Perette Barella
                                                176 Middlesex Road
                                                Rochester, NY 14610
Price Rite Corporation HQ
160 Silas Deane Highway
Wethersfield, CT 06109

Dear Price Rite MBAs,

I want to congratulate you on your corporate efficacy in keeping labor costs down. My nearby University Avenue Price Rite used to be my go-to store for groceries and sundries, with a rare trip to Wegmans when it coincided with picking up a prescription at their pharmacy.

Since the remodeling of your store a few years ago, however, you’ve done away with most of the cashiers in favor of do-it-myself checkout machines. Since you don’t trust me the same way you don’t trust your cashiers, you’ve configured these checkouts to pedantically weigh each and every item in the bagging area, and the machines refuse to let me to proceed until each item settles on the scale and weighs the exact amount expected. I used to think it was frustrating having to wait for the head cashier’s key for some trivial issue, like an item getting scanned twice. Boy, I had no idea! Having to memorize produce codes or use a miserable lookup system, a checkstand that fights me at every single item… My eyes have been opened!

So, a few years ago I stopped shopping at your store. Although I’ve found my behavior is not a predictor of everyone’s action, it does predict what a good many other people do. So I’m sure there’s a fair number of us now taking our business elsewhere. And that’s where your cost-cutting efficacy really shines.

By cutting your customer volume, you’ve cut your sales volume, thus cut down on labor costs to stock your shelves and truck the stuff up from the warehouse. Wow! What amazing savings, just like your weekly circulars say!

I tried Price Rite recently because Wegmans staffs the entryway to their store with a blue-suited sociopath from the RPD, which recently killed a guy because he was out of his gourd and wandering around naked and confused in a 3AM lake-effect snow, and pepper sprayed a terrified 9-year-old for misbehaving and being awfully black for her age. Seeking to avoid upstanding officers who serve and protect with such callous disregard for human life, I wrote Wegmans, but since they haven’t sent the lunatic away, I must pursue alternatives.

I am not terribly surprised to find that your store is still using your same effective labor-cost-cutting measures; Wakefern Foods has used this approach for decades. It makes me wonder, though, why you don’t take them to the next level? If you got rid of your cashiers entirely, and forced everyone to use the cost-cutting self-checkout system, you could drive off more customers and thus even further reduce the stockpersons and drivers needed to bring the goods to the store and put them on the shelves.

If things really go well, perhaps your measures could culminate with closing the store and selling it off. It would get rid of the fixed monthly costs of leases/mortgages, property taxes, utilities, upkeep, insurance, and on-site management; and it would get rid of the costs of goods, spoilage, damage, and hourly staff entirely. Think of the savings! You could pay yourself a bonus!

Meanwhile, I will have to enjoy Aldi, which has good prices on their limited selection, most of which is at least mediocre; and supplement this with visits to Tops Angry Friendly Markets, soon to be Pric Chopper or possibly Market 0x20.

<set /nosnark> The front end is the one department that every customer is obliged to visit, and cashiers are the face that customers most frequently interact with. Good or bad experiences here—including delays or frustrations—are the last impression shoppers will form before leaving your store. For the past several years, you haven’t gotten my business because it was easy to pay a few extra dollars to Wegmans to avoid front-end frustrations at your store. I like your goods. I like your smaller store. I like your location; the Wegmans East Avenue parking lot has been described as a prototype for the tenth circle of hell, a sentiment I understand. Why have I been shopping there anyway? Not for their prices, not for their fancy organic bullshit, not for their fancy signs and marketing. Not even for the rotisserie chicken, although I really like those. I’ve been shopping Wegmans because I can get through the front end quickly when I’m done loading my cart. Why am I now looking elsewhere? Because they regularly have a dangerous, untrustworthy maniac with a gun, club and pepper spray who can’t be avoided guarding their entryway.

I’m in the market for a grocery store. I’m sure I’m not alone, because I never am. Should you decide to try the experiment of improving your front-end in hopes of increasing customer volume (and thus sales, and thus profits), let me know. I used to like my local Price Rite. If there were enough cashiers, I’d probably like it there again. It would take time to undo your current reputation, but surely others would too.


                                                Perette Barella