Bigger doesn't mean better

Posted 11.30.04

There's a song in the Broadway show, Barnum, sung by Tom Thumb, the midget P.T. Barnum featured in his circus. Every time I enter one of the new, "improved" supermarkets, the catchy tune comes to mind. "Bigger Isn't Better," I sing to myself.

The last time I braved one of these huge stores, I spent an exhausting afternoon looking for items on my list. I wasn't in search of anything esoteric, just a nice yellow squash, a package of celery hearts, canned anchovies, a popular brand of dry cat food, pineapple tidbits in juice rather than syrup, and the usual selection of produce, meat, and dairy products.

I had to trudge the entire perimeter of the store, which covers a full block, as well as several of the centre aisles, in order to buy fruits and vegetables, which were on the far left side of the store, meats, which were lined up along the back, and milk and yogurt, on the far right wall.

Before I reached the produce section, I passed large and attractive displays of prepared salads, a fresh fish counter, an 'olive bar' and cases full of cheeses and deli meats of every possible type and origin.

There was one, small bin of squash, none of them yellow. There was celery, but no celery hearts. At the meat counter there was no butcher in sight, just rows and rows of pre-packaged beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, an entire section labeled "organic."

The trek to the dairy counter took stamina. Past children's clothing, toys, cosmetics, the pharmacy, a large section of "natural" products, towels, tablecloths of every imaginable size and color, lamps, candles, gifts, and housewares. To my right I noticed fresh flowers, wine, beer, soft drinks, greeting cards.

Finally retrieving my milk and yogurt, I noted that neither the dairy section nor the cheese displays had any low-fat ricotta.

But the largest disappointment was the shrinking section containing the kind of canned and packaged goods you normally expect to buy in a supermarket.

This particular store carries pineapple in juice, but the shelf was empty.

The cat food took up only half an aisle, which was shared with light bulbs.

Is there a connection I'm missing between these items? In any case, there were only three brands represented on the shelves, and I again came away empty.

Needless to say, my search for anchovies was fruitless.

No, bigger isn't better. Who decided that the customer would prefer towels, toys and lamps to groceries when they went to a store supposedly devoted to selling food?

I don't know about you, but I'm not going back.

Barbara Floria Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings. Her website: www.SimonTeakettle.com

Copyright © 2004 Barbara Floria Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.04