Poking One Of The Bears

Well, I said I was going to do it and I finally did it.  I composed a letter and sent it to a couple key people at Wegmans, a large supermarket chain headquartered in New York State.  Regardless of where you live, you’ve probably seen Wegmans’ name in print at some time in the past decade since they’ve consistently been in Fortune magazine’s top ten “Best Places to Work.”

Most of us (myself not included) do our shopping at a single store, and so each chain puts on sales and promotions each week to lure shoppers to their particular stores.  After waging this battle for years and not really coming out ahead, Wegmans decided they had to present something to the public that the other chains weren’t.  They developed a program they call “Consistent Low Pricing,” with which they try to convince the public that it doesn’t have to read weekly sales ads to see where the best overall deals are for the week.  Wegmans prints advertisements that show they have the lowest price of all local stores consistently, week after week, on many items people buy regularly, and therefore the best “bottom line” value for a weekly shopping trip is at their stores.

The problem is, and I made this point in the letter, that while it may be true that Wegmans may have the best total price for the items “test priced” from chain to chain, one does not get “something for nothing.”  The prices for most meat and seafood at Wegmans is astronomical (in my humble opinion).  I stated in my letter to their Senior Vice President for Consumer Affairs and their manager for nutrition programs that, with this marketing approach, Wegmans tends to steer shoppers toward keeping their weekly food expenditure low by buying inexpensive staple products that are typically, by nature, high in carbohydrates, and they therefore are contributing to the obesity epidemic our country is suffering. 

Wegmans has, over the years, significantly increased the number of store-branded items they stock their shelves with that cost a little less than the name brand versions.  One of their store lines is branded “Food You Feel Good About;” these items usually have some alleged “healthful” aspect to them, such as, “made with whole grains,” or, “low in fat.”  I mentioned to them in the letter that it is ironic that the motto doesn’t say, “Food That Is Good For You;” these are products with features that the public has unwittingly been led to believe is good for them, and they therefore “feel good” buying it for consumption.  I chuckle when I see a sack of Wegmans’ brand potatoes that have blazoned across the plastic bag the words, “Food You Feel Good About.”

I can’t fault the chain entirely; they still are the only store in my area that still carries Hood Calorie Countdown dairy beverage, and two flavors of Dannon Carb and Sugar Controlyogurt.  But I chided them that they carry only the chocolate and fat free white versions of the dairy beverage, probably in the erroneous assumption that fat, being a dietary enemy, should be eliminated.  If this is the case, why do they bother carrying the chocolate flavor, since it contains 2% fat?  I also mentioned that they recently decided that low carb adherents and diabetics do not need to choose from more than two flavors of yogurt (they used to carry four of the five available flavors), while everyone else gets to choose from the dozens and dozens of other types of yogurt cramming the dairy case.  (PS – They also moved the two remaining flavors to the very bottom of the yogurt case.  Easier to find?)

I considered reprinting the letter here in its entirety for your reading pleasure, but it’s six pages long (you all know how I tend to go on and on).  Other than the standard lessons in actual nutritional science, and advising that they all read Gary Taubes’ book as soon as possible, what I’ve told you in the above paragraphs pretty much sums it up.  This is what I advocated we all start doing in a post I wrote a while ago, and I think that I’m going to start writing my government representatives as well.  They may all toss my letters in the trash, but I’ll feel better that I at least tried to do SOMEthing to help.  Who knows?  Maybe one of them will make a change in their personal life as a result.  I know I did.

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2 thoughts on “Poking One Of The Bears

  1. While we’re complaining about Wegmans… have you noticed that their “Always Fresh Never Frozen” poultry is actually often frozen? I yelled (politely, of course) at the meat guy about this one day, and he said that the company says that they are “only freezing the juices to maintain freshness.” But on the whole, I find it a little hard to believe that a “fresh” turkey with frozen juices should take a week to totally defrost.

    I’ve written them about this a few times, no reply.

  2. You notice how Wegmans’ contact link on their website says someone from your local store will reply, but nobody ever does? I mentioned this in my letter to them just to see what they’d say. I spent good money to get signed receipts for my letters, but the signatures that I got back were of course from someone else, and unless I get some kind of response (don’t bet money on this), I’ll always wonder if the intended recipients ever saw the letter at all or if it was tossed in the trash by a filtering lackey as just another disgruntled individual’s complaints.

    LCC says he also shops at Wegmans and that we should be encouraging them to make changes that can increase their customer base or product sales. I like to think my letter stated some of those things, but unless there was a ground swell of their current customers revolting against all those giant bagels and doughnuts they roll out fresh daily and the ridiculously high prices on their meats and seafoods, I’d bet that the status quo is what we’re going to see for quite some time. Not a problem for me personally until I can’t get eggs or cheese. If they drop the milk and cereal and yogurt my wife likes to eat, she’ll have to get used to eating eggs and meat for breakfast like I do every day.

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