Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Monday, January 24, 2005

You Better Shop Around!

I read in Zippo's blog this morning that he had a little adventure in Albertson's this weekend.

We're mercifully free of Albertson's food stores down here in Houston, since they pulled out of the market. I quit going to them while living in Dallas due to three reasons:

A) They swore they'd never go to the Loyalty Card system, then reneged on their claims and jumped on the card bandwagon as soon as Kroger's did. I'm not opposed to the loyalty card concept, just don't tell me one thing, then go do another less than a year later. Also, let's be a bit more realistic about the card vs. non-card pricing structure. Albertson's took it to the extreme, with a 20% price difference being not uncommon.

B) They rearranged the store into that horrific maze design that forces you to enter all the way on the left, then you have to trudge through the deli, the produce section, the bakery and the dry goods section before you get to the food aisles. Then, you have to exit on the door all the way on the right, forcing you to schlep your bags all the way across the parking lot since you parked close to the entrance.

C) Surly service and a dirty-looking store. Albertson's used to have very clean stores, but that changed after they did the shelf-maze game. Hint - White floor tile is gonna be a pain in the ass to clean. It's worse when all your pallet jacks have soft black-rubber tires that leave skidmarks. Fire the procurement manager who bought the two incompatible fixtures for being a terminal asshole!

Now, it's not paying more for food that gripes me so much as being told that I'm saving money and getting better service while I'm shopping in a store that looks like a grime & slime factory. People always give me grief for shopping at Randalls (Tom Thumb's Houston grocery chain, for you Dallasites) because the costs are so high. For me, it's a matter of preference. I can shop in a Tom Thumb/Randalls and be absolutely guaranteed of a nice. clean well-lit store, and associates that WITHOUT FAIL tell me hello, and if they can be of any service. For that, I'm willing to pay an extra 4-5% on my grocery bill.

I don't even go into a Kroger's store if I can help it. They tend to be filthy, and I got tired of finding dented cans and razored-open packages from shelving mishaps & sloppy box-cutter work by the stockers.

The worst grocery store in D/FW was Winn-Dixie, who thankfully have retreated into Oklahoma. I would shop in the SUPR-SAVR discount grocery before going into a Winn-Dixie. Some goofball efficiency expert probably told them that if they unscrewed 1/3 of all the fluorescent bulbs in the stores, they could save a lot on electricity, so the places were dark as tombs. There was something about the lighting scheme and fixtures they used, as well as the godawful pink & blue paint scheme combined with the general gloom that just made the place look like a mortuary for dead babies. Awful awful stores! I used to think it was just because most of them were holdovers from the early 70's, when all the old Buddy's and Piggly-Wiggly stores got bought out. Not so... they built a brand new Winn-Dixie at Marsh & Frankford that was just as nasty as the older stores. That takes boneheaded planning of the first water. Oh, and one more thing... Worst. Produce. Ever. You'd see the tomato worms crawling across Marsh Lane to go hit the produce at the Super Wal-Mart. That's how bad it was!

As for the self-checkout stands that gave Zippo and his wife Stomps With Foot so much grief, I will not use them. Until they perfect the RFID system that totals my cart as I add items, I want someone else to check out my purchase. That, or give me a 10% discount for doing their work. Heh. Like THAT'S gonna happen...

Once upon a time, kiddies, you never touched your groceries once you put them in your cart. You would push the cart up to the checkout line, the clerk would drop the front of the cart, and commence to hit keys on the old manual-style registers that went "clik-clik-clik-KerKlackick!" with every item keyed in. The teenager bagging groceries would have everything neatly bagged in heavy kraft paper bags that were so handy for uses around the house. He would even carry them out to the car and stow them away for a small tip. I seem to recall Tom Thumb didn't want you to tip them, they considered that part of the store's service.

Here's how I would rate the food stores I've shopped at -

Great Supermarkets:
HEB's Central Markets - Best. Store. Ever. Worth the extra cost.
Tom Thumb/ Randall's - Same deal. Clean, bright, well laid out.
Loblaws - Almost worth the drive to Ontario. Great stores!

Better Than Average:
HEB - Funky layouts and spotty floors keep HEB out of the top class.
A&P - Used to be all over, found them again up in Canada. Not bad at all.
Rice Epicurean - Local Houston chain, too far away or they'd rate higher.
Whole Foods Market - Too much hippie crap, but great meats & veggies.

Good stores:
Fiesta - Not just for Hispanics anymore! Great international selection.
WalMart SuperCenters - Can't beat the price, and the food ain't from China!
Food Lion - Their CEO is an asshole, but the stores aren't bad.

Barely OK stores:
Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets - Great when clean, but that's rare.
Seller's Brothers - Great produce, everything else fell off the back of a truck.
Minyards - WHy are these people still in business?
IGA - Why food in small towns will inevitably suck.

Hell, No! I Won't Go! stores:
Carnival - Eek. Only on a dare.

Heard they're good, never been there:
Trader Joe's
Harris Teeter

R.I.P. - (at least in my neck of the woods!)
Piggly-Wiggly - C'mon! That's just fun to say! Try it!
Gerland's Food Fair
Apple Tree