Buying Cheaper Groceries

New ways to get groceries cheaper spreading across country

The supermarket industry is going through the greatest change since right after WWII when suburbanization birthed the idea of today’s supermarkets. In each major market, we had three to four viable chains in an area. But that’s changing so dramatically now.

The traditional supermarket chains are under assault and the prices you pay for groceries are getting cheaper and cheaper.

Ground zero in this battle ground is the state of California. You may recall that I was furious at legislative moves in the Golden  State that effectively banned Wal-Marts to protect the traditional players at the behest of the unions.
But you can’t suppress the free market. The world’s largest retailer is now moving in with dozens of Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market stores that are a much smaller format than you’re used to.
Meanwhile, there’s another player in California that has opened store after store below the radar, away from the scrutiny of the state legislature. That’s employee-owned WinCo Foods. They build no frills supermarkets that are literally the size of a Costco. I haven’t been to one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
People love the WinCo shopping experience. They print an aisle directory for every store so you’re not overwhelmed by the size and you know where everything is. But take note that most WinCo locations don’t accept credit cards.
In addition to being in California, WinCo is also in Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. As they saturate the West, my hope is they move East.
In California, you also have Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy. The opportunity to save money is everywhere. Unions tried to put Fresh & Easy out of business by making it a crime to have self-checkout. I believe that unions have a reasonable purpose in our nation. I’m not a union hater as some people believe. But when a union exists to prohibit a business that wants to compete, that’s not OK to me.
It’s up to you to decide if you never want to set foot in a Wal-Mart, WinCo or Fresh & Easy. But you should decide, not some state legislature bowing to the wishes of a special interest group.
You have to allow the free market to be free.


One response to this post.

  1. I was shocked to read that unions managed to pass legislation in California making it illegal to have a self-checkout! That’s ridiculous! There are so many ridiculous laws on the books. In one state, it’s illegal for a man to shave his chest. In another, it’s illegal to loan out your vacuum cleaner. In yet another, it’s illegal for a man to wear a skirt (say good bye to kilts, gents). I understand the purpose for all these ridiculous laws, they went on the books to make it easier for law enforcement to catch certain criminals who couldn’t be caught otherwise.
    I also understand that banning self-checkout is a move by a union trying to protect its members. More self-checkouts means supermarkets don’t have to hire as many checkers. Generally speaking, you can have a group of 4-6 checkout counters watched over by just one employee. So, as a company, you save money. “Full-service” checkouts require an employee per counter. This is the same reason why many gas stations moved to self-service pumps. Full-service pumps required more attendants to ensure that all the customers were being helped. Self-service pumps meant you had to hire fewer employees to watch the station. In some cases, you only needed one person at a time to watch the station. That meant you had extra money to spend on building your customer base with attractive nuisances like sugary, salty and fatty foods, hot coffee or espresso and other things.
    The unions trying to ban self-checkouts aren’t trying to make things harder for customers. They’re simply trying to help their members keep their jobs. That’s the job of the unions, to represent their workers. More self-checkouts means more checkers out of work. It’s true that they’re convenient to the customer and cost effective to the company putting them to use. Still, I think that banning self-checkouts completely is more than a little extreme.
    Sorry about this long comment. When I get passionate about a subject, I tend to be a trifle long-winded.


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