Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Sad Day in Lubbock

I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a song on my mind.

Welllllllll...Ya got trouble, my friend, right here
I say trouble right here in Lubbock, Texas!

This morning the good people of West Texas woke up to the grim reality that our prized local grocery store dynasty had sold to Albertsons.  An uproar began to gather in the back of our throats followed by a howling "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" that rose from our lips.  If you're not from around these parts, you may think that this change is but a tempest in a West Texas teapot.
Let me explain.
When we moved to Lubbock 22 years ago, I was comforted by the sight of Albertsons.  I was an Albertsons shopper in Dallas.  It felt like home.  The aisles were arranged the same.  Everything was...well...the same.  I heard tales of higher prices at the local underdog, United Supermarkets.  "Ha!" said I, "Not only do I have familiarity under the Big A, but I also have cheaper hamburger meat and bananas!"
 It's not about the price of bananas.
Over the years, United began to blossom.  A new store opened up a few blocks from my house.  It was much closer than the Big A.  The prices were not exorbitantly higher.   And, low and behold, I began to notice that this new store didn't have the "old mop water smell" (my husband's words) as my familiar store.  This store was spotless and shiny.  The produce was fresh and plentiful.  The staff clean cut and cheerful.  If you asked an employee where to find a certain product, he would all but take you to the item in a horse-drawn carriage.  There was no complacent "Aisle 3 about the middle or maybe on an end cap."  Nope.  It's all "right this way, ma'am!"
Fresh.  Plentiful.  Spotless.  Shiny.  Clean cut.  Cheerful.
At first I couldn't figure out why there were no grocery cart corrals in the parking lot.  I soon discovered that they were not needed because once I pulled my cart up to the check out stand I wouldn't touch my groceries again until I unloaded them at home.  [Don't even get me started on stores that require the customer to unload the groceries onto a conveyor belt.]   Carry out service was a given.  The sackers are actually trained to make small talk as they escort you to your car.  If I've heard "How about this weather!?" once, I've heard it 1001 times. 
"So, how's your day going so far?!"
For my full rant about "carry out" service please refer to "Hey, Lazy, I mean "Lady"...Need a Carry Out?"
It's all about service.
To say that I'm a United Supermarket fan would be an understatement.  I am a United Aficionado.  When out-of-town guests come to visit, strolling through the 98th St. Market Street is part of the tour along with a drive through the Tech campus.  Just this past weekend, I took a dear friend there because she, too, is a Grocery Store Person.  She lives in a large metropolitan area in the northeast with lots of grocery store choices.  She was very complimentary of "my store."  "You won't get customer service like that in Maryland!"
It's the way we do it here.
We West Texans loves us some United.  We buy local.  We support the home team.  We trust United.  United supports our community.
We already ran off 3 Albertsons stores out of town.  They simply could not compete with our beloved United.  Now, they will own our beloved United.  This buyout is tantamount to Apple being sold to Gateway.  Seems like a step in the wrong direction.
Three Albertsons stores.  Gone.
We're told that "nothing will change."  That's what they said at First National Bank before the Wells Fargo Wagon was a-comin' down the street.  Subtle changes at first.  Logos.  Checking account policies.  Then, one day you turn around and all of the faces that were familiar to the customers have suddenly disappeared.
"Nothing will change."
For weeks, perhaps months, everything will be hunky-dory.  One day we'll find that the generic products on the shelves have changed from "Food Club" to "Essential Everyday."  Then, the sackers will say in perfect United-Albertson's trainee form, "Ma'am [politeness grandfathered in from United], do you need a carry out?  [The carry out issue will represent a cost effective/time wastage theory passed down from the Albertsons corporate office in IDAHO.]  Finally, grocery cart corrals will take up valuable parking spaces in front of the store.  Then will come the dreaded wobbly-wheeled baskets.  We United fans haven't had to deal with wobbly baskets.  There just aren't any.  
 Wobbly wheels.
I don't fault the owners of United for selling.  They earned every penny that they will make in the sale.  Out of their ingenuity, loyalty, and generosity, our beloved grocery stores were born.  We have great respect for the Snells and the Bumsteads.  I just wish that they could have traded up.  
We will miss you.


Anonymous said...

The truth is not much will change with United. I understand your skepticism. Too many things like this have happened in the past. However, as a United employee that knows ALL of the facts, all I can say is LET US PROVE IT TO YOU. Albertsons purchased United to learn from United, and to improve it's own stores. It's a compliment and challenge that we're proud to undertake. Robert Taylor's personal mission is to uphold the culture and values that have always made this company great. We're still the same people, doing the same jobs. That's not going to change.

Carolyn Lackey said...

Anonymous, thanks so much for your encouraging words!!! I love that you are going to be there for us!!!

Tracy Autry said...

Dear Anonymous, nothing would make us happier.... I look forward to seeing nothing change! Good luck!

Carla said...

I hope you're right! In my small town we haveonly one store until now. We have a Wal Mart supercenter opening soon. I have been encouraging people to remain loyal to United. I feel a little betrayed.

Emily Johnson said...

Well said, Carolyn!

Carolyn Lackey said...

Carla, I hope that your neighbors (in a small town, isn't everyone considered a neighbor?) who work at your United will simply continue doing what they do best!

Emily, thanks for your kind words!!

joyfull! said...

Well said Carolyn!

Carolyn Lackey said...

Thanks, Joy!!!


Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...