The Pick n Pay Cycle Tour Coffee Table Book post

This all started with a comment on a post here a few weeks back. The comment was unrelated to the post in question and it had the commenter’s cellphone number on it, so I didn’t publish it. It was merely a means of making contact with me [you can do that by email here].
Here’s the comment, with the cellphone number removed:

Hello there. I am publishing a book on the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour,. I’d value chatting to you or communication via e mail if you have the inclination?

regards
Richard

To which I politely responded:

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your comment on 6000 miles…
How may I be of assistance?

Cheers,
6k.

Bing! Incoming:

Hello.

I am publishing a coffee table book on the history of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour. It’s the tour’s 35th anniversary next year. I would like to invite you to consider writing a piece for publication in the book that shares your reminiscences and experiences of the tour, together with a possible for photgraph/s for inclusion.

Let me know your thoughts?

Regards
Richard Webb

I had to read it twice just to make sure I’d read it right the first time. Then I had to go away, have some coffee, have some more coffee and read it again. I was unsure how to respond.

For new readers, who may not know my feelings on the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour (and cyclists in general), here are some few soundbites from this blog (all of which can be seen in context by clicking the links):

More cyclists on the road means more red lights and stop signs ignored, more 6-wide pelotons to avoid and more wobbling, weaving idiots more concerned with their chat than with their direction. [link]

Better not have a heart attack today if you live on the route. Getting an ambulance to you will probably take a bit too long. Anyway, it’s far more important that some poorly-prepared 55 year old from Bloemfontein gets to the local cardiac care unit first, because he has a bike and is wearing lycra. [link]

And all the parlance in all the local pubs is about “going sub-three” and stuff. (I was hugely disappointed when I found out that this was time to do the race and not metres underwater.) [link]

As hundreds of cyclists veered and wobbled all over the Main Road and ignored the traffic lights through St James and Kalk Bay this morning, as they do most Sunday mornings, I came up with a brilliant new Sunday morning drinking game. [link]

All of these are topped, however, by the annual hits-fest that is the Those Cape Argus Results In Full post, written for Argus Day 2009 and which is a MUST READ. Especially each Argus Day when it gets MUCH READ.

If only Richard had done that first.

I thought it was about time I did as Richard said and let him know my thoughts. To that end, herewith my response to him, post coffees and re-reading:

 Hi Richard,

I wish you well with your endeavours. However, I think you may have contacted the wrong person for this.
While I appreciate the business and publicity that the cycle tour brings to the Cape Town area, I loathe the disruption and inconvenience it causes and the arrogance and selfishness of the cyclists that it attracts to the Mother City.
I’d be happy to write something to this end for your publication, however, I feel that it might not be in keeping with the image of the cycle tour that you wish to portray.

All the best with your work,

Yours,
6k.

But hey, what do I know? Maybe Richard’s book is actually an honest appraisal of the Cycle Tour – accepting that there are negatives with the positives, that there are tales of annoyance alongside the tales of achievement. Maybe this is going to be a watershed moment among the plethora of blinkered, sycophantic books about the wonders of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.

Or, er… not:

Thanks, 6k.

You are right, I probably don’t have the right guy.
All the best and thanks for communicating with me.

Regards
Richard

And so it ends.
My name will not be in print on coffee tables across the world.
Again.

On a serious note, if you feel that you may have something to contribute to Richard’s book, I am happy to put you in touch with him and him with you.
Just make sure your story has at least three superlatives per sentence, ok?

Pick n Pay Real Baby Range Review

Those of you who follow me on twitter may have seen my response to @picknpay‘s call for “Mommy Bloggers” to come forward and review their newly revamped and relaunched Real Baby range of baby products. Anatomically, I don’t actually fit the bill as a Mommy Blogger, but since I have small children (Alex, 4 and Kristen, 2) and I blog, the anatomy bit is the only missing piece and so I laughingly volunteered my services. Fair play to PnP’s social media gurus for breaking the mould and including a *gasp* (sometime) Daddy Blogger on their panel of reviewers. It remains to be seen whether their online audience will believe a word I say though.

A couple of months on and we’ve been enjoying the Real Baby hamper that PnP sent through for us. I was actually just expecting a few nappies, but we got literally bags of stuff, including nappies, baby lotion, vaseline, aqueous cream, soaps, shampoo and cotton wool in several different (but all useful) formats, all packaged in a big white box which was immediately (and permanently) borrowed by my son and converted into a garage for his toy cars. Readers who have never had kids will not understand just how many different creams,  lotions and potions a small human requires, nor how many garages a toy car needs.

