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Grocery Store Ambiance......

Love to shop at Fresh Market....like the lighting, the wood floors.....only really go for one or two items ...too pricey.....same for Whole Paycheck......like them, but upon checkout usually frightened....For the bigger box Supermarkets Harris Teeter (the newer ones) seems the best...a little more pricey than Lowes., who seem to be trying with their new format stores....Food Kitty, Kroger........usually dishevelled, unkempt.....too bright...Handy Hugo's/Piggly wiggly on steroids....only shop for non edibles....
Love Trader Joe's products, pricing....but I feel like its always either a track meet or a singles bar on Saturday night....hit or miss in stocks......Super Walmart/Super Target/Sams/BJ's......."you need any tires to go with that 5 pound bag of frozen broccoli"?.............

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  1. I for one will not pay extra to shop in a store for the "ambiance", just not my thing. Harris Teeter runs some nice stores, they are always very clean and well stocked, but their prices keep me away most of the time. Lowes Foods is a Harris Teeter wannabe, They will build a nice store and not maintain it, or update it for more than a decade, really sad (I worked for them), terrible corporate management, inconsistent quality from store to store. Too bad because their in store staff works their tails off but with bad corporate direction.

    Give me food lion any day (especially the one in Morrisville @ Park Place), very clean, well stocked (although very basic), and affordable.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bakeman

      I find it very frustrating that in order to fully satisfy my "ideal" shop .....that I might have to incorporate several stores/formats.....ie bulk toilettries, BJ's/Walmart.....staples....both Trader Joe's, and Harris Teeter/Lowes....I live near Fuquay, and the Kroger is abysmal.......all the Krogers that I've seen in the Triangle have been weak.....Whole Paycheck is hit or miss.....quite frankly I find myself going to Trader Joe's, HT and either Walmart,or BjJs to complete my shopping list.....I think that if money was no object the venues might change........to the extent that Fresh market , and Whole Paycheck might incorporate a larger role due to their "ambiance".........Trader Joe's might get cycled in more ....particularly if I was more flush , and on the make.....

    2. There are at least 3 Krogers in easy driving distance, and the quality and cleanliness vary from store to store. The closest one often has unwrapped meats in their meat section and spills on the floor. The furthest is unoragnized so things are hard to find. But the one in the middle has a nice produce section, good deli with Boar's Head meats, and quality seafood and meat departments.

      The closest Food Lion is such a disaster that they have armed security and close at 10pm. But there's another just one exit down the highway that is gorgeous.

      1. I really miss shopping at supermarkets in Bolivia. Just after the cart rack is the beer cooler. Pop a top on an icy cold Ducal beer, leisurely shop and put the empty can on the turn belt. Ahhh!

        22 Replies
        1. re: Passadumkeg

          Boy, you talk about ambiance! Where oh where can you do that in the US?
          They have some laundries that sell drinks, don't they?
          I like to eat chips and shop. If only there were a Long Trail to go with that....I could spend hours there.

          1. re: Scargod

            Scargod, I wonder. They have cold beer in Stop and Shop, I wonder if a person 'would' be stopped if they took one of the cans/bottles to use as fortitude against the cell phone users/aisle blockers? If they had cold martinis, I might be tempted.

            As to ambience, again it's funny. Our local Stop and Shop is remodelling, per the Whole Foods model. They are making the bins that hold the watermelon out of nice wood and updating the olive bar. Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, imo.

            It is what it is. Then again, around here, that don't fly.

            Nope, since the new voe rich in Westchester like to eat while they shop, Stop and Shop has put in tables now. That way, the cell phone users can sit and eat and talk and whatever else it is they do at Whole Foods.

            Well, at least Stop and Shop hasn't instituted paying for parking, so I'll just get my groceries, get checked out, talk to the checker and bagger, and be on my way.

            No doubt paying more at the checkout to accomodate those who want to talk and eat and have their watermelons housed in a better crate.

              1. re: dolores

                Why never mind? I agree you are paying for ambiance that I am not interested in, either. Perhaps they are trying for the European ambiance; like a mini-vacation (in your head) when you walk in the store. Sorts deja vu/flashback euphoria.
                I bet they could pay for someone's wages, with the veggies they toss, if they did it like in Europe and had someone to wait on you (much like at the deli counter in SnS) and they'd swat at your hand with a stick if you tried to touch anything. Nah, that wouldn't work...especially in Texas. Someone would be likely to get their head blown off. Just kidding (sorta).
                Where ya' been Delores? I haven't seen much out of you since we last got spanked by the Mod Squad.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Wow .... does some store somewhere charge for parking, Dolores, or was that just a worst-case-scenario? Hey - if you're in Westchester County, that could happen!

