Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The all-new Ghetto Kroger

You have to deal with a lot of crap living in the hood. Shiftless dudes hanging out on Moreland Avenue at all times of the day; piles of clothes, furniture and whatnot appearing on the curb outside the houses of the evicted (although the plus there is that you can get rid of just about anything by simply toting it to the curb since people are trained to look for curb-side freebies); beat-down American cars spewing smoke as they barrel toward you on narrow neighborhood roads; and endless lines of people buying Cash 3 tickets at the Chevron when all you want is a Coke.

And, until about two years ago, you had to drive 10 miles to find a decent grocery store. Then the Publix opened at East Lake, followed by the big, shiny, all-new Ghetto Kroger on Moreland down by Charles' house. The new Ghetto Kroger replaced the original a couple miles farther down Moreland.

Ghetto Kroger was my nickname for the old store (think Disco Kroger in Buckhead or the former Freddy Kroger on Ponce), and anyone who ever ventured inside would know why. I made that mistake once, then learned the short way to Publix at Ansley the Publix on Ponce when it opened before the East Lake Publix opened.

When I saw the new Kroger under construction, I was intrigued. In my former life, I lived in Alpharetta (home of some of the most glorious Krogers around), wrote some about the new store designs and became quite a fan of the big deli counters, meat departments, produce counters and all that.

I went to the new Ghetto Kroger the first day it was open. Yep, looked like the Crabapple store. The daily case mooed, the lettuce racks made the cute thunder sound when the mist was unleashed. The clientele was diverse, to say the least, but it all seemed to work.

Now, about a year or so later, the all-new Ghetto Kroger has made my "don't go there" list. It's not the customer base, which somehow does seem to be made up of more "old school" neighborhood folks than the Publix, it's the service.

At about 9 p.m. Sunday night, they had a total of three registers open, and the lines of shopping carts were winding all over the front of the store. There had to be more than 30 people total waiting to check out. Even the U-Scan lanes were backed up, because everybody who came close to being able to get all their stuff through self checkout was taking that route.

I tried to be patient, but gave up after about 10 minutes of no line movement, other shoppers combining their carts in front of me to skip the line and the growing stench of humanity packed in there on a rather warm evening.

So I became a real-world instance of what e-commerce folks call "shopping cart abandonment". I was tempted to leave it sitting driverless in line, but that would just hurt those poor saps stuck behind me. So a quick left from the line of lines, an easy roll down the sugar and flour aisle and I was off to Publix.

Ten minutes to re-create my shopping cart, quick checkout (no lines), and I was out.

Goodbye, Ghetto Kroger.

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