Tesco and Asda were condemned last night for selling a string of books and CDs with the F-word in their titles.It was an error, of course. Both supermarkets normally filter these things out:
The items were available on their websites, where they were easily accessible to children.
They appeared even if inoffensive words from their titles were entered into the sites' search engines, with the potential to shock and offend shoppers.So, problem solved, right?
Asda quickly apologised when The Mail on Sunday brought the books and CDs to its attention and promptly removed them from its stock list.
Tesco explained that its technological filter system, designed to prevent any products with offensive titles from appearing on its main site, had been faulty. It has since been repaired, making the titles more difficult to view.I’ll save you the trouble – NO!
But MPs and campaigners are now questioning whether a change in the law is necessary to prevent unlimited access to such products.
Not that that will stop the bandwagon jumpers, of course, for whom this represents a chance to get their names in the media:
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, criticised falling standards of decency among retailers. He said: ‘In terms of magazines, CDs and DVDs, standards seem to be slipping. If the industry can’t collectively sort itself out then we must seriously look into external regulation. If they can’t regulate themselves, we may have to introduce a statutory code.’They are regulating themselves – this was a simple error, which when brought to their attention, was quickly fixed.
What’s the problem, Don? It’s not like the LibDumbs never make a boo-boo, is it? I don’t see you hollering for valuable Parliamentary time to be wasted then, eh...?
Of course, then there’s the rest of them:
Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, questioned how selling ‘adult’ material fitted in with Tesco’s image as a ‘family supermarket’.Yup! Pretty soon, the vibrators and butt-plugs will be available next to the saucily-shaped carrots and the sticks of butter...
She said: ‘Is this the beginning of Tesco’s drive to dominate the entire retail industry by abandoning all moral boundaries? Is this Tesco’s first step into the adult retail market? ‘
The two supermarkets are not alone in featuring controversial titles on their websites. Last week WHSmith had 23 titles containing the F-word while Waterstone’s had 38.And what’s wrong with that? Barring computer errors like this one, it works. What legislation can prevent computer error, Nadine? And if you find one, better apply it to the government first...
This widespread availability reflects the lack of regulation on the display of such goods on the internet. As the products are legal to sell, the stores themselves agree on a code of conduct over their availability.
John Beyer of campaign group Mediawatch-uk said the products were legal to sell. But he described the law as ‘ineffective’ and stressed that retailers had a duty to protect shoppers.Oh, give me strength...
He said: ‘Sellers have a wider responsibility to the community they serve. Having that word in the title on full display is not something you’d expect of a supermarket.’
Look, the Victorian Age was an age of great discovery and invention, but can we all recall that though they were exceptionally prudish (even beyond the standards shown here) they also had the same number of vices, sex crimes and blue jokes as today.
Let’s not reinvent those times, eh?