It’s official: this country is going to the dogs. The proof? Tesco has been insidiously infiltrating the coffee shop market with a chain of shops that look independent. The Guardian reports outrage in Crouch End, where customers were ‘duped’ by ‘independent-looking, stripped back coffee shops’. The greatest crime of Harris + Hoole – which has its majority stake owned by the family that founded it – is that Tesco has a 49 per cent stake in the business, but doesn’t plaster its own logo above the shops, preferring instead to fill them with nice furniture and pretty decor. Here’s one quote from the piece:

“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.”

How very dare they, offering consumers a nice-looking coffee shop where they can choose to buy coffee, if they so wish. What an outrage.

Now obviously I’m as much a fan of independent coffee shops as the next slightly irritating middle class person who grows their own pumpkins and has a bread machine. It’s just that quite clearly lots of other consumers aren’t, otherwise Tesco wouldn’t bother going into the nicely-kitted-out coffee shop market. Which is a good thing for Crouch End, is it not, because Harris + Hoole will be employing baristas and other staff. Far be it from a lover of posh coffee shops to stop job creation, or increased income tax and national insurance revenue to the Exchequer.

But what about the truly independent independent coffee shops? Believe it or not, there’s no rule that says you can’t pack out your local independent independent coffee shop with customers if it serves better coffee than a chain can, or has a better range of tasty and wonderfully-shaped homemade cakes. In the West Country there is a small independent chain of coffee shops called the Boston Tea Party which serves the residents of Bristol, Exeter and Bath. They’re not owned by naughty big business, but it’s always a nightmare trying to find a seat in their packed cafes because they serve brilliant coffee. Starbucks is the venue for Boston Tea Party rejects in parts of Bristol.

So what should the enraged residents of Crouch End do to end this duping? Well, they could just continue to buy their tasty coffee at the independent cafe mentioned in the piece itself. Tesco may be clever, but it can’t force them to visit its faux independent coffee shop, after all.

Tags: Consumer affairs, UK politics