Idiots fooled by branding

\”I thought: \’That\’s very brave, opening up next to Starbucks,\’\” Bridget Chappell, a full-time mum, said of Harris + Hoole, a new coffee shop in north London next door to a branch of the US behemoth and four doors down from a Costa Coffee.

\”I like to try independent shops, and it was really very nice with great coffee,\” she said. \”But when I got home, I looked it up and discovered it was a chain.\”

Chappell is one of a growing number of Harris + Hoole\’s customers discovering that the new, independent-looking, stripped-back coffee shops popping up on high streets across London and the south-east are part of a chain that is up to 49% owned by Tesco.

\”I avoid Starbucks because it\’s a big chain and it avoids tax,\” said Carol Levine, 50, a Crouch End physiotherapist enjoying her lunch break in Harris + Hoole. \”Now I find this is Tesco … It looks like a small indie. It is disingenuous. It makes me upset. I feel duped. I don\’t go in there [Tesco]. It is taking over the world. If it [Harris + Hoole] had been called Tesco Coffee, I wouldn\’t have come in.\”

Katy Smith, another Harris + Hoole customer, said: \”I don\’t really like Tesco. I don\’t shop in Tesco. Now I\’m in one of them. They\’ll probably be on every high street soon. I would avoid it, like I avoid Starbucks and Costa, which I thought I was doing today – putting money back in the community.\”

Makes you wonder how the human race has managed to exist quite so long really.

47 thoughts on “Idiots fooled by branding”

  1. The reason they don’t like Tesco isn’t because they are ‘taking over the world’ (giggle) but because they are snobs; they don’t like the people who shop at Tesco, I.e. the great unwashed.

    They have rationalised their snobbery into some bizarre anti-capitalist fetish because it makes them feel better but deep down their aversion is more basic.

  2. And, of course, the Metropolitan obsession with fucking coffee. It does my head in. Whether it is from Starbucks or the ‘independent’ shop constructed entirely from organic hemp, it is still the same – bland, tasteless, expensive.

  3. Lordy,

    The middle-class angst. (full disclosure; I am as middle-class as they come, but hey I’m getting old and getting over it)

    ‘I won’t shop at chains! They do evil things, not sure what, but we all know that, don’t we?’

    What if the independent coffee shop owner is a paedo? Will your head explode over the dilemma?

    This sort of comment is a sign that we are:
    1. rich
    2. decadent
    3. short of imagination on how to use our 4 score years and 10
    4. stupid

  4. @Rob

    Coffee, like red wine, (and any good quality food or beverage) when it is good, it is glorious.

    Starbucks is however, not the place to find good coffee.

  5. To be fair, Crouch End has literally dozens of coffee shops on and just off the Broadway. They’re bloody everywhere.

  6. Does the Guardian have a list of sanctimonious cunts it can call upon for a comment of outrage?

    And Dinero @ 6:

    well the owner of non chain shop is likely to spend the profits locally

    I don’t think that it follows that because someone owns a local shop that their spending will also be local.

  7. The piece made me laugh. Watching the wailing of self-hating western liberals.

    Of course a chain shop like Costas (and increasingly now Starbucks) are local businesses – franchises. And does she think they’re bussing their employees in from Timbuktu?

    I can also think of a few small High Streets where the big evil chain store is the anchor for the whole parade.

  8. Blue Burmese: “Does the Guardian have a list of sanctimonious cunts it can call upon for a comment of outrage?”

    I don’t think it ever needs to call…

  9. Dinero

    Successful chains become successful chains by selling people what they like, at prices they like.

    I’d rather have my locality benefit from people being able to buy things they like at prices they like, than the off-chance that some local business owner will spend their spoils in a manner which somehow enhances the community.

    I am, by no means, averse to a combination of the two. Thus, when a non-chain sells things that I like at a price that I like then I will spend money there. Maybe, if lots of others do likewise, that non-chain might become so successful and popular that it, too, can be the subject of sniffy derision from people who think that they’re too good to drink in the same establishment as more than seven other people.

  10. “There is no mention of Tesco’s non-controlling minority ownership on Harris + Hoole’s menus or in the stores. On its website, it states: “Harris + Hoole is a family affair” and shows snapshots of Australian siblings Nick, Andrew and Laura Tolley, who own the majority stake and founded the existing Taylor Street coffee chain in London.”

