Rock-bottom prices

If you live in Wisconsin, you probably shop at Woodman's. It's a regional chain of huge grocery stores where it's half a mile from baked goods and frozen foods, and there's a block's walk of frozen pizza choices. They sell just about every brand of just about every product you need, and the prices are seriously low.

Seattle has nothing like Woodman's. In almost two months here, I still haven't found a supermarket that doesn't suck donkey pimples.

Twenty blocks in any direction from anywhere, you'll find yet another Safeway. They're everywhere, and all identical, with not much selection (just three brands of bathsoap?) and consistently high prices unless you sign up for a loyalty card, in which case the prices are still high. Also, the manager of a Safeway store treated me quite rudely in a dream, so I'm never going back there.

There's Albertson's, which was a reasonably priced regional chain when I grew up around here, but they're a giant conglomerate now. They own Safeway and a dozen other chains, all overpriced, with loyalty cards and minimal selection. They should offer a disloyalty card.

There's Grocery Outlet, which specializes in one-time purchases of overstocked or discontinued items, sold at sometimes ridiculously low prices. You can score unexpected good deals on an off brand of canned teriyaki, sure, but good luck finding what you came for, like just plain mustard or a can of cat food.

There's a huge, cheap store, kinda like Woodman's, called WinCo, but all their locations are in the hinterlands. Before I basically stopped driving, I went to their Kent location one afternoon, bought a few things and didn't feel price-gouged. Kent, though, is twenty miles from Seattle, and the WinCo seems to be another five miles from Kent — the store's neighbors are the woods. That's their location nearest to Seattle, but I ain't driving to the woods outside Kent for groceries every week.

So where do I buy mustard and cat food and other necessities? Usually I go to Saar's Super Saver, a Seattle-area chain, not because it's any good, but because it's soooo awful.

Saar's is dusty and run-down, and feels like a second-hand store that sells food. Everything is haphazard and sloppy, the layout makes little sense, and the Saar's I go to used to be an Albertson's — they haven't even painted over where the lettering on the wall used to spell Albertson's, although the Saar's Super Saver sign outside looks like it's been there for decades.

What's hilarious, though, is all their signs in the store, in the parking lot, on every shelf and above every aisle, boasting of "rock-bottom prices." Guess what? Saar's prices are sometimes a few pennies less than Safeway, but rarely low. They sell the most expensive jar of peanut butter I've ever seen — $10.99 for a big jar of the name brand, that would cost half that at Woodman's. And my inspiration for this entire entry is that Saar's is currently selling three-packs of ordinary dish sponges — 99¢ at Woodman's, $1.49 or maybe $1.99 at most stores — for $4.49, in a big display case, with signs claiming that's a "rock-bottom price."

For shoppers' amusement, the employees are usually talking or yelling at each other across the aisles, there's an in-store butcher hired straight from a horror movie, and while I'll confess buying their deli discount fried chicken ($4.49 for ten fresh-cooked drumsticks actually is a rock-bottom price) there's always something in the deli section that worries me.

And then Saar's has the stupidest checkout system I've ever seen. Each lethargic cashier handles two lines of customers at two separate cash registers, alternating between them, so when you think you're third in line you're actually sixth in line. Even when they're not busy, it's a guaranteed ten minute wait to be rung up.

I gotta buy groceries somewhere, and there's no good grocery store, so I shop at Saar's Super Saver because the place bewilders and entertains me every time.

Ah, but same as in San Francisco or any big city, the best prices on fruits and vegetables, and better fruits and vegetables, are at the bodegas. I've found one that I like, and that's where I buy everything except frozen food, mustard, cat food, and a few other assorted sundries the bodega doesn't carry.

Yeah, gotta tell you about that bodega. Some other morning.


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  1. >There's Grocery Outlet

    I love Grocery Outlet. There are a few staples that they ALMOST always have - Polar Sardines in tomato sauce is one. But yeah, you have to use it as a SUPPLEMENT, not a main grocery store, unless you're very creative in your meal-making.


