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Jun 6, 2005 10:12 PM

The Fairway cheese section. I have to vent.

  • m

I have generally been getting cheese only at Fairway, in spite of the rudeness of some of the employees at the cheese counter... I figure working for Jenkins probably is not a great pleasure, so as long as I get what I ask for, what the heck.
But now my limits have been tested.
I ask for a cut of Fontina. The employee points me to the pre-cut, pre-wrapped chunks. I say no, I want the Fontina Val d'Aosta and I always get it cut by hand.
He says it's the same Fontina, but it's on sale, and as long as it's on sale they won't cut it in front of you and you have to get it wrapped in plastic.
I say -nicely- Steve Jenkins' book says NOT to buy from a store that wraps your cheese in plastic, and (again) I really prefer it wrapped another way.
A second employee butts in to say it's the policy of the store and no, they won't cut it.
So I ask the first employee which other cheese they have that would be like Fontina, and he lists other melting-type cheeses... POINTING TO THE PRE-WRAPPED SECTION! "There's the Comte, the Morbier..." Aaaaargh!
My whole point was, I don't want shrink-wrapped cheese.
And I understand their job is hard, but it was quarter to ten p.m. on a Saturday, and I was the only customer. So what if I wanted one chunk of cheese properly wrapped in paper? It's $10 for the store!
I guess I could have asked for a manager, but I decided not to get any cheese at all. Had my sandwich with avocado instead (avocado from the Food Emporium across the street.)
There are two guys who work at the counter who are really pleasant, so probably I'll just shop when they're there. But I also will start buying cheese at Zabar's again. It may not be as nicely ripened, but in my experience from the past, the Zabar's cheese counter has much, much less attitude.

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  1. I'm sorry but not surprised by your recent Fairway cheese counter experience.

    There was a similar thread last month bemoaning the current state of what was once a destination. Seems others must have noticed as well given the lack of cheese customers in an otherwise crowded store.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bk

      I posted last month about the cheese department too (see link below). While I'm glad to see Fairway at least make an attempt to address this posters complaint, Fairway never bothered to respond to my two page e-mail I sent directly to the store. Now that Mr. Jenkins has provided his direct e-mail, I am going to resend it to him and see if he will step up and address me without hiding behind the general mailbox at Fairway.


    2. I was at Fairway on Sunday looking for a food item mentioned in the Sunday Times. I asked a floor clerk who had one opinion and at least directed me to the area where the product would logically be, but couldn't find it. Asked another guy who was directing check-out went looking for the item and never returned. I asked a guy with a tag on that said "Manager". He had not a clue. Meanwhile I watched another person reach into the olive barrel, grab an olive, eat it and spat the pit on the floor, reminding me why I never shop there. It's gross, poorly managed, overpriced, and full of people I spend my life avoiding.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bystander99

        I bought Murray's chicken there a few times recently, and noticed that it was consistently worse than the Murray's chicken I buy at my local supermarket. It's not as fresh, and has an off flavor. I'm surprised by this, since I'd expect them to have a quick turnover, but it happened several times in a row.

      2. Fairway (I shop at the Harlem store) is one of the very few NYC food miracles and a dream for any food lover. It’s the only store in NYC that gives me the feeling of being in food market where you can sniff the mixed aromas of the bread counter the coffee booth, the olives, the meat and the fish.

        The verity of produce and products offered by Fairway is huge, the quality and freshness are great and the prices are fair.

        Being a little bit “dirty”, as one complained, is part of the magic of real food markets around the world. That’s why I love Fairway and prefer it over the neatness of Whole Food that one poster described so nicely as “futuristic”.

        Much more mistreatment than the one “Mar a” suffered, unjustifiably, would be required to force me to shop at the other dreary supermarkets - what a depressing thought, or at outrageously expensive up-scale food stores.

        Despite my above praises, shopping at Fairway's cheese counter that I love, I always wondered why a cheese counter that as far as I know is managed by Steven Jenkins that recommends in his book (that is being or was sold at Fairway’s cheese counter) not to buy from stores that pre-wrap your cheese in plastic, does pre-wrap the cheese that he sells at Fairway in plastic. Now we hear from “Mar a” that Fairway’s cheese counter staff, refused his repeating requests to wrap the cheese in paper using the excuse that it is not inline with the store policy. This is my experience with Fairway’s cheese counter as well – they don’t wrap in paper although I have never insisted to get it in paper at Fairway.

        I love Steven Jenkins’s book and, I love Fairway’s cheese counter (I wish Steven Jenkins would make me love it even more…like start wrapping in paper) but the refusal to wrap in paper doesn’t seem to be right. I hope they will change their policy.

        But I’ll continue to shop at Fairway. Overall it is a fantastic store.

        3 Replies
        1. re: YSCRoberts

          I agree. I think what's getting lost in the nitpicking -- including my own -- is that Fairway is generally a great resource that sells a lot of good food at a reasonable price. I'll say something else: while there's no excuse for rude or slipshod service (I've never had this problem there myself), I've seen a lot of rudeness on the part of customers at Fairway, some of whom seem to turn into wild animals when they enter the store, like shopping is a contact sport. So if the counter help is occasionally not bursting with friendliness I can understand it.

          1. re: Chris E.

            yeah, tho perhaps yuppifying a bit in recent years the customer behavior at the Broadway Fairway has always tended to be overly aggressive - Characteristic NY but not the best of NY with the crowds and pushing.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Tell me about it. Someone once purposely slammed me with her shopping cart because I couldn't get out of her way (day before Thanksgiving) and on another occasion, a large woman with a generic European accent accused me of trying to cut in front of her at the cheese counter (something I'd never knowingly do). I protested and she continued to bait me and I made her look pretty stupid in return, so she shoved me. We don't home-grow enough of our own crazies? I didn't make a stink because I shop there a lot.