By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Grocery shopping and clues about the economy

Entering Trader Joe's is like coming into a boomer zone -- sixties music wafting through the aisles, shelves brimming with boomer products ranging from stuffed grape leaves to Japanese mochi ice cream through Dutch aged gouda with the beautiful brown color. Tonight I was trying to buy food for a dinner for my international students on Sunday, and I couldn't find Japanese seaweed crackers, so asked one of the always-helpful salespeople. He explained that they no longer stocked this item, and then added: "You know, two of the company's suppliers have gone bankrupt in the past week, so we won't be having the items they made until we can find a new supplier."


Two (probably) small businesses bankrupt in one week -- not a good sign.


Afterwards, I went to one of our local supermarkets, Roche Brothers. They appear to have eliminated a service they have provided since we moved into this area: having an employee take your shopping cart to your car and load it. I noticed they didn't do this when I went to the store last week, but thought maybe this was because I had bought from the express line. To be honest, this feature (which their competitor Stop & Shop never had) always struck a bit against my New England sense of simplicity -- but it's interesting that it's been eliminated now.


(BTW, for procurement folks among my readers, and hence fellow bargain-hunters, coupon-shoppers, etc: Trader Joe's is still, in my opinion, a great store, but for the past year or so, the prices have not  been nearly as low as they used to be. I was looking for chocolate chips there tonight, and noted that their price is now no better than the price for the store brand at Roche Brothers, and actually more expensive than the store brand at Stop & Shop -- and pricier than Nestle's Toll House on sale with a coupon.)


On the other hand: my wife asked me to fill up the car with gas, because she had seen the low price of $2.95 a gallon yesterday at a station near where I was shopping. When I went in one day later to fill up, the price had gone down to $2.89.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Oct 17, 2008 at 12:10 PM


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