We’ve all heard of MeToo: in the absence of a monopoly, an idea that is seen to work for someone generates a bandwagon.
I’ve recently been frustrated by its dark twin me-neither in retailing. When a product disappears from one shop, others soon follow. And I suspect there’s a very bad explanation: we’re all losers from it.
The story starts when I serendipitously encounter a particularly delicious herb tea: Peppermint and Eucalyptus on the shelves of our local supermarket (Morrisons). It rapidly became a favourite. Then it disappeared, along with most of the other Twinings varieties I would buy: what remains are the sweet blends which I like occasionally but not so often as to want a whole pack, and some ‘popular’ varieties (like mint, nettle, fennel) where I won’t buy the supermarket ones because there are nicer versions available from a local wholefood shop.
My reaction was to see if I could source it online. Indeed I can: I can buy it at the Twinings website. But there’s a catch: their delivery is not merely several times more expensive than the product itself, but also quotes 2-5 days. That’s a helluva long time to stay in waiting to take delivery. Ugh.
Could I get together with a few friends to form a ‘tea club’: batch a lot of purchases to bring an order above the £35 threshold for ‘free’ delivery, and add a bit of value to the ordeal of waiting in? I started to ask around, and John hit on a better idea: he was going to Waitrose in Exeter a couple of days later and thought they might have it. So I prepared for that by reviewing varieties available on the Twinings website and making a list of half a dozen to look for – including some I’d never tried “on spec”. He came up trumps with Lemongrass and Eucalyptus: another delicious blend and a worthy alternative.
Having found that, I was subsequently able to buy more at Waitrose in Brighton, when visiting the parents there (Brighton being a city with lots of shops, I also looked in many others there; only Waitrose had it). OK, there’s a plan: I can maintain supply just so long as I find time to go to Waitrose each time I visit.
No longer. Waitrose have followed Morrisons in abandoning any kind of interesting flavours. I tried on my recent visit to the parents, and asked a member of shop staff when I failed to find it. I asked John if he had any plans to shop in Exeter: he did, and he found it’s gone from there too.
MeNeither retailing. One shop drops it and they all do. The last-shop-standing has lost my reason to visit, along with anyone else who likes the flavour.
Surely I can’t be the only person to like these flavours? I suspect another explanation is more likely: as the interesting teas disappear from Morrisons – and indeed other mainstream supermarkets as evidenced by my looking around in Brighton – shoppers like me were driven online as a last resort. And for many, delivery may be less of an issue: for example if you can get it delivered at work where someone else will be around even if you’ve stepped out. Instead of the last shop standing benefiting from all the demand, we are driven to a thoroughly unsatisfactory alternative.
 Can I have a monopoly too?