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My closest Morrisons is situated along London Road, Hadleigh, Essex, about halfway (on the north side of the road) between the old Waggon & Horses big roundabout, and Hadleigh Church.
It is, by modern-day standards, a medium-sized supermarket made of terracotta colour brickwork which from the outside looks clean, bright and very appealing (I'd hazard a guess that it was built sometime during the early to mid-1990s, judging by the architectural style).
Outside the front of the store there is a large car park which I believe is free to Morrisons' customers, a small taxi pickup point (though you have to phone for a taxi yourself as it isn't a rank), and a paved area where there are different sized trolleys, some with child seats on the front. To use a trolley, you have to put a £1 coin into that irritating little slot, then release the chain which attaches your trolley to the next one in line. There is a small area under a little roof with a stone bench next to the trolley park, where you can sit if you fancy a rest, are waiting for your taxi, or simply feel lazy. This stone bench is often filled with bored-looking men who prefer not to accompany their wives inside the shop!
Of course the shop has a no-smoking policy, and this is extended to the immediate area outside of the building, although it's my opinion that there aren't enough no-smoking signs. You actually have to walk around the outside perimeter of the store to see the couple of sparsely placed notices which are there, and this could result in people lighting up outside when they've not seen one of the no-smoking signs, thereby maybe unintentionally upsetting shoppers who find smoking offensive.
The entrance door is automatic, and there are always plenty of baskets to use, just by the door. There is a waist-high barrier to walk through to get to the main shop, which is also automatic. The first things that always greets on entering the shop are a few tubs of cut-price in-store bakery items.
INSIDE THE SHOP
The arrangement of food aisles is reasonably logical, and so far I have always found items to be in the same place since my previous visits. Thankfully, it seems the staff aren't heavily into confusing shoppers by constantly shifting the stock around so that nothing is where it used to be and thus takes an eternity to find. Each aisle is labelled as to the category of merchandise, but as these labels are placed quite high up, they are difficult to see unless you're actually staring skywards.
There is a small chilled cabinet containing wrapped items of what by appearance seems high quality fresh seafood, and next to that is a delicatessen counter. What I really like, is on the delicatessen counter, whatever you buy is served in a paper rather than a plastic bag.....perhaps that's me just being old fashioned and nostalgic though.
The fruit & vegetable section is quite varied, and takes up a good one-third of the whole shop floor area. Most of the greengrocery stock is what I call standard, and there don't seem to be a lot of exotic fruits and vegetables on sale - but what there is, mostly appears to be of very good quality and is reasonably priced. Paper bags are provided for serve-yourself loose mushrooms, but the bags for all other fruit & vegetable produce are plastic.
Dotted about the store here and there, are small freezers and small chilled counters where you can pick up some pretty good food bargains, such as BOGOFs and various items close to their use-by date which have been drastically reduced in price. It is a good idea though to keep an eye on use-by dates, as this particular branch of Morrisons sometimes allows items to be displayed that are past their best (most likely a staff oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to deceive).
There is quite a large off-licence section which, though I haven't examined it too carefully as I rarely drink alcohol, seems to offer a good selection of wines and spirits.
At the far end of the shop, is the frozen food section - which compared to other supermarkets close to where I live, seems rather small. Approximately 40% of the frozen food section is taken up by desserts, ice creams/lollies and other sweet produce. The selection of frozen meals, meats, fish, vegetables/vegetarian foods and pizzas seems modest to me - modest, but adequate.
Right at the end of the frozen food section is a small chemist/dispensary, which appears to be fairly well stocked.
Of course there are other departments in the shop, such as tinned foods, dried foods, bakery, butchery and dairy foods sections, hardware, household goods, toiletries etc., the same as in any other supermarket. I personally find the butchery section to be a little sparse on what it has to offer - there are no unusual recipe sausages for instance, and the meats available are bog-standard, such as pork/lamb/chicken/beef roasting portions and chops, together with the usual mince and liver.
There are approximately 15 checkouts, but I've yet to visit the store - even when it's very very busy - and see all 15 checkouts open and in simultaneous operation. There are always plenty of "next customer" batons available for use, and the checkout operators are always offering customers these things which are a mystery to me, such as cashback, vouchers for schools etc. Some checkout operators will ask you if you need help with packing your shopping, yet others don't - I believe it is the policy of Morrisons in general for each shopper to be offered help with packing, but some of the staff forget to ask. At each checkout, there is always a plentiful supply of plastic carrier bags which bear the Morrisons logo, yet if you want a stronger bag or a cool bag for your frozen food, these aren't always available.
On the way out, there are two telephones attached to the wall. One is an ordinary BT-operated public phone, and the other is a Freefone device to a local taxi firm. To call a cab, all you have to do is pick up the phone, press a white button, and you are then connected to Steve's Taxis, and can order your taxi home. Not having my own transport, I find this particularly useful - although sometimes it can be a long wait until my cab arrives.
The last section of the shop, just as you leave, is a fairly small tobacconist area, with a reasonably good stock of cigarettes, tobacco and other smokers' products. There is a notice stating that items from elsewhere in the shop can't be paid for at the tobacconist's till, but it is small and placed at an angle such that I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't notice it. The tobacconist section also has facilities to buy lottery tickets and scratch cards.
