Here’s a novel concept for a discount grocery store: Build a business model that cuts costs in previously unforeseen ways, then pass the savings onto the consumer. Amazing! With that mindset, it’s bound to be a huge success.
Yeah, I know. It’s not such a new idea. As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short.
But on the bright side, I do eat food, and unless I have a sustainable farm in my backyard (which I don’t), I can become one of the growing number of consumers who are currently benefiting from a smarter way of shopping.
Before I get to the Callemonit, maybe I should describe the modern supermarket I’m referring to and ways they save money. And since I’m not in the business, I will list characteristics based on my personal observations.
Find an existing brick and mortar location that has been vacated and adapt it to your specifications. Do not incur the expense of new construction.
Make sure the building is as small as possible while still being able to provide a variety of essentials. Probably around a third the size of a typical supermarket will suffice and still leave a little room for growth. This will cut down on rent, property taxes, maintenance, and utilities, mainly lower electricity and natural gas consumption.
Open the store in a heavily populated area.
Hire about a 10-20% of the number of employees at the big chains.
Teach your staff to do all facets of running the store, aside from upper management. A single associate can unload a truck, operate machinery, bring inventory to the floor, stock the shelves, label and price change items, clean, and work a register.
Don’t provide onsite services like meat and seafood departments, a bakery, a delicatessen, and even a customer service department.
Tether shopping carts outside that require a 25 cent refundable deposit, so there’s no need for a lot attendant.
Offer some big name brands, but mostly stock cheaper generic or store brands that are comparable to the quality of nationally recognized labels.
Don’t provide plastic or paper bags at checkout. Customers can purchase a sturdy plastic bag with a handle, but recommend they use their own cloth reusable bags or empty cardboard merchandise boxes which are accessible throughout the store.
Advertise with both television and print, but no big name celebrity sponsors or production and limit the size of the mailed ad to just a few pages.
Make the store hours cover peak times but don’t stay open late or 24 hours.
Keep the pay wage low but offer incentives for performance.
Strictly monitor and enforce a particular speed and accuracy requirement of cashiers.
Finally, I’ve gotten to the reason for Callemonit. What…you missed it? Well, it’s a combination of the last two attributes.
If you’re anything like me, you despise food shopping.
You might be a weekday shopper, who hits the store on the way home from work. Your feet are killing you from being in heels for 10 hours, or there’s sawdust in your hair, but you need food for dinner and tomorrow’s lunches. You just want to go home as soon as possible, grab a nice glass of wine or a cold beer, and take a shower.
Or possibly, you are a weekend shopper. You look through the ad, cut out coupons, and fill your cart to the top with a week’s supply of groceries. You hate the crowded aisles and having to take turns looking through the yogurts with illegible expiration dates. And you especially dread the long checkout lines that chew up your day.
You keep looking around for a rogue employee to notice your dismay and open another register, or for the overwhelmed lone cashier to finally call for assistance.
Corporate felt your pain regarding lost time, but they were faced with a dilemma. They didn’t want you to spend anymore time than necessary in a checkout lane on a sunny Saturday either, yet they also didn’t want to pay the money to regularly man more than two or three registers.
As a solution, they decided to “time” the cashiers and provide them incentives. Basically, from the moment they scan the first item until the end of the sale, ringers will go as fast as they possibly can. Plus, if they can knock out the line quickly, they won’t need backup. The other workers can fulfill requirements elsewhere in the store, thus keeping overall labor expenses low.
However, now you’re the one faced with a new predicament. You really do want to get out of store as quickly as possible, yet you’re the type of shopper who likes to check the egg container to make sure all twelve are intact. You painstakingly twist and turn the bags of apples, looking for the least amount of bruises. You inspect cereal boxes for crushed corners and chip bags for too many broken pieces. And you always pick the loaf of sliced bread that is perfectly shaped, like it came straight from the oven.
But your anxiety over picking just the right food is no concern of the timed checkout person. They toss your eggs and apples into the hardened metal wired cart with complete disregard. They grip your bread like a football. And if you attempt to match their speed and intercept the thrown items before they rattle around the cage, you will become even more frustrated. Pinched fingers and broken nails are your punishment for trying to catch canned peas and neatly stack your bag or box at their ridiculous pace.
It’s best you just watch it unfold, then bring your cart, looking like it had returned from a 5 minute shopping spree, over to the giant self packing shelf located at the front of the store.
In an ideal world, a store employee should respect your purchase, and you shouldn’t be asked to make an annoying sacrifice in order to get a lower price.
Corporate should seriously weigh the two options. They can require and incentivize employees to scan as fast as humanly possible and distribute with reckless abandon, thus speeding up the shopping experience and lessening the need for additional staff. Or they can estimate the amount of lost customers who decide the behavior is completely unnecessary and unacceptable, and find a way to do it a “better differently.”
But who or how do you Callemonit? Do you think you will be made to feel embarrassed, because you are particular about the condition of your groceries? Are you afraid you’re in the minority, so your opinion won’t matter? Will they tell you, “Maybe you’re the type of shopper who should go to supermarkets with self checkouts. This practice of speed checking is pivotal to our bottom line, and it’s one way we keep our prices low.”