Greggs - Being a Wiganer, I'm not exactly short of choice when it comes to places selling pies and pasties, so the Leeds-based megachain pails in quality comparisons towards Muffin Man or Greenalghs. But it's also not that bad, and is a far classier establishment than the Pound Bakery places that are popping up everywhere.
I've only seen them in Blackpool. I've never dared go in.
The only good thing about McDonald's are their fries and that's not really enough to pull me into one any time soon...Starbucks is a decent, if not terribly interesting coffee option...Being a vegetarian, we don't have much use for Subway and KFC. Subway's veggie options are substandard and the places do have a nasty smell about them... Not sure how even dedicated carnivores can eat the mutant "Chicken" pumped out by KFC...
HMV - they've done wonders keeping the place going, and in many ways it's improved generally as an outlet. The staff are nearly always helpful and knowledgeable, they're never crowded so you can shop easily, there are always good offers. I can't see it lasting, they've been kicked hard at least twice now...
Fopp, which was an HMV subsidiary, has recently re-opened in Manchester (I think under new ownership) and I'm over the moon. It has all the things you mentioned above, and their jazz section in particular is very good - and pleasingly cheap.
They're good on pre-fifties music as well, loads of decent quality cheap comps that range over loads of different genres.
They always have a few things worth buying in their two books for a fiver offer too.
Waterstones - good enough for a browse and a sit down, nobody's going to bother you, I like that they have young studenty types mostly on the tills, always friendly and helpful
I'm very glad Waterstone's has survived and thrived, and not only because I've got history with them, but also because they are just nice bookshops, and like you say the staff do tend to know their stuff.
I'm sure it's nowhere near as laissez-faire for the staff these days, but that was probably inevitable if it wanted to stay afloat, and I'm sure it's still a good place to work.
McDonalds - It's improved a bit hasn't it? At least in terms of the decor, which is all greens and wood and not as harsh as it used to be. A guilty pleasure of mine is a McDonald's breakfast on a Saturday morning if I have to go up to London. Here in TW there is nowhere open near the station for breakfast before 9am, so I do like a Breakfast bun and two hash browns sometimes. In some respects McDonalds opened up "eating out" to families in a way that no other restaurant did before, particularly in the eighties.
Boots - Not dismal, but not fun either. You'd think that they would change their logo or something at some point.
Greggs - No reason to go in. The food is generally dismal and I can get better sausage rolls at my local butchers. I do like their "we know we're shit but you don't care" PR campaign though - at least it's honest.
WH Smith - Oh dear oh dear. Like many others, I remember WH Smiths in my youth as a place of relative wonder. But now it is reduced to selling celebrity hardbacks, wordsearches, water bottles and confectionery. I still pop in for stationery for the lad, but it's a truly dismal experience.
Iceland - I never go there, but frozen food does get an unfair rep.
Subway - Why would you ever go there? The smell emanating is awful.
HMV - I think I've bought one thing from HMV in 10 years - RDR2. But for years, particularly the Oxford St one, it was a place of relative wonder. Destroyed pretty much by the internet.
Costa - The worst of the high st Coffee shop chains in terms of produce and experience. BUT, like Wetherspoons, they play an important role in getting the elderly in particular, out and about and having a place to sit ahd chat. It's just a shame that so many people seem to congregate in chain places rather than an independent local.
Starbucks - I wouldn't go in unless I absolutely had to.
Pret A Manger - As above, the food is generally of a good standard and you get a choice. If you want a cheap wrap for under £3 you can get one for example. The coffee is 6/10 but I like it. Pret has been invaluable for me over the years taking my boy out and having somewhere we could go for lunch that was big enough to accommodate a pushchair etc.
M&S - Foodwise, it's 6/10. Better than Sainsburys. Clothes-wise, well unless you want to be all Blue Harbour, it's diminishing returns except for underwear and maybe the odd pair of shorts.
Wilko - A pretty grim experience, although I bought a copper-coloured kettle in there a year or so ago.
Nandos - Never been.
Waterstones - It has improved somewhat since Daunt took over. The range of books they get in is great, although it does frustrate me when the hardcovers go and you can only buy paperbacks of older versions of books. I appreciate space is an issue. I find the range of Pokemon/Yugioh cards available at the counter to be a bit sad. Come on people, make your bookshop attractive and don't pander to kids. In fairness, I rarely buy from there, because I'm most likely to order from my local bookshop or reserve at the library.
Tesco - I only go if there is absolutely no other option. It's not Waitrose.
