As any student or carbohydrate fan will know, a magical window exists within the operating hours of any large supermarket. Usually around half an hour before closing—sometimes earlier if your grocer of choice gets trigger happy with the sticker gun—it's the hallowed restocking of the "Reduced to Clear" section. A supermarket witching hour when no longer freshly made donuts, squashed tiger loaves, and will-eating-this-give-me-a-horrible-foodborne-illness? sherry trifles are yours for a mere fraction of their original cost.
But the dark side of the reduced aisle was exposed this week when a video emerged online of customers at a British supermarket fighting on the floor over cut price food.
Filmed at a Tesco Extra store in Northampton on Monday evening, the footage was captured after a display area was stocked with reduced price meat products. A staff member is heard telling the eagerly gathered crowd of customers to "move back now, otherwise I'm taking it away," before shouting "Go!" A scrum ensues, with customers jostling to grab at the food and some people eventually ending up on the floor.
Speaking to the Northampton Chronicle, local resident Jonny Lester, who filmed the video and uploaded it to Facebook, said: "You could not get anywhere near the counter. Apparently this happens every night." He also expressed his concern that a child close to the group of pushing customers could have been hurt.
Tesco has since released a statement, saying that a "thorough investigation" has been conducted by the store manager and that the company is "trying to improve the way we deal with surplus food."
The video serves as yet more bad press for Tesco, who recently tried to clean up their food waste credentials by announcing plans to donate more unwanted food to charity. The BBC reports the video has been watched by almost 1.5 million people and Green Party politician and former Northampton MP Tony Clarke chimed in with his own analysis, blaming the supermarket for putting "their staff at risk and [allowing] their customers to wrestle on the floor in the hunt for a bargain."
Bad press aside, this "supermarket scrum" is a sad reminder of the ongoing food insecurity faced by many. When record numbers of people are relying on foodbanks in the UK, and proposed austerity measures look set to squeeze household budgets even further, half price sausages are more than just an impulse buy. For many, they're something to fight like dogs over.