    Jesus wept. These snobs are dressing up with Tescos bags on their heads and demonstrating – and it isn’t even “Tesco owned” by any stretch of the imagination.

    It IS owned and controlled by an independent family, who have got Tesco to invest in them. And these self-opinionated hand-wringing snobs are deliberately trying to hurt them. Despit it being “really very nice with great coffee” (from one of the said snobs).

    Morons. Utter morons.

  11. Blue Burmese,

    I don’t think that it follows that because someone owns a local shop that their spending will also be local.

    Well, they are more likely to use local suppliers for many things (such as maintenance or design), as they don’t have the operations to do anything else.

    But… so bleeding what? I’m not in Devon, but one of my clients is in Devon, but I also buy from a supplier in Devon (by coincidence they happen to be next door to each other). My PC came from china, but I also supplied some software to a Chinese company. It’s not like when you buy from Starbucks that they’re just creating a Scrooge McDuck size money mountain in Seattle.

  12. Dinero’s point is almost as funny as those Guardian rent-a-quotes. Do people who work at Tesco’s in Crouch End not spend their “hard-earned” wages in Crouch End? Do they spend them in Hong Kong?

  13. “the owner of non chain shop is likely to spend the profits locally”

    What, the VW driving, overseas holidaying, foreign oil&gas using ‘local’ shop owner, who eats food produced at the very minimum on the other side of the country, and probably from abroad? Unless everything he eats and consumes is produced within a 10 mile radius of his shop, then he’s no more local than Tesco.

    “well maybe compared to remote shareholders”

    So I assume you will forgo all investment in your locality by ‘remote shareholders’ then? No more money spent on the sewers, or the electrical grid system, or the gas pipelines? No new investments in factories/shops and offices paid for by outside investors?

  14. On the subject of branding, I expect most people would have gone bananas over Castrol being one of the main advertisers at the 2010 FIFA world cup at the same time BP’s Macondo well was pissing oil all over the Gulf of Mexico.

  15. Tesco’s recent involvement in the government’s *workfare* scheme won’t have enamoured them to the left I don’t suppose..

  16. The penalty for extreme stupidity used to be death by sabretooth tiger.

    Then it was starvation.

    Then it was just a poor standard of living.

    Sadly we now have so many bulwarks against Darwin that even a total fucking retard can comfortably survive for years.

    Long enough for them to start reading the Guardian.

  17. I can recommend the hummus at Tesco, and the own-label fizzy water. You’d have thought that middle-class people would know such things.

  18. I wasn’t making a point rather answering a question.

    That said geographical cashf lows in an economic area are not a mute point. Look at Greece constantly buying imports, or Scotland constantly buying imports. The money has to circulate somehow , in these cases with Greek debt or the Barnet formula.

  19. Have they ever spoken to an independent shop owner? My anecdata suggests that they’re overworked and underpaid whereas your average Starbucks employee seems to be a fairly upbeat young immigrant who’s having fun working in an exciting city.

  20. @Blu Burmese

    “Does the Guardian have a list of sanctimonious cunts it can call upon for a comment of outrage?”


    Tom Logan and Professor Henry Brubaker of the Institute for Studies 🙂

  21. @ Ian B

    No, not bad luck.. they usually are awful. It’s not a problem restricted to them, though. Good cups of coffee are hard to come by in this country. ‘We’ just don’t get it. What the chains do very well is cater to people who don’t get it by selling them huge cups of hot brown water, or 4000 calorie vaguely-caffenated milkshakes, and calling those things ‘coffee’.

  22. @Ian B – in my experience coffee from all these places is foul.

    I live in Italy and I don’t like the coffee here either which is undrinkable without tons of sugar.

    For my money the best place for consistently nice coffee is Germany.

  23. “To be fair, Crouch End has literally dozens of coffee shops on and just off the Broadway. They’re bloody everywhere.”
    Bloody right. Coffee shops, restaurants, frock shops & estate agents. Oh & physiotherapists. But one less property maintenance company.
    “Good cups of coffee are hard to come by in this country. ‘We’ just don’t get it.”
    Surprised you can even afford it. Quite why Sainsbury’s charges 3 times the price we pay for basic ground coffee’s beyond me. And what’s with the Nicaraguan Mountain Select or whatever? You make it weak as piss & put milk in it. How the hell would you tell?

