Dowd: Salvation proves elusive in renovated Big Super


An ambassador for Jesus recently offered me salvation in my supermarket. It’s a bit late for that.

I was, in fact, a wayward soul on a tour of shopping’s Purgatory.

My hometown supermarket just completed renovations that had shuttered the place for much of the summer. I have a love-hate relationship with the place. I hate the place, immensely.

I love passing it by, enroute to the bougie, upscale market just up the road with the prime steaks and the fresh produce. The cashiers even bag your groceries without asking.

Not so much Big Super. I’d like to meet the corporate pencil pusher who decided the cashiers don’t need to bag groceries unless prompted. If my elderly mother had to bag her own sack but once I’d be really mad.

And fancy place never smells of dead rodent. Can’t say that about Big Super. If you once worked in a supermarket like I did, stocking shelves and bagging groceries for people, you remember the odious stink.

Big Super has ill-mannered, badly trained kids and vapid adults, all underpaid, holding down the food fort. You can always spot management. They’re the better-paid folks in vests standing around and observing. They never get behind a register to help clear backed-up lines. Too important for menial tasks left for the minimum-waged, minimally trained check-out folks.

Giant corporation shrugs. They do not care one bit about you or me. They are making a killing on the backs of the public, where a “profiteering trend” stood out in the food industry in particular this year, according to Forbes. Food company profits “far outpaced worker wage growth.”

Poof: So disappears the specious argument that federal bailout money is responsible for inflation. In fact, more than 53% of price increases in the last two years have been driven by profit margin gains, according to Forbes. Wage increases: less than 8%.

It’s wanton greed, pure and simple, perpetrated on the middle class. You still want your kid to work at the supermarket for garbage wages? Think he’ll learn important life lessons? Plenty of better lessons to learn elsewhere.

Big Super has so much money it can afford to renovate their store every five years or so. (Are you still waiting to re-do the bathroom?) They hear about the 9% inflation rate and use it justify price increases in the 20% range. Want proof? A bag of potato chips that went for $3 last year now commands $3.50 or even $4. It’s potato chips.

Then there’s the chicken and meat prices that have forced regular folks to do without. Big Super chortles: Let them eat hot dogs.

I stopped in to see the “improvements.” There was new signage and rearranged aisles. The pickles and condiments now face the berries and bananas. The canned fish stares down at the bulk potatoes. They now offer a “wings bar” in the produce section because chicken wings must be all the rage. The only real wings on earth are in Buffalo, N.Y. Heaven in hot sauce.

Throughout, the aisles and shelves were in different sequences but contained virtually the same products they sported pre-renovation. I joined other confused patrons, wandering like lost souls in search of the milk and honey of Long Island life.

I lost 15 minutes looking for my crackers. The chips aisle now included an array of candy, a section designed to drive insane the parents of young kids.

I found the crackers and went to the dairy aisle in search of a brick of cheddar. It wasn’t there anymore. I became flustered, more angry than usual. I was just lost.

Then, the spokesman for Jesus appeared. He looked like John Lennon and decided my soul was in need of salvation. He asked me to pray with him. I declined. He pressed on: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?”

Paradise by the dairy-case light. Hallelujah.

Now, people have been trying to save me for decades with no tangible result. And believe me, I could use saving. I wanted John Lennon to ask Jesus for a righteous path to the brick of cheddar but thought better of it. I said thanks, I’m good.

In addition to a wretch like me, the price-gouging profiteers could use some saving of their own.

I found the cheese where I started this odyssey: in the produce aisle, near the wings bar and on the opposite wall from the canned fish. That came right after I spotted the squished mouse, flattened pancake style, in the beer aisle. The poor guy was long past redemption. Thoughts and prayers.

Maybe management can send a kid to clean up the carnage. He’s obviously not bagging my groceries. Can I have an “Amen.”


Joe Dowd is editor and associate publisher of Long Island Business News. His award-winning column runs regularly.


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By Opinion