Now, at this point, I should inform new readers and visitors from the Pick n Pay website that I don’t tend to mince my words on this blog – “I say what I like and I like what I say” – and I do admire the bravery of Pick n Pay in including me in this review. But what became obvious as we got into using the products was that they had well-placed confidence that their range would meet my exacting standards (and those of my kids). I should also say that I’ve had no pressure from Pick n Pay to write anything specific or even anything positive about the products. In fact, I was told:

We don’t want a hard push for sales, just a user experience vibe.
Talk about it they way YOU want to talk about it.

Like I said – that’s bravery and confidence right there.

It seems to me that they have pitched this brand relaunch just right. It’s obviously aimed at the parents who have enough available money to go beyond the basic (read “No Name”) economy products, but who don’t want to spend extra cash (who does?) on the premium brands. Real Baby offers solid, decent, functional products without the bells and whistles, but without the hefty price tag as well. From that point of view, it’s might seem rather difficult to say anything hugely remarkable about the range, save for the exceptional value for money, but there are some products that really do stand out for us:

The Real Baby Nappies we are using are the size 5 (15-25kg) ones. Now, in the past, we have had nappy issues. While we would (obviously) love our kids to wear cheaper nappies, these just didn’t work – we had leaks, the nappies were uncomfortable and it was no fun for anyone concerned – and in the end, they only settled in the top of the range Pampers. Think of it like your fussy cat who will only eat the expensive cat food or your fussy husband *ahem* who will only watch the smartest flatscreen TV.
However, these Real Baby nappies do the job. I have commented on twitter that I am amazed at how much capacity they have, and this is important, since our kids are at the stage where they are only wearing nappies at night – and so that’s 10 hours at a time.
If I have one criticism, they are a little bulkier than the Pampers brand, but for nighttime use, this really hasn’t been any problem at all. And we have tested them thoroughly – including nights after swimming, hot nights with extra drinks and even one 13½ hour marathon sleep by little Kristen. Not a leak in sight. Amazing.
Then compare the price: R2.50 each versus R3.75 each for the Pampers equivalent. It’s impressive stuff.

The Hygiene Liquid Hand Soap isn’t specifically a baby product, but it is an essential in any house with small children (and I say this in both my blogging guise and my professional role as a microbiologist). Again, this just does the job with no fuss. The active ingredient is triclosan which is a very effective antibacterial and antifungal agent and the product has a pleasant citrus scent. I have the bottle in front of me here on my desk and already Alex is wanting it put back in the bathroom so that he can go and wash his hands.
So evidently, it also promotes good habits in your little ones.

But my favourite product of all is the Real Baby Tear Free Baby Shampoo. It has a cartoon giraffe on the front, which is a great start (although the product does look hugely similar to the Real Baby Body Wash, which has caused a little confusion).
At R23.99 for 400ml, this shampoo comes in about half the price of the equivalent Johnson’s product, but rather than being as good, but cheaper than the market leader like many of the Real Baby products, this one does the job better in so many ways.
The design of the bottle, for example: someone has actually thought about it. The shape means that it’s easier to grip, which makes a big difference when you have soapy hands (are you reading this, Mr Johnson?) and the flip-top lid has a big lip which means that you don’t have to struggle to hold a slippery child in frog-in-a-sock mode in one hand, the shampoo bottle in the other while opening the lid with your third. Wait, what?

We’ve all been there.
(In fact, it was this post about bathing the kids that established my credibility as a parent for many readers).

The shampoo is thick, which means that a little goes a long way. It smells great (that’ll be the chamomile extract) and – without wanting to sound like a Verimark advert – it left my daughter’s hair silky smooth and tangle free. (I’ve failed, haven’t I?)
Best of all, it really is gentle on the kids’ eyes – which is good, because “it’s hard to lose a friend when your heart is full of hope, but it’s worse to lose the towel when your eyes are full of soap”. Especially when the eyes are those of your 2-year-old daughter.
Seriously, it’s kind of hard to get excited about baby shampoo, but this stuff has revolutionised our hair wash nights. I might even start using it myself.

So there you have it. 1,000+ words about Pick n Pay’s Real Baby products. You didn’t think it was possible; I didn’t think it was possible. But the cynic in me has been silenced. (Briefly, at least.)

I’m giving the Real Baby range a solid thumbs up. Good quality, great value.
Nice work, Pick n Pay.

Round up/explanation

Sorry for the absence of posts over the weekend. Real life got in the way – it happens from time to time.
There was the visitor over from the UK, some big decisions to make about money, a hammock to mend and a car to wash – a few other little things as well.
It might not sound like a lot, but it soon adds up.

In between all that, a quick trip up Signal Hill to find the world’s largest pine cone and fish, chips and wonderfully cold beer on the Waterfront on what was (unofficially) almost the first weekend of summer.

All the big stuff went OK – but more about that another time.

