Monday, January 01, 2007

Got coin? (on the opening of a new grocery store amid much hype and hoopla)

It is nearly impossible for anyone living in Jordan to have missed the fact that Carrefour recently opened it's first location here. The hype in advance was huge. And, much of it was viral marketing from those who had visited locations in other cities. Having recently visited one in Dubai, I was very optimistic. As a result, I forced El 3atal to go with me to do our weekly shopping last week. Their ads talked about selection and good prices, so I thought I'd put them to the test. This is especially important to me as our grocery costs doubled when we moved to Jordan (and I have to go to three stores). I have to admit our initial impression did not change for the better upon greater exposure. We pulled in to the parking garage (under the building) amongst the debris and hanging power lines of an active construction site. Not what I think of when I think of world-class openings. We noticed as we walked toward the doors that the carts were all in one location in the middle. El 3atal asked the attendant if there were carts inside as well. Seemingly not. We then discovered that you are, in effect, putting a deposit on the cart. You have to place a ten piaster coin in a slot to take the cart. If you return the cart to the corral (again one for the entire side of the garage), you get your ten piasters back. Well, I can see that this might eliminate paying someone to go out and collect carts. Oh, wait, but they're still paying that same guy to stand around and give change to those who don't have the change on them. Who knows what one would do if they didn't carry cash...

Next you go inside the mall and up an escalator (ala Safeway) with your cart to reach the store's entrance. Let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with El 3atal's assessment that the entire experience is designed for the convenience of Carrefour, not the consumer. The supply issues that every store supplying Western products faces is apparent at Carrefour as well. Where in Dubai they had 3 or 4 brands of every product, here they had only one, if that. No Bisquik, No Campbell's Sirloin Burger Soup, and the list goes on... The unavailability that plagues Safeway, Cozmo, and to a lesser extent C Town were clear here as well. And they just opened! After looking all around the downstairs, I realized that to buy simple kitchen and bathroom cleaning products or diapers, I'd have to go upstairs. Go upstairs I did. They didn't have several cleaning products I needed. And, the search for diapers was ridiculous. El 3atal stopped one guy only to find out that, appearances to the contrary, he's not really an employee and doesn't know the layout of the store (then take the darn Carrefour badge hanger off!). We finally find that the diapers are literally buried as far across the store, past every other item, as they could be. Okay, I'm the already harried Mom to three, the last thing I need in a weekly grocery experience is to have to navigate all the way across two floors of junk. At either Safeway or Cozmo, I can do all of my shopping on one floor. I may have to go to both, but I'm still only on one floor. We finally found the diapers (no Pull-Ups, so a wasted adventure to find the section) and went back downstairs to complete the purchase of fresh fruits, veggies, and bread. The fruits and veggies were about the same as at Safeway and Cozmo although the section is much larger with the same number of pricing counters, so the mob effect was in force. And now, for the piece de resistance, they had NO ARABIC BREAD! With Western products, I get the supply issue. However, somehow Safeway, Cozmo, and C Town have managed to deal with the bread issue (they outsource, duh...). I mean, not to be obvious but, you are in the Middle East. What self-respecting store in the Middle East doesn't sell Arabic Bread? That's truly pitiful. While I expected I might have to go to another store to complete my shopping (I hoped not, but am realistic), I didn't expect to be going there for Arabic bread!

The check-out experience was as lackluster as the rest of the shopping experience. We had a huge cartful of groceries (as usual) and the bagger at the checkout line bagged everything and set it on the floor. Now, at Safeway they would simply have pulled up another cart and we would have ended up with two (like most weeks). But, here again the 10 piaster folly strikes. So, without another 10 piasters and the patience to go ALL THE WAY down and floor and OUTSIDE, we just overburdened the cart and left it at that. We got the groceries out to the car without too much falling off the cart in the process, loaded it down, and El 3atal returned the cart to get our stupid 10 piasters back. Meanwhile, the guy who waiting for our space gave up and kept driving because we were about as far from the carts as you can get. We then had to hunt and search for the exit (found after navigating the entire garage and following signs to exits that don't exist). Going up the ramp, El 3atal pointed out that this lane, which barely fit us alone, was intended for 2 way traffic as evidenced by the lane dividers.

In sum, instead of going to Safeway for my primary shopping, then Cozmo for the items I couldn't find, then C Town for Bisquick and Pull Ups, to shop at Carrefour, I would need to go to Carrefour, then Safeway, then Cozmo, then C Town. I think not. If your current shopping experience is C Town and you'd like a Super Wal-Mart feel, Carrefour will be a revelation. Otherwise, Carrefour won't solve any of your Safeway/Cozmo problems, it will just add a few more (got coin?). Oh, and the prices are comparable to Safeway, so you won't be saving anything by going, just spending the gas to get there and find your way out of the lot...

Happy shopping!

18 Comments:

At 2:41 AM , Anonymous Moey said...

well, I'd rather stay with cozmo then. you know growing in the gulf also makes you depend on american products you can't find here as well. bummer!
I get cereal bars with me from Kuwait whenever I visit plus the toast here isn't interesting at all. same goes for the hardly found sour cream.

thanks to you review, I wont waste my time visiting carrefour and pay 10 piasters for a cart!

 
At 2:59 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

I hear you, Moey. I know that the store in Dubai was as American as Super Wal-Mart. The one here is SO not. And, oh, don't get me started on the labneh as sour cream topic. But, you say hardly. Have you actually found REAL sour cream somewhere?

I'll also stick to my 3 store routine for the foreseeable future. Ahhh, Safeway, Cozmo, and C Town. How I love thee, let me count the ways.

 
At 4:05 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

Thanks for the warning! I will continue to thank God my husband shops for us.

