Work and Occupation

Smoke Screen

I still remember a staff meeting we had when I worked in a grocery store, where the manager showed us an odd sort of flow chart that was supposed to detail how little funds most grocery stores make, after expenses.

The idea was that after paying employees, energy costs (lights, refrigeration), vendors, and farmers, the actual store itself got the short end of the straw. I think the figure used was that for every $100 a shop brings in, the take home is only about $12. I call BS.

Bottom Line

We’re in the money!

No business would willingly operate with a mere 10 percent profit margin. The fact is that these stores are doing much better than they say. Perhaps this little “pep talk” was part of a plan to sway little Johnny against stealing that bag of chips, or little Jenny from taking a five-finger discount on the latest issue of Seventeen.


I don’t doubt that the expenses can pile up. Keeping a large space simultaneously cool and warm is no easy (or inexpensive!) task, to be sure.

And there are a lot of people that work in your average ‘supermarket.’ A lot. From cashiers to stock people, deli clerks to the ‘service clerks’ who corral carts and such. And that’s not counting the dozens of folks who are there overnight, cleaning the floors, preparing food stuffs (bread, salads, meat products) for the next day, and making sure some punk teen with a driver’s permit, or senior citizen who’s mistaken the gas for the brake, doesn’t plow a car through the place.

But if things were as bad as the grocery execs would like you to believe, why wouldn’t they just jack up the prices of the stuff they sell? I don’t know how good the corn season was this year. I wouldn’t notice if it went up five cents an ear.

Always Low Prices

Meanwhile, discount stores like Walmart and Costco don’t seem to be feeling the ‘pain.’ And many of these operations have twice the employees as your average grocery store and, in many cases, up to three times the square footage! According to the flow chart, they should be hemorrhaging money! And yet they aren’t. They’re “somehow” able to pull in record profits, while keeping prices low for the consumer. Someone’s not telling the whole truth.

This isn’t about criticizing small (or large!) business, or creating an atmosphere of general distrust among the public. It’s about being forthright and honest in business dealings. Don’t try to coerce young, impressionable minds into perpetuating your false ideals. They’ll only grow up to resent your propaganda, and uncover your lies, one by the one.

by Paymon West
Residential Life Magazine


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