Elsewhere:

  • Yes, I had the snip. It’s been a wholly unpleasant couple of weeks since then, although I’m feeling much better now.
    “Pain free in 3-5 days”? I think not.
    I am not ever going to go through that again. Obviously.
  • Manie, Pick and Pay’s “General Manager for the Western Cape” was apparently lying when he stated: “I would really like to get in touch with you” (about the utterly horrendous behaviour at their Constantia branch), because he’s been ignoring my emails ever since.
    The cynic in me wants to suggest that Manie was actually just commenting for the sake of good PR and damage control and I’m actually getting fed up of suppressing him (the cynic, not Manie).
  • My Henderson’s Relish biltong recipe is now perfected. It’s awesome and I’m almost tempted to ramp up to industrial-scale production.

More tomorrow.
Terms and Conditions apply.

Out of date

Meh.

I was hoping to have some happy news this weekend, but the Public Sector Workers strike put paid to that. And when I say “put paid”, I mean “put paid, but not with an 8.6% increase and a R1000 housing allowance”. Just put paid a dismal and demeaning wage.
So more on that another time.

Instead, because I have many requests to elaborate on my shopping issues yesterday (as mentioned on twitter), I find myself bitching about the utterly despicable behaviour of local supermarket Constantia Pick n Pay which, as far as my recent experiences go, seems to consider it perfectly reasonable to sell goods which are past their sell by date.

Last week, I had to take some veg back to them because it was three weeks beyond its sell by date. Caveat emptor, you might say, but then why should the emptor have to caveat – shouldn’t the venditor be looking out for the emptor and taking the goods off the shelves once they’re past their best? Sure – I might have been a little more observant, but I was stressed, shopping amongst a million others (business is evidently good) in the narrow aisles of this flagship store.

That was annoying. My money. My petrol. My time.

And then yesterday. Wow. First of all, while looking for yoghurt, I noticed that one of the 6-packs on the shelf was 6 days beyond its sell by date. Not good. Fortunately, there was a PnP employee stacking the shelves right next to me, so I pointed this out to him and he removed the offending item. Easy.

But then, as I walked off down the chilled goods aisle, I forgot to get margarine. Can you imagine life without margarine? Dry toast. Dry…bread generally. And so on.

And when I realised and went back a few minutes later – guess what was back on the yoghurts shelf? That offending 6-pack again, sell by date still 30 Aug 10.
I was aghast. That’s disgraceful. Inexcusable. It was no mistake: he knew they were out of date. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but a security guy stopped me. Very pleasantly, I might add. Just doing his job.
Nice to see someone was, I thought.

The manager was “unavailable” when I asked. The staff seemed unconcerned about what had happened. I was unimpressed. Everywhere I looked, there were words beginning with “un”. That’s never a sign of a good situation.
I made a mental note to call the boss on Monday. And then I paid for the stuff I’d bought and went home. And yes, I tweeted about what had occurred, but I chose not to mention the store in question, despite a plethora of requests to “name and shame”.

And then I slid the cardboard sleeve off the ostrich fillet I had bought (this week, I’m trying ostrich biltong) and found that it too was past its best before date. I could not believe it. (I may have mentioned that.) I named and shamed.

So – back to Constantia Pick n Pay (My money. My petrol. My time), where I met Bertie, who told me that the manager was unavailable. So no change there then.

I explained to Bertie about last week’s veg, the yoghurt issue and my new-found ostrich fillet problem. Bertie half looked up from typing on his computer, apologised and said he “would look into it” with the same conviction which Zwelinzima Vavi might look into taking a 0.3% pay offer back to the Unions. But hey, at least I got to go and get some fresh ostrich fillet, although I had to pick it out from amongst those that were past that “BBD” again – those were still on the shelf when I left. Nice.

But I am determined to speak to Bertie on Monday and find out what he has discovered.
Because surely he wouldn’t have just said that to fob me off. Would he?

Pre-empting your questions:

1. I will go to another supermarket once they have finished building at Blue Route. Until then, it’s impossible to park.
2. I can’t afford the money, petrol or time to go to Table Bay Butchery. But thanks for the heads up.
3. I am aware that @picknpay are on twitter. But why would I want to go through a middleman when I have the name and number of the manager? What is the middleman going to do? Give me the name and number of the manager? Get him to call me? I can just about afford a local call, thank you.
Besides which, I have also had dealings with (and not necessarily complaints) MTN and Avis, whose social media presence is handled by the same agency and have received no assistance whatsoever by going that route.
Is it really worth these companies shelling out for this service? Not in my opinion – all you get are happy sycophants who get the occasional chance to win prizes. When it comes to the negative side of things, things seem somewhat less helpful.
There’s a whole other post in there – have you ever been helped via social media? And by “helped”, I mean got somewhere you couldn’t have done on your own? Let me know – I’d be interested.
My feeling is that (assuming you get any response) you simply get put through to the same people that couldn’t be bothered to help you in the first place.
4. The ostrich biltong should be ready tomorrow – I’ll let you know how good it is.

