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May 25, 2007 04:40 PM

Petrini vs the Ferry Building: debunked!

OK, so thanks to this: we all know about furor over Petrini's comments on SF's Ferry Building's Farmers' Market. A Bay Area blogger conducted a little price experiment and the results are surprising.

Read here:

Ferry Building was cheaper! Granted this was hardly an exhaustive study but still!

Yea, Sam! Although she will hate that I posted here...Sorry, Sam, but your work was too good not to share!

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  1. Are Safeway's online prices the same as in the stores?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I haven't a clue. Are the online prices less than the prices she posted? Would different regions have different online prices?

      edited: The online price for yukons are almost double the in store price. Which actually makes sense because you need to factor in service and delivery...

      1. re: chaddict

        A fair point, except that Safeway charges for they should be able to maintain the same prices and charge separately for service/delivery.

        Its an illustritive exercise from Sam, and a good one. I'd be interested to compare to the actual prices at a Safeway since I think the online prices are inflated a bit. Still, it goes to show that you can't make a blanket statement about one sort of place or particular place being more expensive than another.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        hmmm, just compared some other online prices to Sam's receipt and they are exactly the same so maybe not so big difference between brick and mortar and online...

        1. re: chaddict

          Her "receipt" is just a graphic, the prices are from That's why I brought it up. claims their prices are the same as in the stores but I'm skeptical. They look high to me but the only supermarket produce prices I ever see are at Berkeley Bowl.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            They look higher to me than the prices at the Safeway 2 blocks from my house; but that's an impression, I haven't done an actual comparison...yet. I'm curious now.

            1. re: ccbweb

              Like I said, most of the items were the same price after I did a few more comparisons. CCBWEB, I don't know your location but SF is one of the most expensive places and the web site makes you enter your zip before you can even see prices. So the prices must vary by location.

              1. re: chaddict

                I've used Safeway on-line to buy groceries as well as other on-line grocery service like Albertsons. The prices are usually exactly the same. The delivery gets absorbed in the service charge.

                Sam is right though. If you are shopping the grocery big-boys ... in SF Safeway, Albertsons, Cala,, Raley's ...etc ... the prices can exceed Ferry Plaza prices with produce that isn't as pristine. I was shocked last summer by the prices for peaches and other stone fruit at Raleys that matched and exceeded Ferry Plaza ... ditto Safeway ... if you are going organic to organic ... there's not a huge differece ... and those $4 a pound peaches at Raleys were NOT organic.

                1. re: chaddict

                  In St. Francis Wood. SF is rather spendy in many ways, of course. I'm sure the prices vary by location. I think Sam's work is interesting; but comparing online groceries with farmer's market seems to me to be a bit off. I'm not decrying the whole thing, but as I think about it, one of the reasons I've not used Safeway's online shopping/delivery service is that the prices on individual items were higher than what I can get by going down the street. That's before you get to a delivery charge, which is entirely separate and wouldn't matter for this comparison.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                Robert, I'm not completely stupid. I realize her receipt is just a graphic. Would you be happier if I had written "receipt" with the quotation marks? Or "her list of Safeway prices she allegedly paid"?

                1. re: chaddict

                  Just going by what you wrote: "... maybe not so big difference between brick and mortar and online."

          2. Even if the 11 items purchased were randomly selected (and there is no indication that they were), they wouldn't be enough to provide a conclusion. Sam (not me) needs a larger random sample of products from both markets [you could get a list of a few hundred products from both, identify the overlaps, and then randomly select say a hundred products for which aggregate prices could be compared]. Sam also needs to make sure the prices are what people acutually pay when they go to either the market or to Safeway.

            1. I forgot to buy a red onion from my regular market so asked husband to stop by Safeway (the most convenient place) on the way home. He got one medium-large onion that turned out to be $1.69 total. He reportedly had change in hand but then dug out his wallet when he realized he needed to dip into his bills.

