Of a late afternoon (especially Friday late afternoon) there tends to be a knot of rather ill-kempt, sad individuals hanging round the chiller cabinets tucked away in an obscure corner of the larger Tesco stores. This little area contains the Reduced to Clear section. As the Tesco staff bring stuff out that’s destined for sale today or the skip tomorrow, the hordes of old ladies and grey-faced men worry and pester them, waiting to see how low the price ticket might go.

You are about to find out how low Tesco can go.

I visit Reduced to Clear (RTC) quite a lot, but often feel something of a fraud. It is part of my Northern ‘careful’ upbringing that I enjoy seeing what’s in there, and then thinking how I might create something for next to nothing that guests taste and say “My God Wardy, but you do treat us sometimes.” If the total cost of that starter for six is £2.79, I go to bed later with a certain smug glow of satisfaction. I know, I know – I am beyond the pail.

A regular cheapo in the RTC is ambient soup, because it has a limited shelf-life. The usual selling price is £2.10 for Covent Garden (whose leak & potato is without equal) but it’s not unusual to see it reduced to £1.30 or even less on the Sell By Date.

I wasn’t going to bother getting any today, because the reduction was a measly 10p to £2, despite the packs showing 27th January. But three aisles further on – far away from social sadness – was a special offer on…..my, my – Covent Garden soups (same brand, same flavours, but fresher) at £1.10…..nearly half-price. And a Sell By Date of 12th February.

Tesco bamboozle the poor all the time. It isn’t uncommon to see 2-for-1 offers away from the RTC area where the reduction on one pack still means it’s poorer value than the Bogof. You can find very poor quality Lamb legs branded with the store’s ‘VALUE’ sub-brand, and then compare the price per kilo with far better quality and find the prices are almost equal. If you then guesstimate the difference Tesco paid to suppliers for it, it is making far more money out of the poor folks than me. Sorry, but I find that profoundly iniquitous.

Just to reiterate for detractors if I may, I think the service, convenience and value provided by Tesco for most people is a paragon exemplar of how to reach 31% share. But I refuse to accept Tesco now retaining that position by cheating – defrauding, if we’re being frank here – the very poor who lack the natural ability to discern value in the first place.

Further – to head off all those Rod Liddle haters who would now like to show on Twitter what a patronising tw*t I must be, I suggest you go to the various Government websites showing the correlation between poverty and poor literacy/numeracy.

I am more than prepared to accept that Tesco’s problem in this area is one of incompetence rather than exploitation. So if that is the case, can they please stop doing it?