We finally moved into our new place, Cherie, Savanna, Sammy Jo (our dog), and me, in the heart of Santa Monica. It's just up the hill from the local Albertsons supermarket. I descended to buy a bottle of wine and some popcorn -- we really know how to party! -- and had one of the worst customer experiences in my life.
The checkout lines were characteristically long, as they have been ever since Albertsons bought out the wonderful Lucky Markets and chopped their staffs by at least a third and probably a half. That's not the problem. Long lines, even at 8 PM on a weeknight, were to be expected.
What wasn't to be expected was being hammered while a captive in line by something called “Avenu,” a continuous, loud, insulting program of banalities blasted at us from flat-screen TVs and powerful speakers at every cashier's station. It was horrible. I can't remember a single advertisement among the two score or more forced upon us by Albertson's experientially lame but craven management, but I do remember wanting out of there. Avenu is apparently the creation of the Jewel-Osco retail conglomerate. Now both Jewel-Osco and Albertsons are both about to be assimilated into a corporate retail Borg, Supervalu (which resembles nothing so much as a sentient supply chain. It's not your corner grocer.
Unfortunately, the punishment for Supervalu's captive audiences won't end with the merger. In fact, it's going to be extended to a whole lot more shoppers across North America. Supervalu, the entity acquiring Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, relies on Avenu as a regular part of its armory of tools intended to bludgeon shoppers' senses into submission. What Supervalu gains by heaping visual and aural abuse upon shoppers waiting in line, removing any opportunity for meaningful human chit-chat -- the sole redeeming quality of waiting in line -- is beyond me.
Given these provocations, our family's shopping at Vons or Whole Foods Market. Say what you will about the Safeway chain (which owns Vons) or the Birkenstock billionaires who charge through the roof for WF's organic fare, they know how to create shopping environments that create a more pleasurable experience, at its best (as at WF) quite enjoyable. Even the warehouses like Costco and its smaller counterpart, Smart & Final, do just fine: they have no pretentions, but neither do they dump virtual garbage on the consumer merely to create another trivial revenue stream, all for the sake of promotions in the marketing department.
Good bye, Albertsons, we'll hardly miss ye. Supervalu, from our point of view, you're dead on arrival.