              I checked the receipt later and the red onions are going for $1.99/lb. which seems very steep! I know that onions have been more pricey in general lately, but my other market probably has them for $1.25-$1.50/lb. I'll have to compare when I go to the farmer's market tomorrow...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Carb Lover

                Onion prices have come down again from over a dollar per pound for conventional in the last 2 weeks and quality is better. One of the local supermarkets in Salinas is advertising a special of 3# for 99ยข for yellow onions this week, and the other supermarkets are under a dollar a pound for conventional red, white or yellow now. Organic onions at the farmers markets I frequent are usually in the $2.50 to $3 per pound range.

              2. I know I don't normally stop by Chowhound these days. Thank you for pointing out my post.

                I would just like to make the point that I never meant to claim that this was any kind of exhaustive or scientific study and said as much in my post. It was merely a comparison of what I personally bought at the market against what Safeway online were charging last weekend (their prices change constantly, I am told) where I understand the prices are the same as in the stores. I didn't even plan it either - the idea popped into my head after I had been to the market. I was just fed up of people saying it was overpriced, but there being no hard fact, or evidence to support those theories and so decided to do a little investigation.

                Btw - I conducted the comparison from Zip Code 94107. Had I thought about it more sensibly I would have done it from the Ferry Building's zip code I am not too far from there anyway. I would have expected the prices to be approximately on a par and was surprised when there was such a big difference.

                Of course I wish I had time to do a more thorough study, but I am just a regular person with a full time day job and I don't have the resources, money or time. Maybe I will try and do a collective study with volunteers via my blog?

                I don't think I proved anything but I hope I helped I challenged the status quo thinking that The Ferry Building 'must' be more expensive than everywhere else simply because most people seem to think so. I hope I helped people to at least question these assertions.

                Btw I didn't include meat or eggs etc because I find the difference in the way these items are produced is so far removed, I would not deem them comparable.

                1. A comparo between FB FM and some place like Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market seems a bit more on par -- similar quality/availability and closer business models (although obviously different).

                  Corp/ag-biz food isn't cheaper (one of the points about slow food) so an indie comparison with farmer direct might give other insight. Also, who buys produce from Safeway expect onions or bananas once in awhile or unless they have to?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ML8000

                    Well, I never buy bananas *anywhere* but interestingly enough, I find onions to be one of the least reliable produce items at Safeway. The garlic is often bad as well for some reason...(OTOH, the onions at Alemany FM today were downright cheap and beautiful!).

                    I do sometimes buy limes, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, greens, apples, and herbs at Safeway and have had good luck with those items. Since I go to Safeway anyway to buy staples (Cheerios, oatmeal, condiments, Cherry Garcia:-), club soda, dog food, dishwashing liquid, etc.) I will check out the produce. When they have a 'club card' special it can be very reasonably priced (but I don't know if those club card specials show up online). I am a busy working person and if they have what I want and it is reasonably priced and of good quality, I will buy it there even though I don't 'have' to. Both the Diamond Heights and Potrero Safeways have a decent to good selection of organic produce, btw. I could probably get some of the staples and much of the produce at somewhere like Ranch 99, but that is quite a ways from my house, whereas the closest Safeway is walking distance and there are two more within a three mile radius.

                    As for the indie comparison: I don't do much indie store shopping other than the little produce markets in the Mission, which can have excellent produce and very, very reasonable prices. Selection can be hit or miss however, which is another reason that, busy working person that I am, I sometimes do go to Safeway. I do occaisonally shop at Molly Stone's, mostly because they carry good meats (though NOT good seafood) and Strauss products (the later is the main reason I go there). Mollie Stones is a smaller chain and thus may be more comparable to an indie: However, despite their reputation for quality their produce is no better than Safeway's (sometimes worse) and is consistently more expensive, often MUCH more expensive, in my experience. I am reasonably sure that FB FM is cheaper (and better) than Mollie Stones as well. I certainly would rather shop at FB....

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Berkeley Bowl's produce is better than Safeway's, but mostly I find it a big step down from what I get at the Berkeley farmers market or in our Full Belly CSA box. There are exceptions, e.g. Persian cucumbers (just went out of season) and Odoriko tomatoes.