Monday, 30 September 2013


Social media has given us the power to talk directly to retailers, more so than ever before. In fact, I've heard tell that it's the brands that talk (and listen and respond to) to their consumers are the ones that are going to last.

Now, I'm sure you'll agree that everything to do with the Woolworths brand is beautifully created and immaculately executed, whether its instore, online or in social. I'm ok to pay a premium to shop at Woolies. Their food stores are beautiful - I'd even go so far as saying they're a "happy place" for me - huge variety, beautifully presented, and a little bit of everything. I'm a good customer there - I have a gold card, and I shop enough there to get my free W magazine (that's full of revoltingly thin people. But that's another post entirely). They Get It, and they do it well. And, I guess a part of me knows that all of this wonderfulness, to make happy customers feel loved and appreciated and listened to, comes at a price. 

But I do fundamentally object to being ripped off. 

Some examples: 
- A chicken and avo sandwich on low GI bread out of the fridges: R26. 
- A chicken and avo sandwich on low GI bread from the fresh deli: R35. 
Why? Because it's freshly made, and head office said so (I asked). The sandwiches were exactly the same size, and even if the one had a little more filling than the other, surely that doesn't justify a R9 price difference?

- Fresh hake - R121 per kilogram at Woolworths, packaged into portions 
- Fresh hake - available in packages however big or small I want them - R69 per kilogram at Food Lover's Market. 

- Krone pink bubbles - R130 at Woolworths
- Krone pink bubbles - R99 at Pick n Pay.

If I give more examples, you'll think that I've got nothing better to do with my time... ;-) 

But here's the thing. On all three of these occasions, I've tweeted the @WOOLWORTHS_SA account, trying to get a response from them on why their prices are so out of whack. 

Not a response. Not a word, not a DM, not an anything.  

So, because I'm fairly price aware, I'm going to start tweeting #WWRipOff when I come across a pricing anomaly. I'm not going to be petty and do it for a Rand or two's difference - I get that it costs to be awesome. But when Woolworths is charging upwards of 30% for something than their competitors (or they're charging two vastly different prices for the same thing in the same store), I'm going to make a noise about it. Because if Woolies really wants to be in touch with its customers, it's maybe time for them to start listening (and acting) instead of just talking at them. 

Join me?

#WWRipOff on Twitter.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

House rules

You've seen the House Rules around, I'm sure. There are lots of fairly similar variations, and I confess to having lusted after my own copy for a while. I even have the perfect wall for it in my kitchen, but in my natural aversion to actually spending money on anything that isn't food, or a household essential, I've never gotten around to buying one. 

And I'm glad I haven't, because I think it's worth having your own house rules. Now just to find somewhere to make these for me... although that part shouldn't be difficult... it's the part about actually spending money that should be the hard part. 

Anyway, I reckon that our house rules would be: 

No whining (this is a universal rule)
No tale telling. 
Love your brother with all your heart. He's the only one you've got. 
Mom is always right, even when she's wrong. 
You don't have to win at sport. But you do have to play fair, and play hard. 
Books are truly magical. Read as many of them as you possibly can. 
We're allowed to disagree with one another, but nastiness is banned.
Always tell the truth. 
Don't tease the dogs. 
The light of the sun is so much warmer than the light of the TV. 
Follow your dreams. 
Care about your family, and stand up for us all, no matter what. 
Be kind, be courteous, be generous. 
Believe that you are the most powerful being in your world. 

What would your house rules be? 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The end of an era - a tribute.

Last Sunday, 25 August 2013, my grandmother, Marie Elizabeth Cochrane, passed away. She was born on 1 April 1916, which made her 97 and then some when she died. Pretty amazing, hey?

I've not shed any tears at her passing, although it is extremely sad that she is no longer with us. She lived for a very, very long time, and her very sharp, very active, very ordered mind was trapped in a body that stopped working, step by painful step, a while ago. While her last few days were very traumatic for her, she is at peace now, and is no longer suffering.

We attended a memorial service that was held for her - more a celebration of her life -  and there were a few things that struck me during the proceedings.

My grandmother was born in the middle of one world war, and gave birth to her two daughters just before and during the next. When her husband, my grandfather, came back from being a Major in the British Army after WW2, they were very unaccustomed to one another, I'm sure. She had been a single mother, raising two young girls in war time austerity - he was used to commanding the company of men in theatres of war in North Africa and Italy. They were both particularly strong-willed people, so I'm sure that it wasn't easy to pick up where they had left off when he went off to war - in fact, it was probably impossible.

But, as my uncle said in his tribute, back then, you didn't give up. If something was breaking or broken, you worked damn hard to fix it, because there was just no way that you could walk away.

We've never lived close to my grandmother - she and my Oupa lived in Welkom while I was growing up, and then they moved to Cape Town in 1987, to be closer to my aunt and to the very specific health care that he needed.

I remember her being extraordinarily house proud - no matter how many people were in the Welkom house over Christmas, everything had a place, and everything was in its place. Every precious possession was kept spotless, and protected from any possible damage. Every item of crockery, cutlery, glassware, and ornament was treated as an investment, rather than an easy-to-replace disposable thing.  I guess that also came from the years of austerity, when there was no buying things on credit, when you went to Stuttafords once a month to buy a single place setting of the crockery or cutlery set you wanted, until you had the full collection. And you bought no more than what you needed - because you just didn't have the cupboard space to store anything more.

And then you looked after it, really, really well, because you had worked so hard for that precious item, and you had planned your life so carefully around it.

There's a lesson in that. Gotta love Mr Price, Woolies etc for home fashion - but there are lessons to be learned here about money, time and clutter.

On clutter - my gran lived in a bedsit in a retirement spot in Cape Town. She was also mostly blind, with a condition that literally meant that she had tunnel vision. This combination meant that she planned a place for everything that she needed - and she refused to have anything in her space that she didn't need. Only one cardigan. Only one hanger per blouse -  no extras. The black pullover in its place on a particular shelf. In spite of these strict limitations on the size of her wardrobe, she always looked elegant, with her fine hair styled to the best of her abilities. No need for a packed wardrobe, no need for one in every colour...

The Methodist minister who conducted the memorial service spoke of his monthly visits to her, because she could no longer get to church. A man well into his 70s and with many years' experience of ministering to the faithful, he spoke of how he learned a spiritual lesson from her, every single time he visited her.

The former manager of her retirement complex spoke of her grace, of her thoughtfulness, of her gentle ways of asking for things to be done around the place - and of her careful thank-yous whenever her requests were met. These are the old ways, the ways of old people, but they are ways of treating others that really should not be forgotten - having respect, remembering the details of people's lives.

I met her neighbour, who told me that although she had never met me, she knew everything about my life - my husband, my children - because my grandmother had told her, and that she was so particularly proud of all of us, of my mom, my aunt, and her family. There's something in this too - how often do people talk about their families - not with pride, but derision, or nastiness. How many mothers talk their children down - how many children say nasty things about their parents? And how many grown siblings talk badly about one another? The lesson here - tell the good stories, tell them with pride, be excited for people's achievements. We all screw up. If someone in your family screws up, don't go telling the world. Find something good to say when you're asked about their health.

Getting all preachy here. That wasn't my intention.

But this, I guess, is my own tribute to my grandmother. She was an impressive and commanding figure who had the respect and love of so many people. She loved her children and her husband, so very much, and treasured her brothers, sister and their families too. She knew who she was, and never wavered from that. She knew what she believed, and wasn't afraid to shout it from the rooftops. And she took care of herself, and every little detail of her life- even beyond what anyone else would have thought humanly possible - right to the end.

Rest in peace, Nanny.