                  Supermarket ambiance is, occasionally, important to me too, but I can overlook a lot of things in the name of paying reasonable prices. Here in TX we've got everything from the grubby (Fiesta) to the sublime (Central Market) and of course our share of WholeFoods and Krogers. We also have Randalls, which once upon a time set the standard for service and selection. Now they are owned by Safeway, and the "safeway attitude" is all too present. Their prices are aligned with Kroger.

                  Earlier this year the Central Market in Houston was resurfacing its parking lot, so they offered free valet parking. Im sure the cost of this (and the new parking lot) was reflected in the prices, but since I dont shop there every week, I don't mind paying a bit extra for my staples, and the pleasant experience of shopping with other foodies who are there for something other than Coke and Pampers.

                  My point is, we have a LOT to choose from here, and there's a big difference even within the same chain. At Fiesta you realize that it takes a family of 6 to buy a 12-pack of Pepsi, but big (12-15) fresh shrimp are $5.99/pound. The Kroger in one zip code is vastly different from the Kroger 5 miles away -- they even have different weekly specials.

                  And may I vent my pet peeve about service? The cashier who asks "Did you find everything OK?" as Im ready to hand over my money and NOW they want to help me find the items that I needed but couldn't find? They'll hold up the line and send the clueless sacker back to look for something ....

                  1. re: Cheflambo

                    Oh yes, Cheflambo. There's the old 'buy something and we'll validate' but the denizens of said parking lot would run over their grandmother for a parking spot. Too stressful for me, thanks.

                    This area is getting better in offerings too, Chef. There will a giant new supermarket next year, and if they don't enclose the parking lot, I will be one happy camper.

                    1. re: Cheflambo

                      "The cashier who asks "Did you find everything OK?" as Im ready to hand over my money and NOW they want to help me find the items that I needed but couldn't find?"

                      Oh, thank God! I thought that I was the only one who is peeved by this stupid question when I am about to pay for my groceries. Fortunately, I have come up with an excellent response for which the cashier has no reply. When I am asked, "Did you find everything that you were looking for today?", my response is, "Actually, no. I was seeking world peace, but I failed to find it". Lots of dumb looks and puzzled expressions are the result. The reactions are absolutely priceless, IMHO.

                      1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                        While I agree that such questions are mundane at best, the clerks are nonetheless required by management to ask. Maybe I'm getting old, but I fail to see the humor in your responses. Come on, they're just doing their job. Why mess with them?

                        1. re: marcia

                          I don't find that question bothersome either.

                          It's preferable to saying hello to the checkout person and getting a response of............

                          nothing.

                          But even that is preferable to checking myself out.

                        2. re: Ted in Central NJ

                          Come on Ted, why be mean to someone trying to help you? Jfood is appreciative if there was an item he could not find if someone wants to help. But in fairness if jfood needed an item he merely goes to customer service or asks someone stacking the chelves to help.

                          And he would much prefer finding that the widget was in aisle 12 and leave his paid basket at the check-out lane, go buy the widget and then go to express for a 3-minute turnaround versus driving all the way to another store to find the widget.

                          Jfood appreciates people who want to help, not make them feel bad.

                          1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                            Yes, the question is asked at the least opportune time. Most retail stores hire mystery shoppers and that question is generally one that the mystery shoppers are specifically asked about. It is not unusual for a "bad" (ie:not asking the question) shopper review to result in probation or being fired. So yes, most of the cashiers know it is inane, but if saying it keeps them employed...Much of retail is fraught with silliness.

                            1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                              i thought that the "did you find everything" question was so that the customer had an opportunity to give feedback on the general stocking of products in the store? (not on finding something on that particular visit to the store)

                              for example
                              cashier: "did you find everything. . .?"
                              soupkitten: "actually i'm bummed because this store is so close to my home, and i came here for watercress for a salad, but the produce man says you guys are out. it's too bad because i know that grocery x and chain store y are carrying very nice hydroponic watercress from local source abc, so i'll have to make an extra stop today, and i've decided to get the rest of the produce for the meal at their store too, it's usually so pretty!"
                              manager (bagging groceries): "really. local source abc you say? sorry we don't have it today, but i'll ask the produce man to check that out for you. thanks for shopping with us, here's a coupon for your next visit, we appreciate your business."
                              and behold, next time i visit, with my $ off coupon, there's the abc watercress!

