Boston Bone Quest

May 5th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

In what I’ve come to view as my mini-safaris, I got another chance to go on a Boston search over the past few days. This time, it ties into the too much that I know about the grocery biz.

In the years I was a grocery trade magazine editor I saw again and again why stores lose regular customers. We can and do often overlook rude and incompetent clerks; I suspect many of us treat such experiences as free theater while we are on a line. We also are pretty tolerate of high prices; we can justify modest ripoffs as stocking exactly what we want or being nearby.

What we won’t tolerate and consider cause for not returning are OOS — out of stock.

Where’s My Stuff?

It can be something you use regularly and expect to be there. It can be an advertised special. Customers going into a store with reasonable expectations leave steamed and may not come back if what they want isn’t there.

In this case, it was my bone drugs, or really minerals. Since my broken leg and surgery, I’ve supplemented my diet with calcium capsules. My wife is of course a person of the female persuasion and takes them for her own internal purposes.

As we got into our last jug of them, I could have ordered some, but the local groceries have all advertised that their house brands or some major brands were two for one. A quick calculation put that below the unit cost of stuff ordered, including the shipping.

So, it was off to Stop and Shop, which has their house brand, Care One, on twofer this week. Easy, eh?

Not so fast, Calcium Kid!

I amused myself when I had other tasks by careering from one S&S to another to another. I didn’t get my hopes up for any one and that was wise.

First came the rebuilt gem on American Legion Highway in Rozzie. It’s new, has big aisles, and looks efficient. Well, I already knew they were too dumb to put in a fresh-fish counter.

Having lived in lower JP for many years, shopped at the Purity Supreme long before it became a Grossman’s Outlet, I knew that the locals like their fish. Particularly those from the Caribbean are pretty demanding, loved PS’ selections, and still support free-standing fish stores in that same strip mall, in Eggleston Square, Dudley Square and many more places. Why S&S wouldn’t accommodate that speaks volumes on corporate mentality.

That new supermarket has numerous other shortcomings. For example, we buy quarts of non-fat plain yogurt weekly. They badly understock those. They invariably have low-fat plain, vanilla and other variations, but they clearly get as many non-fat plain quarts as the other types. They run out first and I often find none or one there.

This is not hard to predict. I can go on at considerable length about the innovations of the grocery industry in materials handling and inventory control. For the purpose of the yogurt example, the key factor is that the secret is in the cash register. As well as plugging in the unit price for an item, scanning the bar code adjusts the inventory level for the store. They know when they are getting low and can easily run reports on items consistently OOS.

Back to bone capsules:

S&S American Legion — a whole health-and-beauty-aid aisle, but heavy on baby butt products, moderate on makeup and extremely low on vitamins and minerals. They didn’t have squat and there were no places for what I wanted anyway.

S&S Truman Highway — just as masochistic amusement and because it’s a vigorous mile and change walk each way down and up the mysteriously named Summit/Washington/Wakefield street, I checked. This sad little store allegedly will get a larger replacement but is now like a double convenience store. I suspect any New Ager’s medicine cabinet has more minerals and vitamins. No dice.

S&S Dedham — I allowed myself to hope for success at this very large store. They can also run out of my yogurt, but they almost always stock enough advertised specials. They had labels for the big calcium bottles on the shelf, but alas, some other questing sorts had beaten me. A couple of sizes were OOS and there was one bottle of one variety remaining. A twofer doesn’t work with one, which must be why it was there.

I checked a few other where I don’t usually shop, but had reason to be nearby. Harvard Ave. in Brookline isn’t much of a store and didn’t have it. The northern JP one near Jackson has few vitamins or minerals.

S&S South Bay (Allstate Road) — the mother lode is here! I don’t know that I’ve bought any minerals here ever. I’ll keep it in memory. They had several times the shelf-space devoted to their food supplements as any of the others in the chain. I had a choice of numerous capsules per bottle, various milligrams per capsule, and with or without vitamin D.

I came by bike and my selection pretty much filled the spare space in my shoulder bag. It was two 500-capsule jugs. I’m not only set for awhile, I also know where to go next year.

Inventory by Caprice

You would think that Stop and Shop, or any major grocery chain would be more consistent. You’d think that they’d have similar stock store to store.

Of course not and part of that is reasonable. They expect their local managers to understand their customers enough to tailor the stock to their tastes.

You also have to wonder what would make managers in Roslindale figure their customes don’t want a real fish counter instead of shrink-wrapped, maybe long dead, stuff. It’s probably the same attitude that figures their customers don’t want a selection of vitamins and minerals.

At the least, I expect them to read their own weekly fliers. If they advertise food supplements at two-for-one, it’s essential to have a full stock for customers who walk in the store expecting that. If customers get their two of this or that, they are almost certain to pile a cart with all that other stuff. If they don’t, they’re likely to exit with only car keys in hand.

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One Response

  1. okra says:

    Amen for your fish counter comments! C’mon, S&S! It’s New England!!! What’re we known for? Frozen burritos?

    Nooooooo, fresh fish!!!

    No New Englander worth his salt would EVER by fish wrapped on a styrofoam tray! You deserve to lose business to Purity Supreme!

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