Bizarre shop

I was at the till at PicknPay this morning, having done my usual Monday morning check of all the expired produce that they continue to stock on their shelves. (This morning’s list featured “fresh” fish, cauliflower, broccoli and naan bread, with dates ranging from the 21st to the 24th. Lovely.) (We’ve been here before, remember?)

While waiting for the cashier to total up my shopping, I heard a baby crying somewhere behind me. No biggie: I am aware that babies will do this from time to time. The only odd thing about this one was that it sounded rather like a cat. Another cry, and I turned around because it really did sound like a cat, and the simply reason for that was that it was a cat.

There was a man holding a wrapped cat three checkouts away from me.

Obviously, everyone – including the many staff present – now being alerted to the fact that there was a man carrying a pet around in a food retailer,  immediately asked him to leave the premises along with his disease-ridden feline. Except of course, they didn’t.

Food safety, standards and hygiene obviously don’t count for much at this “flagship” store of our local number one two supermarket chain.

You know I love a bit of microbiology, so here’s a short list of things that cats can give you (these are obviously just microbiological things, not airy-fairy things like “unconditional love” or stuff like that:


A real nice mix of bacterial and parasitic infections, right there.
A wonderful addition to the expired foodstuffs you can also pick up and pay for at my local supermarket.

Mince Pie concern

Let’s get the good news out of the way first:

For the 2018 season, PicknPay’s mince pies are both nicer and cheaper than Woolworths’ offerings. Fact.

I know. I was also surprised (at least on the taste bit).

It’s just that there’s something just a little bit concerning about the packaging.

See, if just below the product description, it said, in a nice curly font:

Our fruit mince pie has been made from spicy fruit mince and a shortcrust butter flavoured sweet pastry.

all would be good. And it does almost say that. It’s the four words in the middle that ruin it for me.

These four:

Our fruit mince pie has been made through closely monitored processing from spicy fruit mince and a shortcrust butter flavoured sweet pastry.

Because sure, I want my food to be under constant scrutiny while it’s being processed, but I don’t really want to think about it: especially not in nice curly font on the front of the box. It makes me think that there’s a good reason that you have to shout it out so loud.

If you’re going to add those four words somewhere as prominent as that, I’m instinctively mentally adding four more of my own underneath:

Our fruit mince pie has been made through closely monitored processing from spicy fruit mince and a shortcrust butter flavoured sweet pastry.

Not like last year.

Was 2017 a really bad year for PicknPay mince pies, then?

I don’t know, but now I’m certainly imagining that it must have been. It’s rather off-putting. Was it glass, poison, workers’ hair, bits of metal or maybe even water buffalo that might have slipped into my Christmas snack while the processing was not being closely monitored? Did someone not read the N and sent out batch upon batch of Mice Pie?
And why doesn’t every PicknPay product have that “through closely monitored processing” line on the front?

Does that mean that their processing is not being closely monitored? Eww.

Actually, I have no idea. Fortunately, the 2018 vintage of PicknPay mince pie is so tasty that I’m almost able to completely overlook the dodgy inference on the front of the box.

Stikeez & The Sea

OK. Difficult one here. Difficult because I’m a big fan of the local Aquarium and virtually everything that they stand for, but I find myself disagreeing with them on this issue. A bit, anyway.

Firstly, let me tell you that I’m a member of the Aquarium, as are my kids. We have been for several (or more) years. We go there often, we love their behind the scenes tours, we were excited about their revamp, we take them turtles (well, a turtle) and we’re very supportive of their work.

Yesterday, the Aquarium published a blog post on their views about the new Stikeez promotion at local retailing behemoth PicknPay. For those unaware of what a Stikeez is, it’s a small plastic toy with a sucker on the bottom, one of which you are given with every R150 you spend at the supermarket. This is the second Stikeez promotion that PicknPay have launched. The first one was… well… a spectacular success.

But the Aquarium are unhappy about this new promotion, simply because it flies in the face of their understandable and commendable stance on plastics – namely that there’s too much in the ocean already. Their view has been brought even more sharply into focus by the fact that this lot of toys have an “under the sea” theme.