                              in other words-- customers who just can't find the bush's baked beans will/should ask customer service or an employee working on the floor-- but the cashier's question has more to do with what the store offers vs. competing stores, and what the customers are requesting/demanding the store carry. i think it's useful in a democratic capitalist demand-supply way, since every customer has a chance to make requests, and it's part of the cashier's job to relay the info to the store's management, so that they can, you know, stock the requested item, to serve the customer better, make profit for the store. . .

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                I think you are correct and it has worked pretty well for me. I have asked and made requests and lo and behold, it shows up in the store. In one case a small liquor store owner that really tries, near me, just needed a little prod to start stocking a bigger range of Sam Adams products. He cleared out space for it and it started moving. Now I can get my Cream Stout there and we're both happy!
                                There still is the wacky situation where they DO have what you want and hold up things while they try to rush and get it. You're like,"don't bother" and they're like, "no..., customer service is job 1", even though it is inconveniencing three or four other customers.

                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  I wish it were always so easy, kitten.....For example, when my DH asked our local (Las Vegas) Costco why they didn't carry canned garbanzo beans (Chana masala is his "go to" in a hurry supper, and so he buys the canned beans - shortcut for the "in a hurry" part - by the case). The answer was "Oh, those are a specialty item. We don't carry specialty items at this store." (I guess in the Reno store they aren't considered a specialty, because they were always available there....).

                                  And then there was the time that the local Smith's manager told me that they don't carry my favorite brand of bottled salsa "because we really don't have much demand for Mexican products" (???? Has she noticed the demographics of this town???).

                                  So now I shop at Albertson's when I go to a large chain, which isn't perfect but at least has garbanzos and Salsa Brava and even a few Indian products. Not as nice looking as Von's (no "pretty" produce displays; no wood floors and warm lighting...) but I actually think their selection is better. Now if only they had the checkout counters set up in such a way that you could unload the cart AND watch the scanner at the same time......I find myself waiting to get in line behind someone so I have time to unload while they are paying...that way I don't have to explain to the checkout person why I insist that they wait until my cart is fully unloaded before they start ringing up (I catch mistakes in the scanner almost every visit!)

                                  1. re: janetofreno

                                    janet - very wise to watch the scanner! We had some here in Houston a few years back, and although they were very nice, big as a mini mall, and a wide variety of foods, they were horrible about ringing up the correct prices. You had to watch them very closely. They even had a guarantee that if they over rang then you got the items free, and your money back. If I were a dishonest person I could have used that to my advantage, but I just stopped shopping there. I also didn't like the policy of 2 for $3., but you HAVE to buy 2. Eventually some kind of lawsuit was filed against them, here at least, and they all went away.

                              2. re: Cheflambo

                                It's been a while since I lived in Houston, but say it ain't so that Randalls has lost its patina.
                                Dang, I loved those stores.

                                But the prettiest store with the best prices and awe-inspiring selections was one we found in a new burg in Ontario, east of Burlington and west of Missauqwa (sorry, that's not the right spelling). It was in a new area with townhomes. It was light, airy and the bread section alone had me gawking. Then the meat section.

                                And only when we left did I start muttering to Mr Shallots that how in the heck could Canadian corporations own so many US markets without passing along some of the niceness?

                                1. re: shallots

                                  Share the name with those of us who are close enough to find this mythical store!

                                  (it's Mississauaga that you mean :))

                                  1. re: shallots

                                    I agree with Dani (as always!) I dont miss those Albertson's either, and for the same reason.

                                    Randalls is no longer, really, Randalls ("Your remarkable store"). The decline began as soon as Safeway bought them. That said, Randalls also had the policy of "if the scanner is wrong, the item is free" and I came away with $11 in batteries one day when I had a sharp enough eye to catch the error.

                                  2. re: Cheflambo

                                    There's a supermarket here in Queens (NYC) that has paid parking, and no validating. (Amish Market at Atlas Park for locals.)

                                  3. re: Scargod

                                    Sorry, Scargod, I had posted a dupe of what I said earlier.

                                    I'm here, Scargod. I try to be good. Doesn't always work, but I try. :O)

                                    1. re: dolores

                                      I'm GOOD, but I try to be BAD....Sometimes it works! :')

                                      BTW, cheflamBo: I hate that, too. "Oh, I'm sorry, maybe next time....(we'll get it right) bye-bye!"

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        "I'm not really bad, I'm just drawn that way." -Jessica Rabbit

                                        sorry, couldn't resist...

