Monday, September 15, 2008

UFCW Pot Calling Fresh & Easy Kettle Black

Last week, a new Fresh & Easy location opened up in Tempe on Baseline and Kyrene. Like all of the other F&E locations I've been to, it's a great store. Several days before it opened, a friend who lives down the street from there received a letter in the mail entitled "Fresh & Easy Facts" with "Don't be fooled by Tesco's Fresh & Easy" as a very large tagline. Inside was a list of things that are apparently reasons not to shop at this new grocery store. I was struck by the amount of things they claimed about F&E that I had noticed in several large grocery stores. It turns out that the large grocery stores were behind the letter, courtesy of the United Food and Commercial Workers union! Looks like one of two things is happening: First, F&E isn't going union and of course the union has their panties in a wad. Second, Fresh & Easy is doing very well and the unions don't like the competition from a clearly better product!

Here's the UFCW's reasons why I shouldn't shop there:

First, F&E should have a record of meeting food safety standards. Of COURSE they don't have a record of this, they're brand new! The describing paragraph mentions that Tesco, the parent company of F&E, "has been fined for selling expired and spoiled food". Guess what? Last time I was in Safeway, I almost bought some blue cheese, but then saw that the expiration date had passed by over THREE MONTHS. Eeeeeeew! Every time I've been in F&E, I haven't seen *anything* past the expiration date. In fact, they're some of the best at making sure nothing goes past date. The day something's sell-by date comes up, it gets a bright red sticker mentioning it's half off. If it isn't sold, it gets donated to a food bank. I've noticed they built in quite a bit of leeway with their expiration dates; I've had things accidentally sit in the fridge longer than they should, and they're still fine. Their expiration dates on milk are some of the longest I've seen, meaning that they have much better turnover rates than at regular grocers.

Next up was how F&E must reduce its environmental impact. They're doing more than Safeway and Fry's have, as far as I can tell. F&E is making all of their stores with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in mind. Several years ago, Safeway made an LEED-oriented building, but hasn't made any strides in making their older buildings over. Safeway has also made a big point that they purchase wind-based power, but Fresh & Easy has done one better and installed solar panels on the roof of their Riverside distribution center. Those solar panels have so far provided 74 percent of the building's operating power! If that isn't reducing one's environmental impact, I don't know what is.

The third paragraph suggests that Fresh & Easy doesn't provide good jobs because they don't pay their American employees as much as their British counterparts. Friends, the British employees make minimum wage over there: £5.52 (currently $9.93) an hour.  Fresh & Easy employees start at $10 an hour in California. Yes, that's right, the UFCW LIED about this! There's a word for this: Libel.

The last one is that Fresh & Easy should meet high standards of customer service.  I can say from personal experience that they FAR exceed any experience I've had at Safeway or Fry's. The staff at Fresh & Easy is helpful and friendly, while Safeway and Fry's staff are indifferent at best. The letter goes to claim that I should have "check out stands staffed by a checker who scans and bags your groceries".  Fresh & Easy has them for people who want them.  The only time I've had to bag my own groceries at Fresh & Easy is when I've willingly dismissed them because they needed to help another customer.  The last time I was at Fry's (a UFCW store), the only lanes open were the self-checkout lanes, and the checkers didn't offer me ANY help at all, just a cursory, barely mumbled "good night" on my way out the door.

Shame on you, UFCW, for not fixing your own problems before pointing out others' percieved faults! Because of this union bullying, I hereby refuse to shop at the union-run Safeway, Fry's, and Albertson's stores of the greater Phoenix area until they can practice what they preach.  Fresh & Easy has better quality food, greener stores with natural light streaming in, and some of the friendliest grocery staff in town.  And their prices are WAY better too.