As for Constantia Pick n Pay – what can I say? I’m appalled.
I hope to speak to the manager tomorrow – maybe I’ll find out why I wasn’t able to on Saturday. And I’ll let you know what he says, because if he’s not bothered about what’s going on, then why should any other Pick n Pay manager be? Perhaps you might want to review your other options (such as they are) out there.

Sorry to rant.
6000 – protecting the rights (and the health) of the South African consumer – out.

Mixed messages from PnP et al

A lot has already been said about the allegedly “proposed” Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) and the despicable Protection of Information Bill (PIB), not least in that post last week on here.
And so it continues with Gareth Ackerman, chairman of local retail giant Pick n Pay weighing in with his opinion:

Pick n Pay recognises there is a close link between economic and political freedom. The economic freedom on which business depends flourishes best when citizens are able to rely on an unfettered flow of information that is free from excessive government control and regulation.

And since so far, 99% of the criticism of these proposals has come solely from “the media”, creating an “us versus them” scenario, they leapt upon his words with gay abandon, obviously delighted to have an ally outside their close-knit ranks and quoting his ever so luscious soundbites one after another.
In the Times:

The business sector should not believe itself exempt from this duty of responsible citizenship, and we thus have no hesitation in adding our voices to those who have expressed their misgivings about the consequences of the governing party’s proposals.

And with cautious optimism in the Daily Maverick:

“Any erosion of our open society, now that we have achieved it, will only impede economic growth and national prosperity,” he said.
In airing these views… Ackerman may have opened the door for others of a similar persuasion to do the same, which may finally move the debate beyond an increasingly acrimonious to-and-fro between the ANC and political bodies on the one hand, and the media itself on the other… Ackerman has effectively called on the business community to stand up and be counted.

Of course, these words come from the same company that recently banned certain newspapers from its shelves, which had at least one columnist from er… The Daily Maverick up in arms:

After a couple of pesky complaints about “nudity” and bad language in the Afrikaans newspapers, Sondag and Die Son, Pick ’n Pay decided to no longer carry these papers on its shelves. This was despite the fact that the Sunday weekly is sold in supermarkets in sealed plastic bags.
Speaking to the Saturday Star, Ingo Capraro, Sondag’s editor, said the decision was disturbing: “The constitution enshrines freedom of choice, freedom of association and media freedom. Pick ’n Pay’s decision to decide on behalf of its customer what they are allowed to read flies directly in the face of freedom of choice.”

Pick ’n Pay appears to have taken the decision unilaterally, without any consultations with media or civic or watchdog organisations. The company acted as judge, jury and executioner… this would be a very bad time for Pick ’n Pay to start playing media censor.

Local tabloid the Daily Voice was also withdrawn from sale , although apparently it is now available “in selected Pick n Pay stores”.  So presumably T&A are not ubiquitously offensive. I’m not sure how one would go about deciding exactly which stores would have open-minded enough shoppers allow sale of such publications, but I’d be willing to be surveyed if it involved commenting on a series of pictures.

And yes, this is entirely different from “freedom of the press”, but then as Gareth has told us, all these freedoms – media, press, freedom of expression, political freedom, economic freedom, freedom of choice – are interlinked. Right?

But then, this isn’t the first time that PnP have made unilateral decisions and statements over the freedom of expression. Who could forget the whole 2009 “blasphemous” (or “unneccessarily offensive” as I thought), SAX Appeal magazine debacle, when PnP pulled the magazine off the shelves after receiving “several complaints”:

Pick n Pay spokesperson Tamra Veley said that “students putting the magazine together should be extra careful while documenting, reporting and cartooning their work to avoid blatant disrespect of any faith, culture and race. We therefore made the decision to remove Sax Appeal from sale in Pick n Pay stores.”

But Freedom of Expression Institute executive director, Jane Duncan, said last night that blasphemy was no longer a recognised ground for restriction of publications: “So arguments to restrict the publication on this basis do not hold water”.

Look, I’m not stupid (no, really, I’m not). I recognise that Pick n Pay is a business and a business needs customers to keep going. And to keep the customers spending money, you must keep the customers happy. That’s obviously why they chose not to sell those newspapers and to withdraw the SAX Appeal magazine from sale. And yes, Ivo Vegter is correct in his assertion that one must:

…distinguish between the legal right to publish, and the right to sell what you want.

But I fail to see how the media can suddenly flip-flop and conveniently accept the support of Gareth Ackerman and Pick n Pay in their vigorous campaign against the MAT and PIB. It seems hugely hypocritical to me and has a more than faint smell of desperation about it: it seems that when you’re struggling, you’ll accept help from any quarter – even one that has blatantly stood against the same principles you’re fighting for on several occasions previously.

To me, that devalues your message, your campaign and with it, your chances of success.