So, let me set my stall out here. Yes, I agree that there is too much plastic in the ocean, and yes, I agree that this is a bad thing. My family are doing their bit to help out here. We recycle all our plastic, we use refills rather than new bottles for washing up liquid, deodorant, shower gel, window cleaner and fabric conditioner, and we all routinely reject plastic straws at restaurants, much to the bemusement of waiting staff across the Western Cape.

But – and here’s the crux of my argument on this one – those things I listed above are single-use plastics. And I don’t agree that Stikeez fall into this category – our kids still have theirs from last year.
Looking at the Aquarium post, I’m not sure they are 100% on it either:

The issue is the fact that more unnecessary (and essentially single-use) plastic waste is being introduced into the environment via a major national retailer…

You could argue that additional introduction of any plastic is bad, and you’d probably be heading along the right lines. But you can’t just stop using plastic. It’s simply not possible – it’s an essential material in our lives whether we like it or not. And if we’re going to say no to Stikeez on the grounds that they are “essentially single-use”, why are we content to say yes to sweet wrappers, cling-wrapped produce, bread tags and the like?
And if you want to take the argument further and say that it doesn’t matter whether they are single-use or not, then presumably Crocs, Bic ball-point pens and toothbrushes are next on your hit list?
(Seriouslythough: if you actually have a hitlist and Crocs are next on it, well done.)

It’s that sort of inconsistency and s-t-r-e-t-c-h that doesn’t sit easily with me. The previous Stikeez campaign was attacked simply because people wanted to be seen attacking it. It became silly: people complained about the wrappers on the floor, and yes, littering is bad, but that’s not a Stikeez issue, that’s a teaching your kids general respect and responsibility issue.

And then remember all that drama over another supermarket promotion a few months back? The one that was blamed for starvation, unemployment, drought and inflation – before this pièce de résistance:

Maybe, a child might actually mistake it for food and try eat it and accidentally choke and die?
Shame on you.

I’m not saying that the Aquarium are going down Hyperbole Street, although I don’t doubt that some people will take things that way. But that’s not an Aquarium issue, that’s a people are just complete cockwombles issue.
There are already one or two on the Aquarium FB page:

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100315-am-bmpI’ll share your post, and I’ll consider boycotting the store (of course you will) but your spoor continues to disgust me.

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100504-am-bmpOf course you do, you Rainbow Warrior. You only buy half your groceries there and then you get into your fossil fuel powered, greenhouse gas belching car and drive somewhere else to buy the rest. Well done on taking a stand, making a difference and showing PicknPay who’s boss.

So will PicknPay pull Stikeez II? I very much doubt it, although it wouldn’t surprise me if this was to be last Stikeez campaign they run. In that way, maybe the Aquarium wins this one.
Well done. Next stop, Lego? (he said, facetiously).

Look, I understand the Aquarium point of view and I understand why they feel they have to pass comment on this. Do we need more ‘unnecessary’ plastic? No, we don’t. And is this a good opportunity to educate people and perhaps lever their behaviour? Yes, it is.
But are Stikeez really to blame for the world’s (and the oceans’) woes? No.
No, they’re not. They’re just toys and because of that, I’m not even sure that they are symptomatic of those problems.

There are far bigger genuine single-use plastic fish to fry (pun intended) and it would be a bit of an own goal if we got distracted by apparently low-hanging fruit like this.

Pick n Pay are redefining imperial measurements

South Africa uses the metric system of measurement. There are two main reasons for this – firstly, to confuse British people, and secondly to make the village of Port Elizabeth seem just a little bit further away from Cape Town. Safety in numbers and all that.
But there are disadvantages as well: after all, who wants to read a blog called 9656.064 kilometres from civilisation…?
Catchy, it ain’t.

But is size really that important? Popular local supermarket, Pick n Pay, have decided to exploit the fact that no-one in SA knows about feet and inches by introducing their own new version of a footlong roll.


One foot is 30.48cm in anyone else’s language, but Pick n Pay have reduced that by at least six and bit centimetres for their awesome 0.764435696 of a footlong rolls. However, given that the new nomenclature is about as catchy as that kilometre blog thing I mentioned earlier, I can see why they left it as “footlong”, even though it blatantly isn’t.

I’m guessing that it was a man that had that idea. I wonder if they do that with their sausages too?
(PicknPay, I mean. I know that men do.)