By George Capsis
Anxiously watching the TV weather forecasts the inevitable conclusion emerged—I had to do a big food shopping before the Saturday blizzard ended the possibility that I could make even twenty feet in the drifts with my new knee and unpredictable staggering gait.
But where? The local, within walking distance, expensive markets or Trader Joe’s where a quart of milk is $1.39 and a quart of orange juice $2.29? Since my youthful memory is indelibly incised with depression prices—milk $.11 cents and a loaf of Wonder bread $.11 cents—I worked up the courage and put on my new Christmas heavy wool sweater, knitted cap from Nelly and biked up to Trader on 21st and 6th (yes I said biked) and entered a store that I had never seen so crowded—but I mean crowded.
As I entered there were only three shopping carts available and the checkout line started right there in front of the entry. But what I did not know was the line did not make the usual U down the nut aisle and then around and up the frozen dessert and bread aisle to the check out, but instead it made a W down the nut aisle up the frozen food aisle up to the front of the store past the Veggies and then down the nut aisle and around to the straight run to the 30 check out registers. (Yes, 30 registers—what supermarket in and around the West Village that has 30 registers?)
Price, price, price is what drives these crowds to Trader Joe’s—no question about it.
But when our local markets have to pay crushing rents like $50 to $60 thousand dollars a month, they cannot compete with a chain that has over 500 stores nationwide and can amortize the New York rent (but I have the feeling they are still making a profit in New York stores given the spectacular volume of sales).
As I exited with two heavy bags, a Trader Joe’s worker was stopping new entries and directing them to get on a sidewalk line that ran to the end of the block with some 150 shoppers waiting in the freezing weather—the line grew in the seconds of my short stare.
What we need is a supermarket senior discount card with 20 % off if you are over 60 and 30% over 70 and finally 50% over 80 (maybe this is something for John Catsimatidis, owner of Gristedes to do in preparation for running for mayor again).