In true nightly news fashion, this rant is evolving into an expose comparing complacent Texans’ loyalty to HEB with that of the poor who remain loyal to a fascist dictator who kills their children because it’s the only thing they know. I think I can work socialism in there too. Gimme a minute…and another pistachio muffin, please.
I bought a pistachio muffin (my fave) from the supermarket yesterday and the guy at the check out says, “You know about the recall right?” and I say, “Well, you wouldn’t be selling them if they weren’t okay to eat now, right?” and he just smiles, so I call the bakery this morning and tell them I have one and they flip out and say, “Well, you didn’t get it from OUR store.” After a bit of arguing that I DID in fact get it at their store, and some background speak in Spanish – that I don’t understand yet, but will soon thanks to Rosetta Stone – the lady with no clue, who “has been gone for four days” tells me “there’s nothing wrong with them anyway.” So, I’m going to eat the muffin for good of mankind and the potential destruction of HEB. Though I doubt anything so unimportant as the death of a customer by pistachio poisoning could stop the massive fear-inducing machine that is our local grocery. The ONLY local grocery, I might add. They are a monopoly of the worst kind, forcing us to buy what they want to stock and then not building enough stores in an area so that what is supposed to be a weekly shopping trip becomes end-of-the-world-mob-mentality-stockpiling every day. There is never enough of anything to go around so you end up buying things you don’t need and stocking up on things that happen to be available at the time you are there, eventually causing scarcity of that product as well. The very presence of those sad, empty, crumb-ridden shelves (they leave empty on purpose) is enough to cause panic in the cereal aisle.
People (two) have died in our grocery store from heart attacks, according to my last checker who kindly asked‑-as they always do–if I had found everything okay. It’s actually stressful to try and get what you want in there without getting hit with a shopping cart or walking ten miles up and down and up and down the ambiguously marked aisles, only to find that they don’t sell Skippy peanut butter – just Jiff or store brand. “Um, no. I didn’t. I couldn’t find three of the things on my list that I usually buy here.” She looks shocked as if it was a rhetorical question like, “Is there a God,” and finally someone has dared speak the unholy answer. She hands me a customer satisfaction survey and pitifully comments that yes, in fact they “are currently doing a huge Hill Country campaign” and are restocking the shelves with mostly HEB brand items. The fantastic part is that they have managed to label all of their store-brand products to look EXactly like the leading competitor’s brand so if you don’t look closely, (or don’t know how to read) you will unwittingly be supporting the very giant that is trying to crush your little soul into an oblivion so deep that all you can do is shut up and buy their moldy cheese.
The sad part is, I LOVED HEB when we first got here three years ago. Their prices beat any store in Phoenix by a landslide and even though they did not stock my usual major brands of most common items like peanut butter, catsup, mustard, etc. their store brand was decent and I considered it better than the other major label I didn’t want anyway. Kind of like when a republican votes democrat in order to keep the demons in check, yeah? In other words, at first I didn’t mind not having a choice, because I was offered a good-quality-money-saving alternative or at least that’s what it appeared to be at the time. Over the last three years, I have seen the decline of this store and the behavior of the people in it grow steadily worse before my eyes and NO ONE else seems to see it. They think it’s NORMAL. Normal to shop in a throng of people day and night? Normal to find mold in the produce department, stale loaves of bread and gallons of milk with holes in the bottom on a regular basis? Normal for the aisles to be so small that you have to send a single-cartless-(and therefore defenseless)-runner in for the goods and hope he comes back alive?
At first it was a novelty to me and like Texas country roads, people were kind and moved their carts to let you pass; smiling as you went by, sometimes lifting a hand to wave or at the very least to signal your existence. I thought it was kind of cute, like a little community inside a community. Now, it’s all you can do to get out of the store without someone running over the back of your shoe with a shopping cart or worse – dying of a heart attack in the deli line.
The danger of physical harm isn’t the only reason not to shop at HEB. Name your seasonal staple and it will be sold out. Want to contribute to your kids’ college fund through the UPromise College Savings Plan known nation-wide and accepted at every other major grocery chain in the U.S. EXCEPT HEB? Don’t think so. I called the 800 number to ask why they don’t participate in a program so obviously better for children than HEB Bucks and the nice lady on the end of the line basically told me no, HEB does not participate in UPromise, nor will they ever. Why? “Because they won’t.” If I wanted to hear because I said so, I would have turned back time 30 years and called my mother. Even Salsalito and Cheesy Jane’s contribute a small percentage of your bill to UPromise.
Speaking of turning back time….
To put it simply, I’m sick of HEB and if I’m the only one who notices that they are a big-time-monopoly hiding behind a small-town-grocery façade, then it’s time some one shed a little light. Though I doubt anything so unimportant as a valid complaint by an educated consumer could stop the massive fear-consuming machine that is suburbia.