H&M - A godsend for children's clothes, but I'm also acutely aware of the sweatshop vibes permeating from behind the £3 for a T-shirt tag.
Sports Direct - A Cathedral of flannel. I've been gymified over the last six month so trips there have become essential.
Primark - No reason to go.
Currys PC World - No reason to go. Why would I buy ANYTHING there?
Poundland - If I wanted masses of Haribo maybe I'd go there?
KFC - My guilty pleasure. I love it, EXCEPT the chips, which are appalling.
Sainsburys - Our nearest supermarket. I rank it above Tesco, but below Waitrose. Necessary sometimes, but otherwise avoid. Useful for school clothes.
Wetherspoons - My local one was an Opera House. It's spectacular inside. See my comment concerning Costa.
Caffe Nero - Above Costa but below Pret. Food isn't dismal, but all stupid Italian biscotti etc.
Lidl - I sort of like the Aladdin's Cave aspect of not knowing what is on offer inside, but I'd never do my food shop there. I used to when we were on a much tighter budget, but there's truly little there that I would go there for, apart from these very good value buckets of Turkish Yoghurt. Everyone says "oh the wine is actually good" but in my experience it isn't. My best anecdote was on my first visit to the Crowborough branch I saw an old gent in pink trousers buying 8 bottles of gin and 8 Ostrich Steaks and nothing else.
Aldi - Probably better than Lidl - they have a Harrison's Gin that is twice as cheap as Hendricks and tastes the same.
I can't defend them on any level other than they're comfortable places to sit down with when you're buggling about in a city with bags of shopping.
I didn't mention the air con, either. And the toilets.
oooh they're SO nice 1
The food is rubbish and you're surrounded by fat families and teenage chavs. It's actually a pretty traumatic experience!
Oh you big baby!
They vary massively. I used to go to one in the centre of Sheffield a couple of summers ago. When it was busy it was sheer hell, packed with fat families shouting at each other, like you say. You'd get pushed and shoved and that was before you'd even got to the tills. The place was a mess, litter everywhere, underpaid cleaners trying desperately to change rubbish bags before a pushchair knocks them sideways again, couples standing right in your way snogging or arguing. A nightmare. But if I went in after seeing something at the Showroom there was hardly anybody there - and the ones who WERE there were often interesting sorts sitting alone talking to themselves. So I felt at home
And if you haven't been to the McDonald's in Porto's main square (mais bonito do mundo) then you're missing out.
I went to a McD's in Croydon a couple of months ago and witnessed a verbal barrage from a man against an admittedly vacant-looking member of staff because he had to wait for more than TWO minutes to get served.
On my last trip to England eight years ago, I was surprised at how many Subways there are. If you read Fast Food Nation, you find out how predatory a franchise set up it is, promoting it to recent immigrants who want to start their own business. It's a company store set up because you have to buy inventory from headquarters and they keep even successful franchisees at a deficit or with small profits.
That and fucking Pizza Hut, the worst pizza in the world.
I bet I haven't been in a McDonald's in five years, since the kids grew out of it and realized it's pretty nasty food. Both the kids are vegetarians so the only fast food place we go to is Taco Bell for my daughter and her bean burritos fixes.
McDonalds was a special treat when I was a kid. My parents would take my sister and me there two or three times a year and it was always a big deal. I was only ever allowed to have a regular hamburger and small fries, while my older sister got to have a quarter-pounder which I thought was extremely unfair. I practically had to emancipate myself before I ever had a Big Mac.
They were a treat for us too. That and 31 Flavors or Baskin Robbins.
When I was 13 or 14, my dad said my brother and I could order as much food as we wanted as long as we ate it after working really hard in the yard one Saturday. It was the last time he did that.
My brother and I could eat 16-20 ribs easily when Sizzler would hold their All-You-Can-Eat promos.
I liked "Fresh & Easy". they were non-union so I avoided them but now & then I'd give in since it was on the way & the parking lot was always empty. I liked how it was sort of a low-end "Whole Foods". I didn't like how nobody could figure out How to use the self-checkout. How is a Training Cashier at all times better than a real cashier? I guess it isn't. I liked their little t.v. dinner type meals.
I'm glad I'm finally at a place in my life where people aren't always asking to go McDonalds. I don't want the voodoo magic to work on me so I avoid the french fries. I really don't think there's a single item there that I'd classify as "food" but I've eaten a lot of those stupid "apple pies" just so I'd have something to eat.
they say Subway stopped putting rubber in it's bread but you couldn't prove it by me. we eat there now and then. tastes the same as it ever did to me.