Thursday, February 2

Economic Summit

So I go to Kroger this afternoon, on account'a it's one of the two large groceries I have to shop at to find all the basic national brands I, as a consumer, have a preference for. It's a curious thing, seeing that Competition is supposed to be the wonder drug of Capitalism, and supermarkets are perhaps the most highly competitive of retail environments.

I know I've explained this before, but I'm thinking ahead to next year's "Best Post" Koufax nominations and this baby needs some background. The particular tearing point right now--there's a new one every few months--is Twinings tea. I drink "Prince of Wales". I'll settle for "China Black". Beloved and beleaguered Kroger competitor Marsh Supermarkets used to carry the whole line, but when they did a major reset a few months back ("To serve me better") they simultaneously expanded the tea section and got rid of all the Twinings except Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey. This did not exactly meet my needs, which they apparently define as the desire to drop what I like every couple months and try something they get a better deal on. Which right now is a line of fourteen different flavored chais.

It isn't like they never sold the other varieties. They were out of "Prince of Wales" every third time I needed it.

Anyhow, I walk into Kroger, wheel my way to the cheese aisle, which I find blocked by four people instantly identifiable as Suits. All four seem to be talking at once, but two of them are conversing on cell phones, though they do exhibit the good breeding to sort of half-turn away from their fellows for the duration.

It need not be noted that none of these people--two of whose suits apparently were Kroger-affiliated--made any effort to get out of my way or even be aware of their surroundings. And because I'm not quite as familiar with the layout there, I had to return a couple minutes later in search of something I'd forgotten, and they and their cell phones were still frozen in place, still oblivious.

Tomorrow's my wife's birthday, so I made a trip down the card aisle. The card aisle is one of those little reminders the culture tucks away in places just in case you get too complacent about monogamy. "Oh, happily married, are we? Good, then you won't mind spending ten minutes looking through soul-deadening dreck." To be fair, I know people who are very good at negotiating the card aisle, and God Help Us All there are people who seem to actually thrive in it, but I'd rather shop in a tutu.

And damned if there aren't three more suits in that aisle! They're deep in a discussion of some Strategic Display Initiative, although they were good enough to actually move aside far enough for me to squeeze my cart by them.

How many suits does it take to sell a card? Or a hunk of Double Gloucester? Maybe one of you could have gone over and opened a second register for the five cart-fillers waiting at the one you did have open. I'm gonna remember this next time Kroger conducts its union negotiations in the papers.

But Kroger seems unfazed by the cutthroat competition that has brought Marsh to the verge of corporate tears and crocodile sales rumors. So it was with no small amusement that my wife waved an article from Tuesday's Business Section under my nose. One Jodi Marsh (it's a remarkable coincidence how many top Marsh execs share a surname with the company), VP of corporate relations and the company spokesorganism, resigned last week. This follows by about a month the announcement of her impending divorce from David Marsh (!), the company president. She informed the company a couple weeks ago she'd be taking a job with Sease, Gerig & Associates, Marsh's public relations firm for the last decade. And a week after that, Sease Gerig got a call from the Marsh board informing them their services were no longer required.

It's always good to get a peek behind the scenes at how the Grownups operate. And we get that thanks to our bulldog press and the fine reporters who endure the occasional overcooked shrimp cocktail to get that info to us. The Star's headline for this Grace Metalious tale of high finance? "Spokeswoman leaves Marsh, joining PR firm." I can only guess that "No Fucking Wonder They Can't Turn a Profit" didn't quite fit.

Every time I return from the grocery I have to wonder what percentage of the people who tout the Business Model as the answer to every problem actually do their own shopping.


Anonymous said...

You could perhaps find a shopping mate to help you heroically through such quandaries:

Mo MacArbie said...

Similar story out here. My least favorite grocery chain bought out the chain close by and promptly cut the selection in half. Now they've sold the company, which will be split three ways. Pump n' dump.

My favorite tea in the world (I don't remember Price of Wales, but this is a black Chinese variety) is this. You can mail order it!

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

You have no idea of the fight I got into with a store manager over the Kroger dropping the all cotton tampons.

I am sure those suits that that the State of the Union was the best marketing plan they had heard in years.