Saturday, March 26, 2011

Nobody says you have to change prices every week!

My local City Market (Kroger) is the only supermarket in town.  Having a monopoly, they don't really try.

Not only are their prices 50% higher than the very same items at Target (about twelve miles away), but they seem overly challenged by the most basic tasks, such as stocking shelves, rotating stock, ordering condiments (they usually wait until they've completely run out before thinking about ordering more), and training of employees.  There's a handful of older employees who have lots of seniority and great benefits, the new ones rarely last long.

Today, however, I want to talk about their sale prices.  Except for those things I buy every week, I usually wait until something like rice, olive oil, tea, coffee, or paper goods go on sale before buying them.  Even among the meat and produce I buy every week, I'll allow sales to influence my buying decisions.

So it's very frustrating when I see a sale price, load up the cart, and then don't get the posted price at checkout.  There are two main reasons for this.  Either the item's sale price wasn't entered in their computers properly, or the sale ended, but nobody bothered to take down the sign.  It's the latter that really bothers me.  Because I either have to tell the cashier (or U-scan supervisor) to correct the price, or I need to go wait in line at customer service after my purchase to get a refund.  Either way takes up time.  You would think that all they need to do is walk back to the place the item was, look at the sign, and return.  Yet for some reason, they walk away and you wait so long, you wonder if they're ever coming back.

It is Kroger's policy that if you don't get the posted price, you get the first item free, and the rest at the posted price.  That's if the employee knows the policy.  I had one young lady tell me that the sale expired and refused to do anything about it.  I insisted she contact her supervisor, who told her to give me the difference between the posted price and that which I paid, and I had to e-mail Kroger customer service to get the rest of my refund.

Now you might take the side of the store, and say "but they change prices on thousands of items every week, how can you expect them to avoid mistakes?"  My answer is that nobody asked them to change prices every week.  It's their decision.  And if that's what they want to do, they ought to do it right.  Also, given that nearly every week (and sometimes two or three times a week), I buy something and do not get the sale price, how many items are they goofing up?  My purchased items reflect a small percentage of the items they carry.  If I encounter problems every week, that means that hundreds, if not thousands of items are incorrectly priced at any given time.

Now lately I've been making my fruit purchases based on sales.  Why pay $2/pound for apples when you can get them for $1/pound?  But when the sale is over, they rarely take down the sign.  Yesterday I saw that the apples I bought last week still had the sale price, even though the "end date" was three days earlier.  I pulled the sign out of the holder and handed to an employee, saying "this sale is over."  Later, when I was checking out, she told me the sale was still effective.  I didn't want to argue with her about proper labeling of signs, but then she went further and told me not to remove the signs but to point them out.  I asked her if it was inconvenient for her to have to replace them, and asked her if she thought it was equally inconvenient for me to have to wait in line at customer service every week because they can't keep their signs current.

Interestingly enough, this morning they had a sale sign next to their fish sandwiches.  They make a good breakfast, so I grabbed a couple and didn't get the sale price at checkout.  The same employee who made a fuss the day before was working the U-scan, so it was with great pleasure (and some annoyance) that I told her I wasn't getting the posted price.  I had to wait several minutes for her to walk back to the deli, then come back up front, then push a bunch of buttons, but I finally got the right price.  I thanked her and she said nothing.  I hope she appreciated that my point was proven.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Consumerist announces the brackets for Worst Company in America

From The Consumerist:

For the sixth year in a row, we asked Consumerist readers to send us their nominations for our Worst Company In America tournament. And this year's response was the greatest by far.
The 32 companies listed in the above bracket are the result of thousands of nominations. Once again, the two most represented fields are telecom — including reigning champ Comcast — and banking/credit, each taking up six slots.
One area that saw a cut in the number of nominated companies is airlines, which dropped from four nominees in 2010 to only two this year. This might come as a surprise to some given the number of negative headlines about air travel in the last year. We chalk the decrease up to three factors: 1) That the increase in fees was attributed to the airline industry in general rather than any specific carrier; 2) That voters didn't blame the airlines for the TSA's procedures; 3) Two of last year's nominees — United and Continental — are now one flying behemoth.
Among the businesses new to this year's tournament is BP, whose public image was tainted by its troubles in the Gulf of Mexico. And then there's newcomer Johnson & Johnson, whose McNeill division must have set some kind of record for the sheer number and variety of brands recalled from store shelves in a single year.
Starting tomorrow, we'll be posting two matchups each day until we get down to 16 companies, and then 8, 4, 2 and ultimately the company that earns the right to hoist the golden poo.
Best of luck to everyone and may the worst company win!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's time we stop redundant and superfluous packaging

The next time you're in the supermarket, convenience store, or co-op food store, take a closer look at the packaging.  Things like corn chips, pretzels, and potato chips come in bags, whereas crackers, cookies, and most cereals come in bags that are in boxes.  Why the redundant packaging for nearly similar items?

The increased cost is just one issue.  A bigger problem is the energy and resources needed both to produce and transport the products, as well as the demands superfluous packaging puts on landfills.  All that's really being done here is creating more waste.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years, but may have reached a level of inanity yesterday, when I read that Del Monte wants to sell individual bananas wrapped in their own plastic bags.  

If bottled water is a ridiculous product (and more people are realizing that it is), then unnecessary packaging of products is equally silly.  An increasing number of municipalities are implementing bottled water bans, encouraging citizens to drink tap water (which is essentially what most bottled water is anyway), filtering their water, or using reusable water bottles to meet their hydrating needs.  Packaging needs to be on their agenda as well, since the excess cardboard boxes and plastic wraps add no value but increase the cost of cities to transport and dispose of trash.

The twenty-first century needs to be the era when humans learned to live sustainably.  If future generations are going to enjoy the same standard of living we do, then we need to adopt practices that don't place an unsustainable burden on the Earth and its scarce resources.