More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chipotle: Point of No Return

Let's face it. Bad things happen. When it comes to companies, sometimes they have the ability to clear their name, and sometimes it just ain't happenin'. I am reminded of Sizzler back in the day which all but collapsed after an e. coli outbreak in a restaurant. And there was Jack in the Box which had to change its name for a while to Monterey Jacks because of a similar incident. Sizzler really never recovered. Jack in the Box however, is still operating today and eventually did lose the Monterey Jack moniker.

BP suffered blows after a major oil rig disaster. United has had its fair share of incidents. Volkswagon got itself into some trouble, and back some time ago Toyota lost some faith of its customers due to its acceleration problem.

All of them have, or will recover.

Chipotle, however, I do not believe will not have this opportunity. For the first thing, Chipotle sold itself on fresh, organic and quality which was really its brand. It is exactly what was supposed to separate its brand of quick serve from the rest of the guys. When your brand is healthy and fresh, and people get sick, not once, but twice...

That is not going to leave customers feeling too great about entering your store anytime soon. When is the last time someone got sick after eating a grease laden burger at McDonald's? Although, while Taco Bell will not make you sick, it certainly could be advertised as a quick serve laxative to be sure.

But that is an entirely different thing.

You have two incidents whereas customers have gotten sick eating at Chipotle restaurants. You have admissions from the CEO after the first string of incidents that the company was lax in its quality standards and monitoring, and was going to revamp its business by retraining employees on quality standards and good manufacturing and sanitation practices.

But now that seems to be for naught because people got sick again. And now you have reports of rodents dropping from the ceilings which in and of itself will cause more than one potential Chipotle customer to squirm.

What exactly made me sick? Could it be rodents urinating and defecating into my food? What exactly is going on behind the scenes at my Chipotle restuarant? What are the employees missing?

Truth is, being a former pest control technician, rodents and other insects like roaches are actually commonplace in food establishments. But, that's what the pest control specialists are there for. To educate staff and to control the population of pests in the establishment.

More often than not, when pest control technicians had difficulty controlling rodent and insect populations in restaurants, it was primarily due to a lack of willingness on the part of management and other staff to do their due dilligence when it came to good manufacturing practices, and especially when it came to sanitation practices.

So if rodents are falling out of the ceilings or even running rampant in the store, something is seriously wrong with everything going on in the back while your food is being prepared, and God knows what is exactly going into your burrito.

For me there is only one outcome here. The company will be filing for bankruptcy sometime in the near future. The trouble is this is two and three incidents, and customers will be weary about entering their stores anytime soon.

The stock is dropping. Customer traffic will fall dramatically. The coupled effect of this will be a downward spiral too quick and too steep for the company to be able to effectively manage.

Will Chipotle be a name that gets tossed into the garbage can? In this particular instance I think so. I think Chipotle is dead as a company.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ruler Foods: Two Complaints

Don't get me wrong at the outset of this commentary. I am a huge fan of the Kroger brand of grocery stores known as Ruler's. For one thing they have stellar prices. And when I say stellar, I mean (if you have been following me) their prices far surpass, in many instances, my threshold prices on myriad regular items I generally buy.

For example, here are some current prices as of this writing that I think are out of this world:
  • 1 dozen eggs, 28 cents
  • 5 pound roll of 73/27 ground beef, $9.95 (or $1.99 per pound)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts $1.88 per pound
  • Whole chicken, 95 cents per pound
  • Green peppers, 49 cents each
  • Cream soups, 49 cents each
  • Taco seasoning packets, 39 cents each
  • 16 ounce salad dressing, $1.29
  • 3 pound bag of yellow onions, $1.49
  • Box of two envelopes of onion soup mix, 69 cents
  • 1 pound of ham lunch meat, $2.99
  • 1 1/2 pound brick of cheese, $4.89
In addition, so far as I can tell, Ruler Foods has the best price in town on 75 feet of Reynold's Freezer Paper. A must for anyone like me who buys meats in bulk and freezes it in manageable portions. They also have the best price in town on gelatin which is a good thing since my wife does like her Jell-O. A simple 15 ounce can of pork and beans runs only 49 cents, and they are as good as some of the Bush's Best variety I like. My wife and I also generally will buy coffee creamer there, as well as cottage cheese, sour cream, margarine, soda, and laundry detergent as their prices stack up better against everyone else I shop.

Ruler Foods operates similar to the way that Aldi does. You pay a refundable 25 cents for your cart, and you bring your own bags or use boxes that the store may provide from it's stocking efforts to take out your groceries.

Here is my first complaint, and a bit of an observation.

I used to shop Aldi frequently before Ruler Foods came into town where I live. Honestly, Ruler Foods beats Aldi's prices, and that's why I rarely shop Aldi anymore. But whenever I plopped a quarter into my cart at Aldi, I always got it back when I returned my cart. Every single time. This process went without a hitch every single time, and there was never a time I did not easily retrieve my quarter.

Not so with Ruler Foods.

The Ruler Foood store in my area has been around for roughly two years, and their carts are already showing massive signs of wear when it comes to their "quarter" mechanisms. In the last 6 months I have gotten my quarter back roughly 75% of the time. Now, while that's not terrible, that means in another six months I may get my quarter back 50% of the time, and eventually, 25% of the time, and if the trend continues, may never see my quarter returned at all.

Ruler Foods needs to maintain their carts. It's only a quarter. But it's my quarter, and if Aldi can keep my quarters coming back so can Ruler Foods. It's a minor thing, but if you add a quarter to my bottom line, I do consider the offset. While it may not impact the cost of my food by that much, it is still a factor for me.

And I am a stickler for saving my money. All of it. Every single red cent of it.

My second complaint? For roughly three months Ruler Foods has had two advertised prices for a 30-pack of Busch Beer. $17.49 and $14.97. In that time $14.97 was the correct price and was honored. Today when I went to the store the cooler price was advertised as $17.49 and HUGE display in the middle of the store with stacks of 30 packs of Busch Beer and Busch Light advertised $14.97. But when I got to the register I was charged the $17.49 price.

You cannot and should not, for three consecutive months, not have the ability to know what your correct price is and make sure that you are advertising to the customer what the correct price is. What they have done, in my opinion, is condition the customer to trust the big middle aisle display as the correct price, and since many customers customarily do not check their receipts, they can sell beer at a great price that is not a great price once checkout is complete.

Between your carts and confusing pricing displays Ruler Foods, I suggest you get it together, because if I have to scan my receipts (and do anyway) and continue to find discrepancies, the likelihood that I continue to shop your store becomes less and less. If I cannot trust you, what is the point of trying to save money?

The Ruler Food store I shop is located at 1703 N. Belt West, Belleville, Illinois 62226.