Let me spin you a tale of grocery shopping. I was eager to have the opportunity to explore one of our local Weis Markets to see if they had gotten any better in terms of being competitive with the other chains in our area. (For the short version, see my picture story on Google+)
Before I went shopping, I checked out the Weis website to see which stores were in my area. I know there’s one around the corner, but from memory, it’s not very good (this was confirmed by one of our therapists who visited very recently when I mentioned this project in conversation), and it’s hard to get out of the parking lot. It’s just not a good location as it’s on the corner of a very busy intersection. So I did a location search for another store. The store finder told me there were no other stores within 100 miles.
Then I decided on my recipes and shopping list. Based on the multiple food allergies, I need to take into consideration when cooking, and my family’s preferences, I decided to make chicken and gnocchi soup, fudge drop cookies, and hot chocolate. Perfect food for the cold weather, even if we don’t currently have snow on the ground. I checked the cupboards to see what I already had on hand. I had a lot of the ingredients already. That’s unusual. Usually when I set out to make something specific I need to buy a lot of what I need. For this meal, I needed carrots, spinach, celery, gnocchi, chicken, and cream.
I waited until Sunday morning and checked the Weis circular for sales. Nothing really caught my eye until I got to the back page. Our local store is not the only store within 100 miles. There are several stores in the area, and the one in Linglestown offers a service where you can order online and pick up your order when you get there for a service fee of $4.99, but that is waived on your first order. If Linglestown wasn’t so far, and I knew where I was going, I would have tried it, but I opted for one of the Mechanicsburg stores instead.
When I got to the store, I had to get a new shopper’s club card. Mine was old (think 1999-ish), and I know the last time I was in the store they told me I needed to update, I just didn’t have the time. Well, this time I didn’t even have my old card on my person, and I wasn’t in the system anymore, so I got a whole new card. They were able to easily scan my driver’s license at customer service, and all I had to do was give my phone number to get the new card. It was very easy and only took a minute.
The gas rewards points at Weis are a good idea since they work at Sheetz, and you can use your Sheetz card on top of that to get another 3 cents off per gallon for double savings. The downside is that you only get your gas points when you spend $50 increments in the grocery store in one transaction. It’s not cumulative, so if you spend $47, no points. Even though the other stores in the area require spending a higher dollar amount to get 10 gas points, I prefer their programs because they’re cumulative. Every dollar I spend counts on every transaction, and one store partners with the schools to give them money when I shop there as well.
After getting my new shopper’s club card, I set to shopping. I started in the front of the store. Right as you walk in, there’s a store directory hanging from the ceiling. The bakery/produce/deli area is all very brightly lit and aisles are wide. The bakery was very small. I noticed when shopping for my produce that sale items were clearly marked. Some items weren’t all grouped together though. I found some celery over in one area, but yet more in another. Organics were sprinkled throughout, but not in a separate section (I’d find later this is true of the whole store). It was fairly easy to find the celery, spinach, and carrots I needed. I would have preferred to use whole carrots, but I only needed one, and I thought we’d be more apt to eat the baby carrots as snacks than I would to use any leftover large carrots.
Other than produce, I needed gnocchi and chicken for the soup. I headed towards the pasta aisle. There was an extensive selection of pastas and sauces, but no gnocchi. None. Again, organics were mixed with the regular products. Since there was no gnocchi, I headed towards the meat to get chicken. There was no organic meat. I did note that the boneless skinless chicken breasts were marked 99% fat free. That sort of struck me as odd since most people know those are really low in fat.
I perused the rest of the store since I had never been there before with only my carrots, celery, and spinach. I found some items in strange places. There were pine nuts in the baking aisle in between some extracts and recycled baking cups. The gluten free section was towards the end of one aisle between the SPAM and school supplies. The coffee wasn’t by the other beverages or cereal, but rather at the end of the store across from the dairy case with the cheese and yogurt. I did notice an extensive selection of Goya products. I also noticed the white Kraft deli slices. Those are getting harder to find, and something my family eats.
I didn’t buy my cream there because we’re very picky about our dairy, and I get that at the commissary whenever possible. No store in the area has been able to match the quality of milk the commissary carries from a regional dairy.
Overall, I saw some of the brands we use in the store, but there are some major drawbacks for me. With the gas point system, the lack of organic meats, the prices that were generally higher than other stores, and the many times I found myself confused at product placement, I can’t see myself changing where I shop for groceries.
*This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. All opinions are my own.