Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tesco in Hot Thai Sauce

Member of English PEN, including authors Mark Haddon, Nick Hornby (right), Joanne Harris, Marina Lewycka and Deborah Moggach have sent an open letter to Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy protesting :
..."grossly disproportionate" libel actions against critics in Thailand who have questioned the growth of the supermarket chain. ... Siratranont, a former Thai MP, is facing up to two years in jail and a £16.4m libel damages claim for saying that Tesco was expanding aggressively at the expense of small local retailers. He was served with writs for criminal defamation and civil libel. Kamol Kamoltrakul (below) a business columnist, is being sued for £1.6m damages for alleging that Tesco Lotus, the supermarket's trading name in Thailand, had sought to minimise its Thai tax liabilities. Kamol, who was paid £16 for the column, faces bankruptcy if he loses. Nongnart Harnvilai, another columnist, is also being sued for £1.6m after she wrote in a short, tongue-in-cheek article that the company did not "love" Thailand. In the writ, Tesco claimed that the article had damaged its reputation.
It is entirely necessary that journalists and others should be free to ask questions about huge foreign corporation expanding aggressively in their own country. Suing those writer seems to me grossly insensitive, and the amounts involved hugely disproportionate, and I add my voice to those protesting the court actions.

Tesco, of course, has a presence here in Malaysia but doesn't seem to be expanding as quickly - perhaps because of competition from Carrefour and Giant hypermarkets.

Postscript :

Online magazine The FirstPost points out that :
The protest by Hornby et al is not without risk. According to The Bookseller magazine combined sales of their books through Tesco are estimated at £2.5m.
Another Postscript :
If discussing the impact of supermarkets on a local economy were a criminal offence in Britain, hosts of prominent journalists would find themselves in prison.
argues Lisa Appignanesi on the Guardian blog.

Yet Another Postscript :

More about this case and Tesco's reponse in the Times.


Madcap Machinist said...

don't like tesco, even grocery shopping has to be an event these days.

There was an uncle who had a wet market in a truck. He came down the street where I used to live every afternoon. We don't see many of those these days, do we?

Fatman Steamboat and its ilk exempted.

bibliobibuli said...

i don't like here tesco either. i like village grocer and the little shop near my house that has everything including the freshest fruit and veg, fish and chicken. i worry about big corporations and their role in developing countries.

Chet said...

There must be something wrong with a company, especially a supermarket chain, that spends its energy on issuing summonses and writs instead of improving its services to the public.

I shop at Tesco - initially, out of obligation (used to work for one of its owners) and now because of the "free" parking (I know ... k i a s u). But after this, I may go elsewhere for my groceries.

Tesco Malaysia did take over MAKRO in Shah Alam. And if any of the competitors decide to sell, they'll probably be the first in line to take over.

Baronhawk said...

Dear Sharon,

This is one problem I personally have with the "Free Trade" and the "Free Market". They speak of equal footing for all market players and yet they have tremendous resources to eat up the little guys or even use economies of scale to go far below the profit margins that the little "pak cik ikan" and "apek sayur" can match. In essence giant faceless entities that march in and take away our individuality, our voices and re-introduce their americanised/europeannaise (mayo's pun) brand of and for all things. How do we find a "Malaysian" retailer's voice amidst the seas of such megecorporations with no heart...? "You've Got Mail" "Shop around the corner" "Tom Hanks" and "Meg Ryan"... price clubs that sell cooking oil by the doyens and snuff out the local little guys.

Free market? more like free reign for them to pick us off one by one. While they pressure to enter more markets and take control in the name of free enterprise.

Give an old time neighbourhood any time... "apek sayurs" "pak cik ikans" "mamak rotis"..."pak cik dagings" "apek ais krims" "paper lama traks" "kutip duit hari raya kids" "neighbourhood soccer matches" "cendol stands" "gerai laksas" "mamak tosais" "cina papaer" "awek awek aweks".

And these trivial suings.. from a corporation like that. I thought they came from a place of FREE speech and free ideas? The common western rant ain't it. We control press while theirs are free to talk about anything? But in all seriousness them suing the journalists for such rather small pontifications is actually more damaging to their reputation than anything anyone could have written. Nothing is worse then a big bad wolf of a heartless corporation.


The UnMalaysian Voice.

@baronhawk rambling

animah said...

I still buy my veg and ikan tenggiri from a little lorry that comes up the hill everyday.

For my groceries, I go to the little shop in Ampang Jaya. They know me and my daughter. I suspect I pay more than if I just went to tescos, but I get very lost and stressed in big supermarkets.

I feel that I'm buying food from people I know and can chat with, not non smiling reluctant sales girls. It makes a big difference.

I wish we had a roti man though.

Anonymous said...

i try to avoid anywhere that is too crowded. it's crazy to go to Tesco, carrefour , giant on weekends. There'r Giant, Tesco and now Carrefour in the small town of Melaka : ( and the smaller supermarket like Fajar is badly affected..sigh..I heard, giant hypermarket -Wallmart is coming in this year...not sure it's true..and they will not be just a threat to the smaller supermarket. They are going to have a huge space for discounted books! Poor local to survive lar!

Karcy R. said...

Are they insane? Why in the world sue these writers? Thank goodness I never buy from Tesco anyway.

Screw Tesco!

Anonymous said...

The Thai government will arrest you for criticizing the King. If you ever bring up the subject of the monarchy in a conversation with any Thai, you can almost litterally see the fear in his face. Worse than whips.

If they are badly affected, then maybe they should do something else.

Baronhawk, you misunderstand free speech. Free speech means you can say anything if you agree to accept the consequences. What this means is that, while you can say anything, you should be held responsible for anything you say.

People always mistake legal freedom from simple freedom.

Anonymous said...

A case in point, Karpal Singh had a teenager arrested for threatening him in a shoutbox. That's what free speech means, it means no one should stop you from speaking, it doesn't mean you should be able to escape the consequences of your speech :)

Khairil said...

Tesco not expanding quickly, are u kidding me? I've got two tesco stores in my area, just less than 1/2 mile from one another.

But gotta love their addictive *double* chocolate chip cookies. Luckily, we cant use our clubcard in other countries, if not it might appear that they sought for world domination.

Anonymous said...

Well I still don't have a Tesco's (or any hypermart :P ) within half-an-hour from here :P

kyojeff said...

the no.1 retail hypermarket in malaysia is carrefour because every product that sell at carrefour is the lower price and 100% refund policies.