If only we could read what our produce customers are really thinking. Are they satisfied with what they see? We can observe their actions, track data. But we can only imagine their thoughts, so imagine we must ...

Welcome to my thoughts. Call me your average customer. I do at least 90% of my family’s grocery shopping. I shop midday, once a week on average, but “zip in” on an every-other-day basis for minor purchases, to pick up prescriptions, or for the couple of items I need to fix dinner. I shop for myself, my spouse and for our 1.14 children (relax, we’re talking average. I have two kids. They eat a lot).

I like your produce department. I said I like it, I don’t love it. I might love it ...
If I didn’t see so much of, what do you call it? Out of stocks. You’re out of too much stuff, too much of the time. It’s not just in produce either. Yours is a big store that stocks aisles of extras I never used to see growing up. You can have fanciest grocery store with all the bells and whistles, but out of stocks really sour it for me.

Twice last week I wanted to buy a pack of printer paper in your huge office supply aisle, for example. Basic item, right? I’m not going to complain because I don’t have time for that either, but if you’re going to provide space for items, why not try to keep it in stock?

I did overhear a clerk complain about “centralized buying” being the culprit. I don’t know what that means. Whatever savings you believe you’re realizing, all I know is you’re out of what I need.

That’s my example, leading back to your produce department.

I always see gaping table surfaces where produce should be stocked. You seem to have just enough clerks. They’re helpful enough if I ask a question but always seem stressed and running behind. I suppose they’ll eventually catch up and fill those gaps. 

In the meantime, I have to substitute items for what I really came in for, which really isn’t that much trouble, but you know ... Ugh. Just once I’d like to find everything I need in one trip.

Also, how clean is this place? I smell an off odor in the produce area that suggests that cleaning is a sometimes thing, not a priority. I see gunk in scale pans, dirt on table surfaces and hanging cobwebs. Don’t you? 

As my WWII veteran father-in-law used to say, “Who’s running this Joe McGee outfit, anyway?”

Just a snapshot of my random thoughts. Hey, you asked.


Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 40 years’ experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail him at [email protected].


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