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Problems buying beef at Durham/Triangle area Harris Teeter lately?

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I've noticed an ongoing trend with Harris Teeter lately, maybe in the last 6-8 months or so (these are stores I've been shopping at for years): while they will put certain higher-end cuts of steak on sale in the flyer, there are usually very few packages of them available (if any) in the cases. Sometimes they will have the more expensive-label item in the butcher case, but none of the 'normal' label pre-packaged. Usually I don't have time to ask them to cut it for me and I end up not buying any.

Today I decided to try the HT at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill, not my usual store, but I remembered them being well-stocked in the past. My two main objectives this morning were the sirloin for 6.97 and the skirt steak for 4.99. The sirloin was nowhere to be found, and there was a single ~8oz piece of skirt steak in the cases. I had time, and I'd gone out of my way to actually buy this stuff, so I talked to the first kid I found at the counter. I had to show him the flyer with the sirloin before he even knew what I was talking about. Then he went to ask his boss. His boss proceeded to try to talk me into buying higher-priced, smaller-cut pieces of the black label sirloin at the butcher counter instead ($9/lb), talking about how the typical shoppers at his stores were 'portion conscious', and then finally gave in and cut me a piece of sirloin for the $6.97 price.

When I told the guy I always seemed to have problems actually FINDING any of the sale beef in the stores, he mumbled something about changes going on with the various local stores.

Meanwhile I asked if there was any more of the $4.99 skirt steak, and the younger guy said he needed to cut more. He wandered off for a while, and eventually I realized he wasn't specifically cutting it for me, he appeared to be breaking down a pretty big piece (maybe) so I figured I'd come back after I finished the rest of my shopping and see if I could grab some from the case when he was done.

Less than ten minutes later I was back. No other customers around, he had seemingly put ONE package of skirt steak in the case.

This has been going on for so long at this point that I really have to assume there is some bait-and-switch action occurring with these sales. I've tried multiple locations, multiple days of the week, multiple times of day. There are rarely more than one or two packages of any given sale steak cuts available, although strip steaks aren't as bad (but always, always have an inedible tendon running through them). I don't always have time to beg them to actually cut me some (or argue about whether they are even going to sell what's in their flyer, like I had to this morning).

I'm not sure what to do, food prices drought corn crop failure etc, but they need to stop advertising them if they aren't going to sell them.

Any suggestions? No, I cannot afford Whole Foods prices. I'm getting close to breaking down and getting a Sam's club membership. Thoughts?

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  1. I, too, was only able to find one package of skirt steak at my HT (Stonehenge in Raleigh) this morning, but I put that down to the fact that it was early Sunday morning and there seemed to be more than a few gaps all around the store. I haven't noticed your problem at either Stonehenge or Leesville, my usual HT's. Also, I tend to find the people at the butcher counter very accommodating - when you can hunt them down. I wonder if the problem may be specific to the particular personnel in question.

    1. This doesn't really pertain to the meat situation at HT, but I've never been very satisfied with the ones in this area, and they seem to be getting worse and worse. The produce situation is really dismal - all that water on the stuff and it starts rotting (sometimes right there in the store). I've asked for things I can't find on a Saturday morning (surely a time a lot of people do their weekly shopping) only to be told "they're probably on the truck with the other 2,000 things we're getting delivered right now." So I tried them on a Tuesday morning this past week. And guess what? Same situation, and no one around to ask. I think it is so odd that there isn't any real competitor. I shopped at the Lowes way down 15/501 for a while when I first moved here, but it wasn't significantly better. But maybe I should go back. I'm pretty fed up with HT at this point.

      4 Replies
      1. re: LulusMom

        As far as competitors go, I seem to recall reading here that we'll be getting Publix soon. I moved here from South Florida in the mid-2000s and I have only very fond memories of Publix.