  24. @ bis

    “And what’s with the Nicaraguan Mountain Select or whatever? You make it weak as piss & put milk in it. How the hell would you tell?”

    Amen. A thousand times over.

    Spain and, surprisingly (to me, anyway) Australia are the two countries I’ve been to where good coffee has always been on hand.

  25. I once remarked on an American blog that on my one visit to a Starbucks (in Philly) I asked for mocha coffee and got given a cup of bedtime cocoa.

    A deluge of American commenters assured me that mocha coffee was meant to taste like that.

    As usual, there’s no point blaming the shop: they sell crap because crap is what the bulk of their customers want.

  26. It’s all beyond parody, but the trouble is this shite is like a particularly contagious virus.

    Pre Christmas, I bought a rake of beer from Stroud Brewery, which is not that far from where I live.

    I enquired from the woman in the brewery shop as to why I’d not seen their beer in the local Waitrose, Tesco or Sainsbury.

    She told me it was a moral thing: the owner won’t sell to supermarkets because he doesn’t approve of them.

    I was mightily tempted to leave the beer and vacate the premises, but it would have meant going somewhere else for the beer and I was on a tight schedule.

    But in case Mr Stroud Brewery is reading this: that’s the last £300 you’ve had off me, you tit.

  27. TTG, as far as I know, the cafe culture took hold in Australia after WWII with a big influx of mostly Greek and Italian immigrants, plus a lot from elsewhere in Europe. That (plus subsequent waves of immigrants from SE Asia, India, etc) also explains the eclectic food options available. Before that it was British cooking and gallons of tea 🙂

    On the article itself

    t is disingenuous. It makes me upset. I feel duped.


  28. The Thought Gang: I’d add Portugal, too.

    Australia received a very large number of immigrants from Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. Two things that they did were that they brought their espresso machines and they taught Australians how to cook. (Australia is a land of agricultural abundance and the quality of the ingredients going into the cooking had always been very high. The Italians saw this, and pointed out that there were more exciting things that could be done with the ingredients than meat and three veg, plus they helped replace the British attitude to seafood with a more Mediterranean one. Since then Australian food has usually been very good, too). Australians took to good coffee immediately, but were a bit more experimental with how to make it than was traditional in Italy, so you got the Australian coffee culture. When I first came over here in 1991, coffee was disgusting. Then the Starbucks inspired American coffee style of coffee arrived: in truth an improvement but still sub-optimal. That the Australian culture has now been exported back to Europe is a fine thing. I wasn’t really expecting it.

  29. Interested:

    “But in case Mr Stroud Brewery is reading this: that’s the last £300 you’ve had off me, you tit.”

    Who cares? If the beer is good (relative to its price) then what do you care about the mans morals or strategy. That’s his problem, not yours – let’s leave the “moral spending” to the Guardianites.

  30. Emil – I dunno. I admire the crystal purity of your point, but life is never quite like that (I suspect a lot of the anti Tesco mob shop there on the quiet).

    I wouldn’t buy beer from him if I knew he was a rapist (he’s not, as far as I know, for the purposes of libel and fairness), or I just didn’t like the cut of his jib, and I won’t buy beer from him if I know he’s a puffed up, ostentatious localist.

    To do so is, in a very small way, to support a person that I believe is, in a very small way, part of a big problem.

    His beer is pretty good, but it’s no better than most decent bottled ales, and it’s probably more expensive than buying Marston’s Strong or 6x or Adnams Broadside from Waitrose.

  31. I will put a vote in for Mr Alistair Hook of the Meantime Brewing Company here, although he brews more continental style beers than English style ales. When his brewery was less well known, he did a deal with Sainsbury’s too offer several of them as their “Taste the Difference” premium home brand beers. The identity of the brewer was in the small print on the back of the bottle, wasn’t the main branding, but this still both provided him with a large customer and did something for his reputation for people who wanted to know. Having subsequently managed to sell his beers to just about every pub in London that wants on tap lagers that are an alternative to the boring big brewery product, he doesn’t do that any more but sells the beers under his own brand in Waitrose. He’s very astute about selling his product, and seems to have found the supermarkets to be of use in doing that.

