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Tesco is Metres Better! 2006/09/24

Posted by Daddy Dave in hacks, shopping, Tips and Tricks.

I ‘lost’ my measuring tape on my last project, so I needed to replace it. One might be forgiven for thinking that measuring tapes of all makes are pretty easy to obtain — they are cheap and cheerful and in plentiful supply. The trouble is that I HATE those measuring tapes because they use two illegal measurement systems, the old and long-dead British Imperial system of inches and feet along the top edge, and the equally old and equally dead French Metric system of centimetres and metres along the bottom!

All of my life I have used the world legal standard, the System International — it only has seven base units, and the UK and most of the rest of the world signed up for it nealry half-a-century ago. The differences between SI and metric are stark, for example mass is grammes or grams (g) in metric but kilogrammes or kilograms (kg) in SI; metric allows centimetres and decimetres, but SI forbids their use in favour of thousands and thousandths of a metre. Every course I took at school, college and university, every technical, engineering or architectural drawing I have seen or done has only used the SI system’s millimetres. I have never ever seen a drawing use centimetres, although I have occasionally come across US American drawings that use American feet and inches (slightly different for the old British Imperial system’s feet and inches)!

As far as I know there is no such thing as an SI measuring tape, but metric-only measuring tapes are the only type available in Europe, so whenever I am on vacation I make a point of buying a metric tape.

  • It is quite easy to convert from metric to SI — from centimetres to millimetres — so these tapes are invaluable on site — which explains why mine keep getting ‘lost’!

This time I decided to try to get a metric only tape from the internet — and I came across www.metric.org.uk which had links, and I bought two — an 8-metre x 25 mm wide one, and a Draper 5-metre x 19mm from www.diytools.co.uk. I was delighted.

However we were in that new 24-hour Tesco Extra in Pollok at the new M77 on ramp (Silverburn), on Saturday, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a big box of 5m x 19mm metric only measuring tapes for one pound each! Even their website says nothing about this (direct.tesco.com)… they say ‘Every Little Helps!’, and I am bound to agree — this is a fantastic event and a red-letter day!

Maybe from now on, people will stop stealing my tape measures! Maybe I will be able to vacation without having to search down a metric only tape! Maybe everyone involved in building will find life just that little bit easier and simpler.

Good on ya Tesco!


1. Callum Whaley - 2007/09/06

Idiot, absolute idiot. The Metric system was forced upon us the the EU, and the government will do anything they can to bow to anything they say. Most British people prefer the good old, reliable, feet, inches, pounds and ounces. It is a unit that can be used by anyone with ease and simplicity. I will always use the mile, and not a kilometre which as Napoleon said himself is “one ten millionth of the distance from the South Pole to the North Pole.”

I mean Imperial units can be used in comparison to items and objects around you, and seems much more human and natural to use.

Today, the metre is defined as the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458-th of a second. Isn’t that a handy rule of thumb when buying a string of sausage?

Imperial now, Imperial forever. 9 out of 10 Tesco shoppers think Imperial, the media, the public and nearly everyone I know freely use it. We should hold a vote on the matter, if Britain should be Metric or Imperial. It should NOT be forced on us regardless of what we say, it is our country and we should say how it runs.

2. Mummy Ruth - 2007/09/06

At first I thought your comments entry was trying to be offensive, then I realised how ridiculous and funny it was, so I decided not to delete it.

Thanks for the huge laugh you gave us both! I mean, who on earth would be so daft as to confuse nationality, identity, and patriotism with units of measurement!

3. Daddy Dave - 2007/09/06

My post on measuring tapes was intended to be helpful. When I tell people about Tesco metric tapes, they get very excited and these tapes are selling like hot cakes! If only I was getting a referral fee!

In that altruistic spirit, I’d better point out that the fact is that we signed up for the SI system in the late 1960s — well before we joined the EEC/ Common market/ EU.

As recently as May 2007 the EU have announced that they are perfectly happy for dual labelling on products and for the co-existence of non-SI units.

However, the UK government is opposed to the EU in this respect, and has made it clear that goods must not be sold using illegal measurement units.

Check out the BBC Radio Four website: http://search.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/search/results.pl?q=metric&go.x=0&go.y=0&go=go&uri=%2Fradio4%2F
Which carries the following stories:
“South West market traders have welcomed a European Commission decision not to force Britain to have all-metric labelling.
9 May 2007”
“The metric system was invented in England before being adopted by the French, some experts claim.
13 Jul 2007”

Great Fun!

4. the devines - 2007/09/06

For surfing Americans, look at the map on this site: http://artofdesign.wordpress.com/2007/07/15/usa-v-the-world/ it shows that pretty much every country in the world uses the same single measurement system — the SI system.

We think that this is perhaps man’s greatest achievement, and gives hope that we can co-operate and work together instead of fighting each other. There is a group in the USA trying to get them to join us all — see: http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/

The British have made a considerable contribution to the creation and maintenance of the SI system — and many Great Brits are immortalised in the unit names (for example, James watt, Isaac Newton, and James Prescott Joule).

The Department of Trade and Industry used to represent British interests at BIPM, this is now called The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR): http://www.berr.gov.uk/

The international committees have over the years redefined the seven basic units to create an incredibly accurate and cohesive system, for example, you can still visit the original metre and kilogramme in Paris, but things have moved on, and the last redefinition of the metre was in 1997!
More information and actual facts:
The SI System website: http://www.bipm.org/en/si/
The history: http://www.bipm.org/en/si/history-si/evolution_metre.html
The SI System is the only international LEGAL standard: http://www.bipm.org/en/si/si_brochure/chapter1/1-7.html and http://www.oiml.org/
World Trade Organization: http://www.wto.org/index.htm

5. zzzzzzzzzzz - 2008/03/23

You people need to get a life.

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