Saturday, June 22, 2013

Snake and Potatoes

A few weeks ago I saw a t.v. commercial in which a shopper specifically compared prices between Wal-Mart grocery items and the same items from a local Mid-Atlantic grocery chain, one that I happen to patronize with great fidelity. The chain, which has Acme Market stores all over the place, pays its workers good wages and gives them health benefits. The Wal-Mart ad mentioned Acme by name and showed the price comparisons on screen.

What I wanted to do after that was go to Wal-Mart and photograph its disgusting grocery aisles, which I have only traversed two or three times, in every case with great dismay that anyone would purchase such suspicious-looking foodstuffs.

In the news today is a story about a woman who found a live snake in a bag of potatoes she bought at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart says it will refund her money on the sack of potatoes if she has the receipt.

Now, I'm not saying I totally buy this story hook, line, and reptile. It's rather convenient that this lady had the right kind of container to put the snake in. If I found a snake in my potato bag (which I wouldn't, because I get my potatoes at Acme Markets), I wouldn't be able to catch or contain it. But the fact that my local news radio is running with this story says a whole lot about Wal-Mart groceries.

It's been several years now since my mother-in-law suddenly found her apartment infested with giant black ants. These ants arrived suddenly and were like nothing any of us had ever seen before. They weren't the teeny tiny little pismires typical to Mid-Atlantic kitchens. They were more than a quarter inch long. And fearless.

Finally my mother-in-law found the source of the ants. They were living in the bottom of a box of Wal-Mart brand breakfast cereal. When she threw out the cereal, the ants disappeared.

And then she continued to shop at Wal-Mart, because the prices are so low!

I'm not here to tell you how to spend your grocery dollar. I'm here to tell you how I spend mine. I pay more for my groceries than I would if I bought them at Wal-Mart. But here's what I'm paying for: ant-free cereal, snake-free potatoes, fresh local produce, and health care for workers. The local Acme Market is very small -- smaller than those super-pharmacies that are popping up everywhere. You can do as you like, but for me, smaller is better. If I want to take a hike, I'll go to the mountains. If I want a quart of milk, I want it in three minutes, from pickup to purchase.

One last anecdote, and I'll close with another shout-out to Acme Markets.

One night I was in a hurry. I went to the Acme and grabbed a bunch of things, including enough filet mignon to feed self, Mr. J, Heir and Spare. When I got home, I discovered that I had left the bag with the filet mignon in the cart in the parking lot.

I drove back to Acme, and I asked at customer service whether or not anyone had turned in a bag of filet mignon. Yeah, right. Of course not! Whoever found that puppy in the parking lot sort of hit the lottery!

But you know what the on-duty manager at the Acme told me? She said, "Go on back and pick out what you lost. Just take it." Maybe she recognized me, but I don't know. I didn't recognize her. How did she know I was telling the truth? She didn't. I could have been a cunning filet mignon thief. I also could have taken twice as much as I bought and lost.

Okay, compare that to Wal-Mart demanding to see the receipt for a bag of potatoes that had a snake in it before they would refund the price of the potatoes!

Acme Markets, this commercial is for you. In this world, we get what we pay for. I'm not rich, but I want good food and happy staff. And no snakes with my potatoes.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm with you, Anne. I never shop at Walmart for anything. It is the Devil.

Lucretia said...

I LOATHE Walmart! I had a card with them once (under duress from my spouse), but thank goodness I got rid of it. The founder of that store must be spinning in his grave over what it's become.

Anne Johnson said...

Lucretia, that's an interesting comment. I don't know anything about Sam Walton. Were his values different from his children's?

Terraluna said...

I won't set foot in a Walmart. And when I shop, I try to make my dollar do double duty by paying for my food and providing a decent job for someone. I also try use my meager spending power to encourage sustainable and humane farming and small local producers.

If those Walmart shoppers knew how much it really cost them in lost jobs, government benefits, and quality of life to save a few cents on canned corn, they would be tearing the stores down.

Anonymous said...

Anne -- I don't know anything about Sam Walton either, but I believe I remember Walmart originally having, and proudly proclaiming, only American-made goods. It's gone pretty far from that -- about as far as you can get.

Faye Dewell said...

Sometimes I wonder if people shop at places like Walmart for food because they don't know what real food tastes like anymore, you know? We're so used to mass produced produce that we don't recognize how crappy the goods are. Thank you very much, but I'll take my locally grown agriculture any day over what I find in pretty much any supermarket.

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Kim, if what you say is true, then Sam Walton is indeed turning in his grave. I found a piece of tile washed up on the shore in Atlantic City that said "Made in America." What a sorry commentary on our modern world!

Maebius said...

It is sad what WalMart has become, in the larger picture of society. But, there's still a few local mom&pop stores standing. we try to support them at farmer's markets and quirky little shops on main street, and etsy (even though Etsy's getting full of resellers lately I think too).

Keep fighting the good fight!

and if there's a snake in my potatoes, at least I know they probably were not flash-bleach-radiated in the bag "for freshness", right?

Anne Johnson said...

Bleach or snakes? Fine choices. Time to plant a few spuds in the back yard.