                            2. I don't know if I would call it "ambiance", but certainly the cleanliness of a store is very important to me. If the lighting is dim, or the place seems dingy, or worse - there are uncleaned spills, etc. on the floor, I'm not likely to shop there. My reasoning is "If this is the way they treat the public areas, what's going on in the back?".

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: KevinB

                                That's exactly my feeling about restaurants!

                                1. re: KevinB

                                  Oh Kevin, I agree! When the first thing you smell is the whack of ammonia as you walk in, you just KNOW it is covering up something worse! There was a place like this in my neighborhood (Danhole and I were discussing it lrecently) and although it was close, open 24 hours and had VERY cheap prices on stuff, I went in once and would never EVER go back because it was so foul. I drove past it last week and they were closed, boarded up, gone. My guess is that the Board of Health paid them a visit.

                                  And Ted, I will have to remember your response the next time the cashier asks if I found everything I was looking for ... its a classic!

                                  1. re: Saddleoflamb

                                    Again, I fail to see the humor in "confusing" someone who is merely trying to do his or her job.

                                    1. re: Saddleoflamb

                                      Why is that when they ask paper or plastic, it is then that I remember that I left my jute bags in the car?

                                      1. re: Saddleoflamb

                                        They are actually HDPE or "polyethylene".

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          Not for Greenie Granola here. Ours are jute and HEMP! Now put that in your pipe and smoke it! Gee, I think I just figured out why, I can't remember to take them into the store. Far out!

                                        2. re: Cheflambo

                                          You know Chef, I was thinking about that place after we drove by it last night. It really was a shame how that went so far downhill. It used to be owned by Al and was across the street from our apartment complex. It was a clean, friendly, small place that gave green stamps out (double on Tues., I think). Everyone knew you by your first name. The selection was limited, but good enough. After Al died it got sold to this family, and they moved and expanded it. Good specials at first, then the smell set in. Like rotting meat. UGH! And I knew the family - they were nice folks, but what the heck went wrong? Did they sell it to someone else or what?

                                          That is my deal breaker with a grocery store. You can be an old store, even a bit dingy, but if there is ANY smell, other than fresh bread baking, I'm outta there!

                                          1. re: danhole

                                            I drove past again Friday and I wondered what might become of Foodland. I thought for sure the "foot traffic" was keeping the place open, but I guess it just wasn't profitable. There's no sign that anything else is going in there, and I'd sure hate to see that building stand empty too long. If I had my 'druthers, I'd hope for a nice clean upscale Central Market/HEB hybrid. But its probably not big enough, and would have to be torn down first. I'd love to see a nice gourmet market (even Rice Epicurian) in 77018.

                                            I often visit the Fiesta on N. Shepherd @ 23rd, and although they slapped a new facade on it last year, and rearranged the merchandise inside, its still, well, an old Fiesta. No bad smells, however, and the selection of skankwear out front was considerably reduced by the renovation.

                                            And speaking of ambience, I did my weekly shopping at the Randalls @ Shepherd and Westheimer yesterday -- a very pleasant experience. Its a Flagship, so they have a greeter, fancy cooking toys section and custom roasting "nut bar" (insert joke here). This is the only Randalls in town where I dont feel the presence of the Safeway "attitude". There's always someone around to help you find what you want, and everyone is VERY friendly and (gasp!) speaks English. This, to me, is worth the higher price I might pay for a few things. And honestly, I feel safer there than WITH the ubiquitous security guy who patrols the parking lot at Fiesta.

                                      2. I do not pay attention to "ambiance" in regards to a grocery store. As long as they have good produce, the other items I want, and are clean. That is all I care about.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: swsidejim

                                          swsidejim, it's a boondoggle, a form of three card monty.

                                          While eveyone is oohing and ahhhing at the new houses for the watermelon and the tables and chairs at the new and improved Stop and Shop, no one will take notice of the increase in prices to cover these 'improvements'.

                                          Good for Stop and Shop, we all know what PT Barnum said.

                                          1. re: dolores

                                            great post as always.

                                            give me a no-frills grocery store that is clean with good produce in the winter months(I hit farmers markets and farmstands in the summer, a good deli section, & the other basics at a fair price and I am happy( I dont need fish, or meat from a supermarket, thats what the local no-frills meat market, and the realtively local fishmonger is for).

                                            People can keep their "gourmet" stores with their prepared foods, frozen fish, average meat, coffee kiosks, etc. Not my style.