Labor Day 2016: The Supermarket Economy

Getting paid for what you love to do has its price.  Once someone pays you to write something, you have to write it – angle it – to their viewpoint.  If someone pays you to write, for instance, that seatbelts are a lifesaver, whether you agree or not (and I happen to agree wholeheartedly that they do save lives, having seen the consequences of not wearing seatbelts twice, as a witness), you jump up and salute and write out that article.

This Labor Day my mother, finally understanding what a “blog” is, gave me $100 to post a blog about the unfairness of supermarket demographics.  Mom was particularly inflamed about ShopRite’s advertisement in this week’s circular, offering $15 off on fresh meat when customers place a ShopRite from home order of $150 or more.

Keep in mind that Mom is 91, she refers to my gentleman friend as “Hank” which was the name of my Ken doll substitute.  My parents couldn’t afford the suntanned Ken and I didn’t want to give my guy doll any pretty boy, soap opera names.  Also, since my brothers had so many pals it was hard to come up with a name that they didn’t already own.  David?  Nope.  Michael?  God, no.  Neil?  Taken!  Mark, Ditto!  Then there were the family and family friend names.  Billy and Art were out.  John?  Gone.  Tom?  An uncle.  Tom and Rick, Dick and all the other forms of Richard – cousins.  Or the names of numerous school bullies?  Not a chance.

So I chose Hank.  An awkward name and yet it conjured up images of cowboys, truck drivers.  I’d gotten tired of going down the list and was running out of names.  What’s in a name, anyway?  So that’s what my mother remembers – the name of my Ken-substitute doll.

Mom is also the first half-cousin, once removed, of Robert F. Wagner, Sr.  Yeah, that Robert Wagner – the state judge and senator.  Mr. Social Security himself.  He and Grandpa were great pals, it seems and, sorry to say, some of his Socialism rubbed off on my mother.

Hence, her fury at the ShopRite advertisement obviously aimed at wealthy shoppers who can afford to pay ShopRite to do their shopping for them and then have the store reward them for expensive meat purchases on the order of $150.  Outrageous.

“We poor people with limited incomes are sitting here cutting out coupons,” Mom raged, “while these rich people are calling in their orders because they’re too important to do their own shopping!  Meanwhile, little old ladies like me get knocked over by the store employees running to do their shopping for them!”

Mom was right about the scurry of store shoppers.  I was knocked out of the way myself just the other day at ShopRite.  I didn’t berate the young lady because her eyes were bulging in terror of not fulfilling this important order punctually.

Mom was also outraged at the idea of digital coupons.

“What if you can’t afford a computer?  If you can’t, you’re left out of a deal.  I don’t have a computer!  I can’t afford one.”

Um, that’s not exactly true, although I put my $100 wage at risk saying so.  She’d have the money except that she’s been bailing out me and my younger brother.  She’s also been bailing out my older brother, who doesn’t need bailing out, but wants his “fair share” anyway.  She could afford the computer.  We’ve tried to get her to use one, but she doesn’t have the patience to learn to use it.

Not having a computer, these day, is not like having a telephone.  But it is an expensive commodity.

As for the fairness of ShopRite’s prices, Mom was so incensed at the meat ad, that she didn’t see, on the very same page, the ad for bananas at 39 cents a pound.  Or ShopRite Italian sausage for $1.97 a pound.  Very good prices, indeed; the best of any store in the area.

Farther below, they advertised Ronzoni Pasta for 77 cents.  That’s outstanding.  Sure, Super Lump Crab Meat was on “sale” for $17.99 (a savings of $2.00).  But Ajax Dish Detergent is on sale for 88 cents.  Ditto Banquet Pot Pies, which Mom loves.  Add coupons, and you can save a lot of money shopping this week.

ShopRite is the store for all shoppers.  The wealthy aren’t idiots.  Wait a minute.  Yes, they are.  They will walk into one of ShopRite’s upscale competitors and pay a good deal more than $19.99 for Super Lump Crab Meat.  You can’t get into ShopRite Oakland’s parking lot on a Sunday Morning.  On Sunday’s, the store is a madhouse.

Meanwhile, its competitor, Pompton Lakes A&P, is going out of business.  Unlike the other A&P’s, they’ve found no buyers for this location.  The A&P’s produce is a good deal fresher than ShopRite’s.  I’ll pay 39 cents a pound for Shop Rite bananas.  But the fruit flies will be buzzing around by Friday.

I must say, I wasn’t happy with this past week’s A&P bananas.  However, they looked sound on the outside.  I think some customer dropped them on the floor where they were probably run over and then placed back on the stand.

I don’t know why the A&P’s location is considered so bad.  ShopRite’s location is much worse.  It’s up on a steep hill that’s difficult to navigate in the winter.  The parking is horrible, the aisles are narrow and the customers are all rude.  The nearest highway, Route 287 is several long lights away.  The entrance to Route 287 is only a quarter mile away from the Pompton Lakes A&P.

Unfortunately, the Stop & Shop is closer; it’s located right at the Route 287 intersection.  Woe to the truck driver who tries to find Rt. 287 Northbound.  They often find themselves locked into the narrow streets of Haskell and Wanaque, trying desperately to make a u-turn amidst homes and businesses built close to the road.

Yet, it’s not as though this shopping center is lacking for customers.  Like ShopRite, the A&P parking lot is packed every Sunday.  That shopping center is the heart of Pompton Lakes.  Some of the restaurants along the town’s main drag are nothing more than fronts for some rather dubious activities.

This past Sunday, I wanted to take a walk in the sunshine, the day being cool and breezy.  But there on the little bridge over Post Creek hung the shadow of a drug dealer, like a vulture cooling himself in the shade.  I was the sparrow, craning my silly neck to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.  I turned around and went to the A&P the short way, across the street.

Mom shouldn’t be so quick to complain about wealthier shoppers, although she’s right to complain about preferential services that cause the employees to steamroller on-site customers in their haste to fulfill the orders of the nobles.

Since New Jersey’s economic downfall, towns like Pompton Lakes have witnessed an exodus of families with sufficient incomes to keep supermarkets like the A&P in business.  ShopRite of Oakland depends upon the wealthier clientele of its upscale town to keep it going.  Thus, it can afford to lower other prices for the hoi-polloi like us.  As a result, the Pompton Lakes Shopping Center has no takers, so far.

With the influx of immigrants, legal and illegal, dependent upon the government, the town will continue to raise its taxes and drive away business and people of means.  Once the A&P is gone, if there’s no replacement, the mall will turn to ruin, as we’ve seen happen to other abandoned malls.

These former shopping centers become the haunt of derelicts, illegal immigrants, and/or drug dealers.  Walking around Pompton Lakes already isn’t safe, even on a Sunday afternoon.  With the departure of the supermarket, it will become less so.  Our property values will plunge even further, although our taxes won’t.

Criminals thrive in lonely, abandoned locations.  The store will close around Thanksgiving, according to store employees.

The only thing we’ll have to be thankful for is the low price of gas for when we locals have to drive farther down the road to Stop & Shop or risk our lives turning onto Rt. 202 to get to ShopRite in the ice and snow.

Perhaps at Christmas, we can ask Santa Claus for a new supermarket for Pompton Lakes, on well-steeped in traditional Capitalism, where the savings don’t just trickle but positively pour down on less affluent consumers.

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Published in: on September 8, 2015 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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