Like me, I’m sure you’re shocked by the news that Asda chief executive Andy Bond is to step down from his role and take up a part-time position in the company.
I like Andy Bond. A few years ago, I wrote to him regarding the trivia time question I found in an Asda Christmas cracker:
14th December 2006
At lunchtime today in the canteen where I work, they had a Christmas meal with turkey and stuff. There were Christmas crackers on every table which had been bought at the nearby Asda store.
Inside my cracker was a bit of paper with a joke on it and a trivia question. The question was “What country would you associate with the dish couscous?” Now, I’d say Morocco but the answer on the paper was Tunisia. I asked a couple of other people and they all said Morocco too.
On the Wikipedia page on couscous, it mentions Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia as countries where couscous is a staple of the diet, but doesn’t really name one individual country that is home to couscous, although it has a link at the bottom of the page to Moroccan cuisine.
The thing is, it’s a very bad question because, firstly, couscous is a food common to a whole region of North Africa and the Middle East and not a single country, unlike, say the association between sushi and Japan.
Secondly, it’s not even a factual question. It says “what country would you associate with the dish couscous?” so if I say “Morocco” because I associate the dish couscous with Morocco, then I’m right regardless of the answer written on the bit of paper. I don’t associate couscous with Tunisia, I associate it with Morocco. Someone else might even associate couscous with a country which isn’t in North Africa and where couscous isn’t even part of the diet. For instance, if someone first ate couscous on holiday in Germany, then they might answer “Germany” and they’d still be right.
Please find enclosed a photocopy of the offending question.
I would be grateful if in future, Andy, you ensured that all “trivia time” questions are more thoroughly checked and are based on matters of fact, not merely opinion.
I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, which worried me slightly, but as it was Christmas, I assumed he must have been busy. I was right to have faith, as a few days later, I received the following letter in the post:
18th January 2007
Dear Mr Ward,
Thank you for your recent letter dated 14 December and for taking the time to contact me regarding the trivia question that was in the Christmas cracker that you opened.
I was surprised to read your comments and I can understand your concerns that the phraseology of this particular question made the answer personally subjective so that any response could therefore be deemed to be correct. I agree that with hindsight a better question may have been “From which country does couscous originate?” I have researched this question myself online and it transpires that couscous did indeed originate in Morocco, but that it is now part of the staple diet of many North African countries.
With this in mind, I was very interested to hear your comments and I have passed them onto our Festive Team for their consideration and possible future action. We are always pleased to receive feedback from our customers and I am grateful to you for taking the time to contact us.
I hope we can look forward to serving you at ASDA again soon and if I can help any further, please let me know.
President & CEO
I like the sound of the “Festive Team”. I imagine them sitting around in an office in the middle of June, wearing paper crowns and forced to listen to Wizzard and Slade all year round, contemplating suicide. It’s the sort of place I’d like to work.
The news comes as a double blow to me, as there had been rumours that Asda were planning to buy the Home Retail group, who own Argos and Homebase. Had this gone ahead, I am certain that Andy would have told me how many ballpoint pens are used in Argos stores every year. Instead, I am forced to apply for job after job and face rejection after rejection.
I won’t give up though. I will never give up.