Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Not The Safest Way"

                                                           

My Uncle Bill used to drop by our house for a cup of coffee before heading out to the grocery store.  After chewing the fat with my mom, he would swig down the last drop of coffee, then announce "well, better get going..got to get over to "the safest way".  He was referring to our little town's Safeway Store.  At that time Safeway was pretty much the "cock of the roost" of grocery stores in our area.


Well, I was in a Safeway just last Saturday.  I go about once a year because I've always found our local Fry's (Kroger owned) Grocery has the best prices.  Well, I had driven by Fry's on Saturday and the parking lot was jammed packed and, since I didn't want to fight the crowds, I drove on down to Safeway.  I was really just after some chicken noodle soup to battle this seemingly perpetual cold I've had since Thanksgiving.  Well, as I posted in a previous blog, a personal encounter of the kindness kind, had me hurrying up with my purchases and on my way back home.  However, I was in the store long enough to compare a few food prices.  What I saw was that Safeway food prices were at least 30% higher than the same items in Fry's.    I was not really surprised; that's why I only go to Safeway about once a year, even though it's about the same distance from home as the Fry's store.  And, on that busy Saturday, while the Fry's store was packed, Safeway was lightly trafficked.  Yes folks, in today's economy price matters.

One of the problems with Safeway's pricing is that they must price high enough to support their very generous employee pay and health and benefit plans.  I've always looked at Safeway as kind of a "boutique" grocery that seems to exist just for the benefits of the employee.  And that would be fine if Safeway was driving down costs to benefit the consumer...but they are not.  So, Safeway has been noncompetitive with the other major chains for awhile now.....so much so that they were recently bought out by Albertson's LLC, another giant grocery chain.  Of course in today's wild and wooly corporate world Safeway is not really Safeway.  Safeway bought the Von's grocery chain out west a decade ago, and Safeway itself is owned by a midwestern chain called Tom Thumb....so Albertson's is really buying Tom Thumb and getting Safeway and Vons. 

Confused yet?  Well, me too.  That's why I can only judge the merits of a business by how they price and how they treat the customer.  And, shall it come as no surprise to you conservatives that Safeway's union employees are snotty and remote to their customers while Fry's employees will do handstands to please you?  Thus, on a busy Saturday shopping day, Fry's parking lot is packed and Safeway's is sparse.  

What's my point?  Well, it's my age old gripe about unions.  Unions seem to breed employee sloth who are ungrateful that Safeway charges 30% more for their grub than Fry's...and just to keep the union employee fat, if not happy.  And making Safeway slugs happy does not seem to drive innovation and brilliant employee ideas for bettering the business...so eventually the chain goes bankrupt because they cared more for the employee than they did their customer.  Do we need to laundry list businesses that have done just that and no longer exist today?

Alas, we've come along way in 50 years with those long ago mornings where my Uncle Bill stopped for a cup of Joe before heading out to "the safest way"....it ain't so safe anymore...or friendly, or even price competitive.  Sigh.

10 comments:

Jerry Carlin said...

I suspect that the grocery business is highly profitable. Within a mile of my house I can find a Safeway, a Winco, Albertson's, and a Walmart Super Store!
oh, and a Fred Meyer! Each of these stores is bigger than a football field and I don't like any of them. Some have a double pricing system and members can get up to 30% off marked prices and all of them have loss leaders, dropped prices to get you into the store, free turkeys and such. I suspect they will all be out of business, maybe within my own lifetime! I do 60 % of my shopping on "Amazon Prime", great prices, FREE shipping, and fast service (from the corner of my basement window!)! My other shopping is from the local Farmer's Market and a couple Mom and Pop Bakeries in the neighborhood.
I actually Love Amazon and it is so easy to specify that I am only interested in "American Made" products! I have done most of my Christmas shopping from Amazon for the last several years. With the exception of electronic stuff I have never bought anything made in China for Christmas presents!

Craig Bailey said...

Unions did a great thing long ago, now they seem to be doing the exact opposite, bankrupting more than companies or corporations.Take a look at Detroit.

A Modest Scribler said...

Morning, Jerry. Don't know if you are also talking about Amazon's grocery delivery or not...we don't have that here yet. As to hard goods, yes, 90 percent of everything I buy is through Amazon. We have no mom and pop stores at all so I buy my produce from Sprouts Farmers Market or occasionally Trader Joes. As to the grocery markups and discounts, I play their dastardly game. I play their little game and go in and buy exactly what's on sale and little else, mainly because we still have the military commissary which about half the time will beat Kroger's...(used to be all the time but, like so many government bureaucracies their overhead as gone up as has their surcharges. I buy big meat purchases from Costco because I like their quality. And albacore tuna and bulk decaf coffee as well. Most of the Costco stuff I can't use because it is in too large quantities.

A Modest Scribler said...

I agree with you on unions, Craig. Did you read the french fry shortage in Japan this morning? All due to 20,000 L.A. dockworkers on strike. Look up what those bastards make to load and unload a ship...it's obscene! So, we end up with stuff rotting on the pier and nobody wins and everyone loses.

Jerry Carlin said...

I forgot entirely about Costco! that too is about a mile away but I don't shop there for the same reasons: way too big of quantity and it just brings out the Greed in me and I buy a lot more than I need. So, no, I never go there!...because I do not like Me when I am there.
I encourage Everyone to "Buy American" this Christmas! It can be an interesting challenge but it can also be fun and thoughtful. and, gee, I like this Country! Why not support it in the marketplace?

Frank said...

Used to do ALL my grocery shopping at Safeway. If you were a member the discounts were fabulous. Not any more. I can't afford their prices even with the discount and the meat is outrageous. Steaks are a thing of the past except when the local Food Maxx has early morning "get rid of the old meat" sales. Still good and REAL cheap. Gotta be there early though. It's a shame. But I love chicken and pork and can subsist on those. But I hate that my grandchildren may never have the luxury of eating beef 6 nights a week(fish on Friday). Thanks Unions...

TheRandyGuy said...

People gotta eat, hence the plethora of grocery stores. That said, like you, I am no fan of the surly, indignant attitude displayed by most (not all) grocery store employees. When the union employees went on strike at Pavilions (So Cal version of Safeway - a Nor Cal chain) several years ago, they were extremely aggressive and rude to shoppers, insulting and threatening those that dared cross the picket line. What were they seeking? Wage increases on top of an average employee salary of $25/hr with full medical. I remember this every time I hear about the "income inequality" so popular with the communists in Congress. Most of the store employees should be grateful they make that wage at all considering what they do for a living.

A Modest Scribler said...

Yes, I can remember some pretty aggressive food work strikers as well. They would sneer and yell at you and fully expect you to forget it when the strike was over. I quite shopping at one Vons store for their particularly hostile grocery strike force.

And no, not all grocery store employees are surly and/or remote. But when you have a union controlled work force the breeding grounds are there and they are almost inevitably in "i don't give a shit" mode.

Brian Clancy said...

I'm proud to say I'm quite the savvy shopper, hit the deals, use the wholesale clubs. Small army to feed here, my 11 almost 12 year old eats as much as I do, I'm a good-sized man " 6'1" and 210 lbs who works a physical job. I spend Sunday's baking and prepping quick foods for the rest of the week. I make my own bread from scratch and hunt, fish and garden. All help put food on the table and I get outdoors doing what I love.

A Modest Scribler said...

Sounds like you're handling life pretty well, Brian. Good to hear. And, like you, I had two fast growing sons who could eat more than I. Used to see dollar signs as they quickly put away a decent sized roast beef. (They didn't have Costco back then..wish they had)