Let me tell you a story. As long as I have lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, I've always been the person in the household who did the grocery shopping. For many years my choice spot was Russo's at the top of Cedar Hill. I knew that I was paying about 10 percent more there than I would if I shopped at one of the bigger chains like Tops or Finast. But the managers and staff at Russo's made it special. I came to know most of the staff by name over the years, and my shopping experience was a good one. Then Giant Eagle descended and gobbled up the locally owned, independent grocery. There wasn't any immediate change. Everybody seemed happy and staying in place. Then, one Saturday I was in line with two cart loads, about $200 in groceries, and perusing the tabloids while the ever efficient cashier rang my purchases through. At $212.63 the tally stopped and I pulled out my check book, an exercise I had been performing about 18 times a year since I moved to Cleveland Heights in 1985. I made the check out to Russo's Giant Eagle, signed it and handed it over to cashier, who smiled and asked" May I have your Giant Eagle card, please?" When I told her I didn't have a Giant Eagle card but that the manager already bagging my groceries could vouch for me, we both turned. The manager had obviously been listening to the conversation. He looked at me with a helpless expression. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hess, but it's the corporate policy from Pittsburgh. You have to have a Giant Eagle card before we can cash your check." I nodded, turned back to the cashier, retrieved my check and tore it in half. "Well, I guess that's that," I said. "You can put it all back on the shelf." And then I left Russo's. I've never been back. I relate this story because of something I read this morning from Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton. In his op-ed piece Don't Blame Wal Mart for the New York Times, Reich asks a critical question while writing about a successful campaign to keep Wal Mart out of Queens: But isn't Wal-Mart really being punished for our sins? After all, it's not as if Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, and his successors created the world's largest retailer by putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to shop there. Reich goes on to write: ...many of us pressure companies to give us even better bargains. I look on the Internet to find the lowest price I can and buy airline tickets, books, merchandise from just about anywhere with a click of a mouse. Don't you? The fact is, today's economy offers us a Faustian bargain: it can give consumers deals largely because it hammers workers and communities. We can blame big corporations, but we're mostly making this bargain with ourselves. The easier it is for us to get great deals, the stronger the downward pressure on wages and benefits. One of my favorite observations by Dear Abby has always been that no one can take advantage of you without your permission. Wal Mart grew to be the giant it is because we became besotted with getting the absolutely best deal. Well folks, there are a lot of ways of defining best deal. Price, while it may be the obvious choice, is seldom the best choice. We all get what we pay for and by paying little, look what we get? We all have to take some responsibility for the way our demand for low, low prices results in low, low wages for Wal Mart associates.
Jeff Hess: Have Coffee Will Write.

4 Responses to “AS WE SOW, SO SHALL WE REAP…”

  1. jaws says:

    Not about Wal-Mart but I remember Russo’s! When I first moved to the Cleveland area as a little boy in ’86 at Fairmount Circle there was a Guinta’s supermarket. Then Guinta’s became Russo’s–which it stayed as for quite some time.

    Then Giant Eagle came ‘in, but to be honest, it still felt the same as the old Russos. I mean it was the same staff, same layout, just ta different name. (Out of habit I still call it Russos)

    Sadly though, the Fairmount Circle location was closed down earlier this year. I guess between the store in Cleveland Hts., the one on Mayfield Road and the massive one at Legacy village, there was no more need for good ol’ Russos….and now it’s no more. *tear*

    Even though I’m not in Cleveland now, I still miss it. The convenience of the store and all the memories I had of it….alas gone

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Josh,

    Hmmm… A local convenience and memory disappears because an out-of-state retailer needs to fine tune its profits.

    What institutions are we willing to see die for the privilege of buying our cheap plastic crap at the lowest possible price?



  3. jaws says:

    Well a bit in Giant Eagle’s defense, as I mentioned they do have 3 other stores in the vicinity (as mentioned above).

    Plus they’ve long been competing with Heinen’s, which isn’t far away. But I think the factor that Tops also opened a store very close by recently (at Warrensville and Cedar–in that mini-mall like complex thingy)

    Ultimately, I don’t think management really cared that they were closing a store some of us grew up with….

    In fact, I don’t think anything has moved in there yet

  4. […] One of the first posts I wrotefor the No Cleveland Wal-Mart blog concerned my check cashing experience at a local grocery that was purchased by an out-of-town behemoth wanna-be. It was meant as a cautionary tale about what happens when the people who know you, know your family and know your friend are replaced by mindless drones. […]

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