    I think you and I saw Albert Brooks' "Mother" together?


    1. Well, don't leave us hanging here, Captain and Doug, what were your impressions of Mother? I remember being a bit underwhelmed at the time, only because I loved his previous films so much, but over time I came to accept that Mother is well-made and overall memorable. My girl and I still make jokes about buying 'Sweet Tooth' ice cream whenever we're thinking of skimping on something where buying quality would be the way to go. -- L Arden

    2. I've seen a lot of Brooks and usually liked what I've seen, and if you say we saw it, Cap'n, then we saw it, but I don't remember Mother the movie at all. I'll add it to my watchlist.

    3. I liked Mother. But Defending Your Life is one of my VERY favorite movies, so Mother was a step down. But it was good.It's Tier-2 Brooks, after DYL, Real Life, and Lost In America.

    4. Deja vu, man. I think you gave me just about exactly that recommendation twenty years ago, and I think I then saw Mother. Can't remember it at all, though, so it goes back on the list.

  2. Really good writing is, partly, a matter of taste. This is good writing. I stupidly started reading this grocery entry when I knew I didn't have time to finish. My social life is flourishing (I was late for yet another doctor appointment) but I read the damn piece twice. Something you picked up along the way is supreme skill at editing. Really fine editing is invisible, but I swear this piece is triple-edited. And THAT'S the difference between adequate exposition and a professional piece of prose. Thank you for taking the time to make your writing compelling, strong and, frequently, hilarious.


    1. Well, I thought it was barely publishable, but I'll take your judgment over mine any day, or at least today. :)

      Also, congratulations on Google letting you have your name back! Did you figure out something magic? I am still having troubles, but I can win if I keep trying.

      Sorry about the doctoring. Man, I hate doctors. Better to see a doctor than a mortician, though...

    2. The world is a beautiful place
      to be born into
      if you don’t mind happiness
      not always being
      so very much fun
      if you don’t mind a touch of hell
      now and then
      just when everything is fine
      because even in heaven
      they don’t sing
      all the time

      The world is a beautiful place
      to be born into
      if you don’t mind some people dying
      all the time
      or maybe only starving
      some of the time
      which isn’t half so bad
      if it isn’t you

      Oh the world is a beautiful place
      to be born into
      if you don’t much mind
      a few dead minds
      in the higher places
      or a bomb or two
      now and then
      in your upturned faces
      or such other improprieties
      as our Name Brand society
      is prey to
      with its men of distinction
      and its men of extinction
      and its priests
      and other patrolmen
      and its various segregations
      and congressional investigations
      and other constipations
      that our fool flesh
      is heir to

      Yes the world is the best place of all
      for a lot of such things as
      making the fun scene
      and making the love scene
      and making the sad scene
      and singing low songs of having
      and walking around
      looking at everything
      and smelling flowers
      and goosing statues
      and even thinking
      and kissing people and
      making babies and wearing pants
      and waving hats and
      and going swimming in rivers
      on picnics
      in the middle of the summer
      and just generally
      ‘living it up’

      but then right in the middle of it
      comes the smiling

      ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    3. Wow. *That*, sir, is poetry that doesn't suck. Actually one of the most beautiful pieces of optimistic pessimism I've seen in ages.

      1955? Jeez, man, those were the good old days. Everything's only gotten worse since then, and digitized.

  3. Republished on your blog without permission nor remuneration from one of the best books of poetry in history, "A Coney Island of the Mind". It's available in paperback. You can buy it new or used, but if you buy it used it will be from an estate, because nobody with more than a single flash of inspiration would dispose of the book prior to kicking off. I have a couple of bookcases, but if I had a two-book bookcase it would contain "The Continental Op" and "A Coney Island of the Mind".


    1. OK, dang it, you talked me into it. A hold has been placed at the library, and I'm third in line -- a pretty long line for an old book of poetry.

      I am usually quite poetry-resistant, but if anyone can goose me into believing it's gotta be Lawrence F.


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