07 January 2012

Let's Don't Go Krogering

I've been working on a post recounting the Holidays but I've been distracted. Guess that happens when one has trouble paying attention, is easily led in other directions, or, let's say, has projects on which to catch up after two days without a computer. The original, 5-year-old hard drive gave up the ghost. Things are getting back to normal after having a new 70% larger, light-years faster hard drive installed, and I am determined to finish the holiday post. But for now, here is a note I just sent to Kroger via their website.

Back in the 1960s, there was a huge, colorful, tile mosaic of a happy, modern shopper pushing a cart-full of groceries on the wall at the entrance of the Kroger store on Baxter Avenue in Louisville. I loved shopping there with my grandmother.

Shiny, happy Kroger Shopper, circa 1959.

Forty-three or so years later, I've been living in Memphis for a couple of decades. During that time I've bounced between grocers, most recently Schnuck's and Kroger, to get the things I required.

I was less than enthused when our community received the news that Kroger would be buying out its only competition in Memphis for two reasons: A) there were things I could get at Schnuck's that Kroger wouldn't/didn't/couldn't carry, and B) Kroger would be a monopoly with the ability to limit selection, increase prices and more or less hold us hostage. The remaining grocers are either low-budget, discount operations that don't offer the products I prefer or they are small family-owned neighborhood stores that are charming for an occasional visit but not for regular pantry-stocking.

My expectations have been met. I have witnessed the elimination of some of my favorite staples from the shelves, like Eight O'Clock Italian Roast coffee beans, Romanoff Black (and Red) Lumpfish Caviar and Campbell's Select Harvest French Onion Soup. Those are a few of many that come to mind.

Then, there's the price increases. Understanding the state of the economy I expect food costs to rise in general, across segments. It's the quiet, gradual, specific instances that are glaring to me. Is there a run on mayonnaise of which I'm unaware? A soup shortage? Orange trees disappearing?

No, Kroger, I will not take what you give us and like it. I am not a reflection of that apparently gleeful, tile-faced shopper on the wall of my grandmother's long-gone grocery. I am making a conscious commitment to avoid your stores like the plague. I've had enough of the virtual nose tweaking you're giving us in Memphis by ditching things that have long been on our shelves without consideration and the extortion to which we're subjected in the checkout lanes (often while bagging our own groceries).

I'll be shopping at our local meat markets, produce stands and farmers' markets for perishables even more than I have in the past. And, I intend to find everything else I used to buy in your stores elsewhere -- whether it be in bulk at a warehouse store or piecemeal at various places online.

I'm seeking more value for the way I live.