This past weekend, I ventured into Lidl for the first time - despite having lived in Scotland for over three years now. You see, I'm more of a Tesco-kinda gal (my love for Tesco is well-known). Lidl is a German discount supermarket that sells cheap European brands of food. Despite being cheap, I've avoided shopping there as Lidl has come under fire for its treatment of staff:
In fact, so controversial is the company's reputation in mainland Europe that in 2004, Ver.di, a huge German trade union with 2.5 million members, published a book called Das Schwarz-Buch Lidl Europa (The Black Book on Lidl in Europe). This was based on more than 3,500 accounts submitted by past and present employees. An updated 144-page English translation came out last year, detailing complaints from some of Lidl's 170,000-plus staff working in 23 European countries. The charges were wide-ranging, numerous and often serious. Hidden cameras were said to have been found in one store in Wasbek, north Germany - they were being used to monitor staff. "Mr D's partner is expecting a baby and, as he says himself, he needs a lot of money at the moment," read one meticulously logged transcript. And on it went: "17.25: Mr D describes his poor financial situation and talks of impending fatherhood and the additional expenses it involves."
The Black Book said that in Portugal the main retail union criticised Lidl for routinely asking staff whose contracts of employment were due for renewal whether they were planning to have children. It said that the company was subsequently fined for its preference for maintaining a pregnancy-free zone. When the Guardian asked Lidl's UK press spokeswoman - who asked not to be quoted by name - to comment on the above allegations, she said that she could only speak on behalf of UK operations, but that the Black Book was out of date and riddled with errors. She claimed that several foreign newspapers were made to issue retractions, but could not, or would not, specify what the errors were, nor which media organisations were compelled to retract their stories. When we asked for the number of the German head office - if there is one somewhere on the internet, it's not somewhere obvious - she said that she did not know the number, and nor did anyone else within Lidl UK.
As I wandered downtown yesterday in the rain, I realised that we needed some shopping and lo and behold, I found myself out Lidl. And against my personal principles, I wandered in.
For all you Canadians, Lidl is a lot like Food Basics, only not as...er, basic and the food is slightly better. In fact, the food seems pretty decent (not to mention cheap) . Unless, of course, they're branded as "American style" (in which case, they should be avoided at all costs!)