Saturday, January 10, 2009

Stop, and Shop Local

Stop & Shop received its own share of grumbling when it came to town. Some people would have preferred a department store to help fill out New Paltz' retail needs, although enough others were looking for lower grocery prices in town that it wasn't going to be widely opposed. Sure enough, the prices in Shoprite are much lower now. I had my own problems back in 2006 which I wrote to the New Paltz Times about. To save space I would gladly provide you with a link to my letter, but as readers of this blog know Ulster Publishing doesn't keep articles and letters available on its web site indefinitely, and the publisher hasn't responded to my email to at least tell me how long he waits before purging, so before I get to my main point I'll reprint it here:
I recently became aware of the fact that the new Stop & Shop here in New Paltz doesn't regularly employ grocery baggers. Occasionally someone will bag things here and there to help move things along, especially in the self-service checkout lanes, but it's not policy to have them regularly available. This is quite shortsighted, and perhaps this letter will spur the management to consider a change, for several reasons:

1. The other grocery stores in the area use baggers, and we rather enjoy the service. Supermarkets cannot compete on sheer amount of inventory alone; we consumers like service. Shop Rite is just across the street and helpfully bags its customers' groceries.

2. There are many reasons checking out can take more time than we'd like. Problems with technology, missing prices, and questions from other customers all add to the time we're waiting. If the cashier is also responsible for bagging, this wait can become unbearable. On more than one occasion I've seen my stressed-out neighbors snap at a cashier because of this. Overall I've noticed that the cashiers at Stop & Shop aren't quite as friendly as I would like, and that level of personal abuse undoubtedly takes a toll. We live in a friendly community, and baggers will help keep it that way.

3. It is very difficult for teenagers to find work, because there are less and less things they can do for money, especially for those under the age of sixteen. Gone are the paper routes, the snow shoveling and the lawn mowing, and very nearly so has baby sitting vanished as well. Our kids need legal jobs that will allow them to learn the responsibilities of showing up on time, following instructions, and managing their own money. A drive down Main Street in the summer, or through the Plaza parking lot on a Friday night, shows just how many kids have nothing better to do than hang around, either because they can't earn money for other activities or because they have far too many idle hours. If Stop & Shop had grocery baggers on its staff, it could make a positive impact on our community by providing jobs for many of these kids.

4. Perhaps most importantly, New Paltz is a community that has a small-town atmosphere, and by depersonalizing the grocery shopping experience by taking away that helpful bagger, you're undermining, however inadvertently, an important part of our community's character.

I'm going to steer clear of Stop & Shop for awhile and allow them some time to hire grocery baggers. If you are a patron there, I hope you will bring this letter to their attention, and voice your support for the baggers.
I've ended that mini-boycott, but I'm still bothered a bit by that store . . . well, by supermarkets in general. Would it be so difficult for them to offer a few more local products? I'm not talking about a complete retooling of the inventory, but jeez, why can't I get local apple cider from the Hudson Valley in these stores?

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