        The price difference in groceries between Publix in SoFla and HT in Durham when I moved here in 2005 was frankly astounding--I seemed to pretty much double my grocery bill by moving here, which was particularly disappointing because the food quality was so much better in Florida. I expect what with inflation and drought and whatnot we won't see a big difference in price if Publix really does go in, but hopefully they'll bring their excellent deli, and better stocking.

        1. re: thessalian

          Oh yea, Publix is coming and they are going to give HT a run for their money - finally! I'm in the Charlotte area and with the new Whole Foods and Publix moving into town it's already impacted the ever-powerful HT. It's completely crazy that I can find a lot of items significantly cheaper at Whole Foods, of all place, than at HT.

          A competitor for HT's stronghold in NC has been long overdue. I, for one, am hopeful.

          1. re: lynnlato

            We lived in Charlottesville VA for about a year before moving to the Triangle and the HTs there were SO much better than they are here. I blame the lack of competition (because you can't really consider WFs to be the same thing). The produce at the HTs in C-ville was incredible; here it is close to disgusting.

        2. re: LulusMom

          I agree with many of the sentiments about HT. Lowes, it seems, gets the majority of their meat already cut and packaged from Winston-Salem.

          The best place I've found for meats, and butchers willing to accomodate the cusotmer's needs, is Piggly Wiggly. There's one in Pittsboro that's locally owned, and the guys in their meat dept. are quite knowledgeable and helpful. Maybe the fact that they're a smaller, locally owned business that makes a difference? Whatever it is, it's primarily where we shop for our meat now.

        3. I went to grad school in South Floriday from 96-98, and the main grocery store in the area was Publix. I really, really disliked it at the time. Practically all of the produce was shrink-wrapped in plastic (so if you wanted apples, you had to buy the six apples that their produce person selected, no more no less, and you couldn't pick out the ones you wanted). Even the bananas were shrink-wrapped in plastic. Such a waste of materials. The specialty food section was pitiful, and I never tried the meat there. Publix seemed more like an equivalent to Food Lion than to Harris Teeter. Worst of all, there were no cart return stands in the parking lot. They always offered to have a grocery bagger help you to your car with the groceries, but really as a twenty-something healthy young person that seemed pretty ridiculous, but I knew that meant I'd have to push the cart all the way back to the store by myself. Either that or do what everyone else did, which was to leave the cart idle in the parking lot to roll into cars haphazardly. Overall, my main sense of Publix is that all the corporate decisions about service and presentation were made by CEO's who didn't do their own grocery shopping. Maybe it's gotten better since then.

          I haven't noticed any problems with anything at HT lately. Sure they are occasionally out of cilantro, but so is Whole Foods. If there is ever something on sale at HT that you don't find available, go to the customer service counter and they will write you a rain check so that you can purchase the item at the sale price whenever. I've done that with produce and grocery items, so I assume you can do it for the meat dept.

          I agree that HT is too pricey, but I still do much of my shopping there, just because Kroger and Food Lion are profoundly un-enjoyable to shop in. I'd rather grocery shop at Target than either of those two.

          1. I have not had a problem finding sale items at the HT in MLK Blvd. in Chapel Hill. I really like their lamb shoulder, which seems to be perpetually on sale for $4.97, for making curry. They always have it as chops so I asked if I could get it cubed instead. They said I could but would have to buy the entire piece, which came out to about $36. They cut it and put it into 3 separate freezable packages for me so it was worth it.

            They recently had head-off 10-15 count Gulf shrimp that was awesome. I didn't find shrimp that cheap when I was visiting FL last fall.

            1. Have you tried the store in Hope Valley Commons (1125 W NC Highway 54) in Durham? I go there a lot and it's not bad. You could also try the Super Target at Renaissance (I won't tell!)

              1. Yesterday around noon at HT/Hope Valley Commons I almost snapped a picture of the single, lonely, nearly-expired/marked-down package of top sirloin (on sale this week), to show you guys what I mean, but there were too many people around. :)

                On the bright side, I realized Whole Foods is about the same price for the same cut, so at least I have another source.