Today I’m going to talk to you about the supermarket chain Tuodi (pronounced ‘Twod-dee’, as in ‘shoddy’). Now, I would hardly call myself a seasoned shopper, but I’d like to think I’ve developed a certain familiarity with the concept. I’ve been to Tesco, I’ve browsed the lofty halls of Waitrose, and I’ve even dipped a toe in the chilly – but very reasonably priced – waters of Lidl and Aldi, but in all my time I have never encountered a supermarket as desperate as the Italian chain Tuodi.
Now, before you all start crossing it off your ‘TripAdvisor must-see’ list, I must confess that I have only been to the one Tuodi. The other branches could well be a veritable bed of opulence and fertility, tended by kind-hearted workers who never stop smiling: a Mecca of groceries. My one might have slipped the net. At least, I hope so.
As you enter the place, the doors wearily sliding open, you are hit by the pungent smell of a thousand fruit and vegetables, and not the good kind. We’re talking the “an apple a day keeps the doctor away because it killed him” kind, which were clearly bought several days ago and, unloaded and untended, just sit there, gently whiling away the days as they return to compost. And so I scurry past, dodging as I go the old ladies who, clearly not appreciating how little time they have left, proceed with an agonizingly sedate pace down the aisle, which is no good for me as I’m holding my breath and now I’m running out of air.
Reaching the safety of the biscuit aisle, I produce my shopping list, planning on grabbing the items ASAP, but it is not to be. For Tuodi has recently adopted the altogether-not-so-endearing policy of changing the shelves and displays with such a frequency it feels like I’m playing hide and seek with the oregano. So after many hours of searching for food in what feels like a throwback to the times of foraging, I finally arrive at the last aisle: the alcohol aisle. Now we’re talking.
Indeed, the alcohol selection truly is Tuodi’s only saving grace. Selling any drink you care to mention at rock-bottom prices, you can fund a house party by yourself for under a tenner. The quality may be lacking, but in the timeless words of one friend “after the third glass, it really doesn’t matter what you’re drinking”, words which resonate clearly in my head as I scan the display for the lowest price. 99 cent bottles of wine: bingo.
And so, with my cart positively brimming with cirrhosis-inducing delights, I trundle to the checkout. Except that, Tuodi being Tuodi, they only have the one checkout, meaning that I have to wait in a queue for 20 minutes – time enough to watch an episode of Modern Family, I calculate grimly to myself. The checkout is manned by a gum-chewing 40-something who looks like she had fun once and hated it. Unloading the 8 bottles of discount wine onto the conveyor belt I couldn’t help feeling I was reinforcing the British stereotype. Then, with a look that could curdle milk (if the malfunctioning fridges haven’t beaten her to it), she asks “do you want a bag”. What answer was she possibly expecting? “Well, come to mention it, I was actually planning on carrying the bottles home two at a time, because that’s the only way I’ll walk off all this weight I’ve gained from stripping your country bare of pizza and gelato.” Or maybe she thinks I have the anatomy of a kangaroo, and that storing them in my booze pouch, I’ll duly hop home.
As I pay and bag up my precious cargo, then comes the piece de shitty resistance: she hands me my change on the receipt. Conducting the fiddly task of separating change and receipt whilst a queue a mile long glares at you for holding up their day is tantamount to torture. I don’t think she realizes how awful it is for a Brit to commit the ultimate social crime of queue stalling, and being made to feel inefficient by Italians really rubs salt in the wounds.