own events, of which are fantastic fun and provide a new way to learn a few new skills or enjoy some entertainment as you dine.
Who needs the cinema or smelly bowling alley?!... ; ) 
I will be very interested to read everybody else’s comments and posts on their own personal challenges, as some are going to whole hog, some are trying where possible, we all have very different views and needs, so there will be a lot to learn from one another. I have to say, I can’t say unless I started up my own postal/delivery company, found a local energy supplier and started banking with the “Bank of Dave” that I could ever be “Chain-Free” in the way that I live, but it’s still good to think about these things. 

Watch my Facebook Posts and Tweets to follow my thoughts on this challenge throughout the week, I will also leave comments below this blog post on my findings and challenges, as well as opening this up to anybody to chip in where they would like to, please do leave a comment below if you are doing this week’s challenge or if you have any shops, businesses or tips you would like to share with us. 

You can also read my local friends' own personal challenges alongside #camshoplocal including: 

Carri Pavitt - HERE
Deepa AKA Lazy Giraffe - HERE
Aoife Maxwell at Gastronomic Girls -  HERE
Independent Cambridge Guide - HERE
Rachel AKA The Northernist - HERE
Ozzy AKA Karohemd - HERE

And a list of “Independent's” I have used for this challenge: 

Shelford Deli - for a lunchtime treat & fab tea from Kandula Tea
Blue Lion in Hardwick - for a fab meal with my best friend 
Michael Matthew Tea - on Cambridge Market for a gift as part of a hamper
Petpaks Pet Store - in Hardwick for dog chews & treats instead of supermarket
Teacake of Shepreth - a fantastic gem of a tea room, perfect for a pick me up
Local Egg Man - on Fox Road in Bourn, £2.10 for a dozen eggs, perfect
Revelare - for a few kids clothes for a gift, a fab nearly new clothing agency
Shepreth Wildlife Park - with 2 young boys I had the pleasure of taking at the weekend

Enjoy the challenge, should you be giving it a go!

You never know... 
you may just find a new product you never thought you would find, 
like my new "Bacon Jam" finding at the Gog Magog Farmshop... meat heaven in a jar! 

Miss Sue Flay

PS - Why not support me, as a local business and book yourself a ticket to
 one of my upcoming events at http://www.wegottickets.com/secludedteaparty
or perhaps book a baking lesson 
for yourself or as a gift experience for somebody else in your own home or venue?...
 It beats another gift certificate for a hotel spa - maybe ; ) 


  1. Totally agree! Morrisons are actually doing a fab job, they have such an interesting array of fresh fruit and veggies which is great for making something a bit different, if you need a special ingredient. And their bread is pretty good, plus their Indian section is awesome :)

    But I also do love an Indy but done WELL! Teacake is a great example, not overpriced to attract the middle classes who don't know better, but fairly priced for everyone whilst also giving them a living. There are far too many indys out there taking advantage of the high incomes in the area which either means bad food or bad service.

    Can't wait to see how this week turns out, I reckon I'll miss Waitrose a bit hahaha.

    1. Teacake is gorgeous for many reasons and it's a shame there aren't more of these sort of places, well priced, value for money and outstanding customer service. I must say I am enjoying this week, I am eating much more simply at home as a result.

  2. I agree 100% about customer service and supporting those shops that provide good service. Manners cost nothing! :)

    Having worked in customer service for a looong time, I still try to be as helpful and friendly as I can with visitors, though it's easy to get worn down by the nasty ones. Thankfully they are vastly outnumbered by the good or at least not-rude ones.

    Shopping in your Morrison's I realised that it's a pretty good supermarket, better than the nearby Waitrose in some respects. I live near the deli you mentioned, and while I haven't had poor service, the yummy mummy/kids running around uncontrolled lunchtime atmosphere does put me off a bit. It saddens me that some in the village think it's ok to act like that. Next time you're in the area, visit the butchers on Church St (opp the Co-op)--I always leave with a smile on my face, they are so friendly and helpful.

    1. I read your blog on your local butchers, I drove past the other day but as it was Sunday it was closed. I may pop in this Saturday when passing, thanks for the tip missy x

  3. Yesterday I met a friend for a cuppa in town and we ended up avoiding Starbucks (who had emailed me with a free coffee all week offer... just to really test me huh?!... ; ) and we headed to Jocalatte.... It's on Burleigh Street and I had a delicious Dark Rye Bread Ciabatta with Hummous and Roasted Veg, it was lovely. I also bumped into the lovely Jenny at Jemporium... https://www.facebook.com/JemporiumVintage so this challenge has had me bumping into some old friends and catching up... what a great incentive!