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‘Boiled bacon was the biggest seller’ - Dagenham’s Asda remembers 25 years

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:35 20 February 2015

Former supervisor, Iris Flemming, with customers at the check out in 1990

Former supervisor, Iris Flemming, with customers at the check out in 1990

Archant

Powering a check-out conveyor belt with your feet may sound like something out of the Middle Ages – but it’s how Asda’s longest-serving cashier in Dagenham started on the tills.

Cafe staff at Asda on their first day in 1990Cafe staff at Asda on their first day in 1990

Sally Pond’s first day at the Merrielands Crescent store was two days before it opened in 1990.

And she’s still going strong on the shop floor 25 years on.

But that’s not to say she’s been stacking the same shelves for a quarter of a century.

The 54-year-old has witnessed huge changes – from the shift in food trends to impractical uniforms leading to some embarrassing incidents.

Sally Pond has worked at the store since it opened 25-years-agoSally Pond has worked at the store since it opened 25-years-ago

“The first ever uniform back then had poppers all down the front of the dress,” Sally recalled.

“If you moved much the whole thing popped open. After a shift once I got on the bus and my locker key caught on a woman’s shopping trolly and tore the dress right open.

“The bus driver was laughing at me and asked if I’d be back on that bus tomorrow. Everyone waved when I got off – I was glad to get out of that uniform.”

Before the supermarket in Dagenham opened Sally trained for the big day in a warehouse in Romford.

Here's something you could have bought at Asda the week it opened, the Post from November 14, 1990 (LBBD local studies archives)Here's something you could have bought at Asda the week it opened, the Post from November 14, 1990 (LBBD local studies archives)

It was there she practised on plastic tills and used plastic scanners, before serving “live” customers in Gravesend.

“That was scary. I’d never worked with adults before,” she told the Post.

“The conveyor belt there worked by pushing it with your feet like an old sewing machine. It was erratic and hard work but the customers didn’t mind because we had ‘training’ badges on.

“It felt like we were all a family because we were all new together. “Twenty-five years on and I still feel like that – that’s what keeps me here.”

In keeping with the increasingly multicultural nature of the borough the store has changed over the years to accommodate the, now diverse, population.

A world food aisle is a staple part of any large store but Sally remembers when “British” food was the only thing stocked and boiled bacon was the biggest seller.

“We have a whole world food aisle now because there’s people of all ethnic backgrounds and communities living in the area now.

“We’re constantly learning about their culture and what they like to eat.

“When we first opened it was a white area but now we’re multicultural. It was British foods. We notice the population change and we have to go with it. You’ve got to go with tomorrow’s times, not yesterdays.”

Sally started on the check outs then progressed to supervisor and key colleague.

After her husband died six years ago she returned to the check-outs because she missed interacting with people. She called the move back to the tills the best thing she’s ever done.

Keeping it in the family, Sally’s 31-year-old daughter has also worked at the store for past 15 years after she quit college for full time employment at the age of 16.

“I never see her around much because we work in different sections,” said Sally, who lived in Dagenham for 19 years but hails from Greys now.

“It’s changed so much over the years. We’ve had revamps, they’ve made the George section bigger, the whole place is a super centre now which is bigger than a supermarket.

“And I was made colleague of the year in 2013. I think that shows I’m doing the right stuff here.”


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