  32. Takes a real strong character or an idiotic one to cut off a potential customer base on the grounds of not liking the type of shop.

    The coffee chains may be making bad coffee but from what I’ve seen its what people want. The idea being that if you provide what people want at a price they are willing to pay then you can grow. If you don’t provide what they want, why should they buy?
    Judging by the comments there must be coffee shops catering to the people who are more particular with their coffee. Why are these shops not the biggest chains of coffee shops? Because they don’t provide what enough people want perhaps?

  33. on the subject of supermarket coffee, i really like the latte in my local sainsburys. Far superior to Star or Costa bucks.

    britain is full of welfare addicts and then these graun idiots and ukuncut. there is little hope

  34. So Much for Subtlety

    Makes you wonder how the human race has managed to exist quite so long really.

    In fairness all three people quoted were women. It may be that this particular sort of blindness helps the species survive – “honest honey, I’ll pull out, I promise”.

  35. It’s just occurred, to avoid the coffee chains & support localism, the Crouch End bint likely drinks the excellent coffee at the pâtisserie/boulangerie further down Topsfield Parade. Who buys all his flour from France. Because you can’t make decent bread with the local British flour, he told me.

  36. Bet the “local coffee shop” owners are pissing themselves in Crouch End as they put their prices up in order to rake more cash from Guardianistas, in order duly to spend it on such local produce as, say, summer holidays by the Med.

  37. I lived in Crouch End a bit over a decade ago, but it was more Hornsey really, so it was really a bit of a shit-hole. Did have an excellent kebab/burger shop though. On the way back home from it with a halfpounder and chips, late one night, a neighbour lady called to me from her doorway-

    “Can you help me? It’s my husband, he’s fallen off the sofa”.

    “Um… have you called an ambulance…?” says I, doing that “don’t want to get involved” thing.

    “I think he’s dead”.

    I went in. The flat was squalid, heaped with detritus. The husband, an old man, who was entirely naked, was lying on the floor by the sofa and was, indeed, as dead as a doornail. I found the phone under some rubbish and phoned 999. They asked me to do CPR, and I tried to explain without being too explicit to the wandery old lady next to me, that it was a bit late for that.

    The ambulance crew arrived, cursorily proved he was brown bread, and then we all stood over the corpse talking about no, I didn’t know them at all and, did the lady have any relatives or friends and, no she didn’t, which I only later realised was rather callous; nobody even covered the body with anything. Eventually I went home, but didn’t eat the burger. I’d lost my appetite.

    That’s my main memory of Crouch End, though it was really more Hornsey.

  38. Martin Davies: the chains offer a standard blend which is not dreadful and tastes much the same everywhere. To do this they have to overroast the beans and blend out any interesting variations in flavour which remain.

    Whereas if you’re a good coffee shop which finds and prepares the best coffees from small producers around the world, where’s the advantage in being part of a chain?

  39. @IanB43
    If it was the one opposite the Railway, sorry to tell you it’s gone.
    You still eat kebabs?
    Bubble mate of mine’s family are in the butchery business. Dropped in on uncle one day to pick up some barbie makings. (best sheftalia going). There’s his worker in gumboots shovelling donner on the floor. You ever see a Greek eat one?

  40. Incidentally, apropos of another thread & PaulB’s insistence, our streets are as safe as ever they were. Lass just round the corner from me in, Middle Lane, got stabbed on her doorstep. Eight-thirty in the morning. Next door to Andy Kershaw’s* old flat.
    I first haunted Crouch End, back end of the 60s. Hornsey Art College days. G/f used to do her Judy Collins impersonation at the King’s Head. Mostly bedsits then with a lot of Paddies. Poorish part of London, really. Bloody sight safer though.

    *A prick of outstanding prickishness. Ask his wife.

  41. I have a small coffeebar and don’t have an issue with what H&H are bringing to the market. What I have a problem with is their parent and all any other tax avoiding businesses like Starbucks. My company is incorporated in the UK, paying full corporation taxes, business rates and all other charges the gov throws at me. Some call this “inefficient structuring” – H&H is domiciled offshore…as it places my business at a competitive disadvantage. I am continually losing out on property bids and struggling to turn a profit and raise money with attractive returns as the competition has an unfair advantage by avoiding a large cost line.

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