Overall, the store inside is light, bright and quite cheerful. There is always music playing (which could irritate some people, but I personally like it), and whoever chooses the playlist has very good tastes - it's mostly oldies from the 1950s/1960s/1970s and 1980s. The shop always appears to be clean and tidy, but one irritation for me is that staff members seem to constantly be shelf-filling, and they don't always take care to make sure that their wagons piled high with stock aren't blocking the aisles. This can make the supermarket difficult to navigate, especially if you're pushing a trolley or carrying a heavy, overloaded basket. All the same though, the items appear to be carefully arranged once they are on the shelves, and the general appearance is one of tidiness.
My local Morrisons seems to be a bit of a mixed fortune bag when it comes to their pricing policy. Quite a few items are cheaper than the local Sainsbury's and Somerfield, yet others are ludicrously expensive. Of course, Morrisons' own brand of food is cheaper than the standard, well-known brands such as Heinz. As mentioned above, there are always cut-priced items for sale which perhaps are close to their use-by date, or maybe the packaging is damaged slightly - plus there occasionally is a good section of BOGOF items.
Though Morrisons does have a stock of 'basics' type products, the range doesn't appear to be as wide as some other supermarkets. I also haven't been impressed with the quality of those that I've tried, and their 'basics' aren't as cheap as say, Sainsbury's.
We have mixed fortunes again! The store seems to employ equal amounts of males and females, but the checkouts are largely operated by women of all ages.
The staff who work on the fresh food counters, such as the delicatessen, are very helpful, friendly, and appear to know what they're talking about and what they're doing.
The shelf-filling staff are mostly very young, and though they are cheerful and friendly, some of them seem....er.....shall we say a little towards the back of the line when IQs were handed out - sorry, that's the most tactful way I can explain it. Likewise with the checkout staff. They are all pleasant and friendly (mixed age females), but a couple of them seem to be off with the fairies, and there is one young girl in particular who appears unable to focus her attention on checking out anyone's shopping for more than a few moments, before having a little bout of staring into space.
Though almost gushingly pleasant and very friendly, I do find the lady who mostly works on the tobacconist counter to be slightly irritating. I usually visit this counter as my last port of call on my way out, and by that time am a bit frazzled....the queue is usually pretty long, as the lady does like to have a little chat with what presumably are her regular customers. That's nice from the community and pleasantness point of view, but annoying when anyone's in a hurry, as I often am. The lady does know her stuff though, and whatever you ask for, she can always put her hand straight on it without having to stand staring at the shelves for ages trying to locate what you want.
Despite some members of staff being members of the 'lights out but nobody home' brigade, I can honestly say that everyone at my local Morrisons has always been pleasant, friendly and polite.
Mixed fortunes again! My own local branch of Morrisons is a bit naughty sometimes in that they don't always check all the produce which has been on the shelves for quite a while, to see how close to the use-by date it is. For instance, the other day, I was hunting through their deep-freeze, just browsing, and I came across some pots of chicken livers which had a use-by date of 1st September 2009 - I saw these on Monday 28th September. Had I not been in a hurry, I would have alerted this discrepancy to a staff member and insisted the pots of liver be removed from sale.
The fruit and vegetables are generally of exceptionally high quality, and so is the bread department - but as regards the in-store bakery for cakes and pastries, though the items look and smell delicious, the quality is very average and nothing special at all.
I have been able to buy some things in Morrisons that I can't buy elsewhere, such as Bacos Bacon Flavour Pieces - my local Morrisons is the only place for miles around here where I've seen them on sale.
The best counter in this particular branch of Morrisons, is the fresh fish which though packed in polystyrene trays and covered with cling-film, that packaging is done in-store. The seafood on display always looks beautiful and fresh - you can buy mullet, fresh herrings, sprats, whiting, hake, lobster, calamari, huge freshly caught prawns, plaice, cod, haddock, mackerel, large tuna steaks and quite a few other varieties. There is no smell around the fish counter, which I believe is a sign that the produce is totally fresh and hasn't been left lying around.
As said above, though the meat counter is rather limited in the produce that is available, what is there appears to be well butchered (from the aesthetic point of view), and of good quality.
One big disappointment is the eggs section. Often I can stand for quite a while, lifting the lids from egg boxes for inspection, only to find that large numbers of the stacked egg boxes contain cracked and/or broken eggs. This no doubt is caused by careless shelf-filling.
All of the above is my own opinion on my local Morrisons, which though it isn't my first choice for food shopping as regards overall quality, it is my most convenient supermarket. It's a short bus-ride away from where I live, and though my local Sainsbury's is closer, Morrisons is more convenient for me in that it is close to other amenities such as a post office, bank, and a few other different kinds of shops - whereas my local Sainsbury's is on a trading estate with no facilities nearby.
Although I wouldn't imagine that many people would consider travelling miles to reach my local Morrisons as they probably have a branch of their own, plus even if they didn't have, I don't think Morrisons is that inspiring, it's an easy shop to reach from the point of view of location - being along the main route road into and out of London, approximately halfway between Southend-on-Sea and Basildon. Most buses in and out of Southend and Basildon travel along that route, so unless you have your own transport, you need never wait long for a bus.
I can usually buy most anything I want in my local Morrisons, but they don't sell household goods such as kitchen equipment; nor do they have a clothes or music department, as the store simply isn't big enough.
I wouldn't recommend the Hadleigh, Essex branch of Morrisons as better than any other supermarket in the area, but if you should happen to be already there, then it's well worth a visit. Certainly by no means unpleasant shopping experience, despite the couple of little gripes mentioned above.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on DooYoo under my GentleGenius user name ~~