 
At 4:22 AM , Anonymous Hamzeh N. said...

About the carts:

It sounds like a very big deal is being made out of the 10 piasters. I personally wouldn't walk all the way back from the car to return the cart and get my 10 piasters back. How many times do you shop? Once a week? That's only JOD 5 a year wasted on carts. Assuming everytime you go, you don't find a cart that someone else had left near their car upon leaving.

I'd hate to be saying this because it will sound like I'm encouraging disorder, but I think people shouldn't feel strongly attached to their 10 piasters. Think of it this way, the more people give up their 10 piasters and not return their carts, the more unchecked carts will be available that other people can use without having to pay 10 piasters and not feel obliged to return, which leads to more of the same cycle. In the end, the whole 10 piasters system will no longer be working unless the store hires people to aggressively marshal carts back to their designated pick up location, which will defeat the cost saving purpose of the system and will leave customers dissatisfied in the end. Ultimately, the store would be forced to do what is only reasonable and applied by every grocery store in the "sane world", which is to make carts freely available and have multiple locations to drop and pick them up and have people from the store do the task of cleaning up the carts.

 
At 6:10 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, I am very envious. El 3atal hates to shop as much as I do. Hamzeh, while I don't generally disagree with your prediction (and I think that's what WILL happen), for me it is only one more issues that ensures that I won't be shopping there. In fact, I suspect many people will find what I did and Safeway and Cozmo's customers will continue to shop with Safeway and Cozmo. If there's nothing you add (and from my perspective regarding weekly grocery shopping perspective there isn't), then small things like 10 piasters will influence customers.

 
At 12:34 PM , Anonymous Rebecca said...

Yes, I was very disappointed with Carrefour, too. I was hoping that they would offer us some new products that we can't find at other stores here in Jordan. (I mean, after all, they've got the SPACE.) But no. They've got 30 models of deep-fat-friers on sale, but no breadmakers. It's exactly the same products offered in other stores (actually less selection, as you mentioned, just more quantity) at very expensive prices. I saw a shawl there for 10 dinar, which was almost exactly like one I bought in Jebal Hussein for 5 dinars. I doubt I'll bother again.

 
At 1:16 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Rebecca, glad for the independent confirmation. Had some friends over who have always lived here and got the same reaction to the layout and prices...

 
At 7:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the review Mommabean.

Hamzeh, it is not about the 10p. but it seams that they're treating customers as if they're at an airport, where they need to be. at this grocery store, people have other options. if, as said in the post:, the store is designed for the convenience of the store not the customer, this store is not going to make it. if others are better already, C-town, safeway, and cozmo, then wait to see what they will add and improve to retain and gain new customers.

 
At 10:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not going to make a big issue about the 10 piastres after spending the summer in England and having to insert a Pound (approximately $2) into the cart! It's going to get annoying, however, when I don't happen to have any small change on hand and I have to hunt down and an employee who is going to act extremely put out when I need to get coins for the cart.

 
At 2:36 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

el tapatio, thanks for commenting. My sentiments exaclty, it's not really about the coin as much as the overall philosophy. I have other choices, I'll certainly exercise them given all of the put-offs of the customer experience.

Dave, that was one of my thoughts, but then since I'm not returning anytime soon, I dont expect to have the problem :). If I lived in Dabouq, maybe. But it's farther for me than all of the better options.

 
At 5:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am soooo thankful to hear that I am not the only one who isn't impressed with Carrefour. :) I am a Cozmo/Safeway person as well, and I won't be stopping my routine any time soon.

Also, something I found annoying was that the products were categorized by color or flavor - Comfort and Ice Cream.

I've meant to email you, but been crazy here DD having tests and DH who decided to suprise me with a visit. Will email you soon.

 
At 1:51 PM , Anonymous ammar said...

I am just a normal shopper, no special needs. i found that Careefour offers substantial saving, especially, if you do bulk shopping

ammar

 
At 2:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do bulk shopping - I buy many things by the case, esp milk. I buy Hammoudeh skim milk, it's 1 cent cheaper at Carrefour than other stores. That's a saving of 10 cents to 20 cents - if I buy one or two cases. I don't think a person can save much when they have to drive further to save 1 or 2 cents on some items.

Also, the crowds are too much. Lately, I don't have the patience for people or their bad kids.

If it works for you, go for it. But over all I think it's a pain and not worth the trouble regardless of what you could save. And that's coming from a Thrift Shop queen, coupon clipper, girl that makes convenience foods from scratch.

 
At 3:03 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Anonymous, it's always nice to know you aren't alone, isn't it?

Ammar, for us the price was absolutely no cheaper. I've had others who looked it over and said the same thing. I only saw one small bulk items area. Did I miss something? And, boy do I buy in bulk! I buy 48 soft drinks a week and 2 ten packs of Hammoudeh milk. Not to mention all of the other things that I buy 3-4-5 of. But I guess it depends on what you mean by special needs. I'm absolutely certain we are that. I suspect that you can save on specific things, but overall I didn't find the prices to be significantly cheaper. In fact, I think C Town is typically a little less than the big Western style stores...

 
At 3:14 PM , Blogger Raed said...

hey all ... get a life ...
stop commenting ... and try to solve your problems first .. we've been to dubai and europ and the states .. all are the same but people here used to comment .. becuase they have nothing better to do ..

 
At 1:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s ironic how people like to criticize everything specially if it’s new! And thanks Raed for the perfect line for the perfect people. Ooh and by the way Mommabean, I think “El 3atal” was born with a real name, u should try and use it some time ;)

 
At 1:31 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Raed, thanks for stopping by. though does the irony of your commenting not hit you? :)

Anonymous, Actually, what I offered was a review of how it met my needs (it didn't). And, I specifically pointed out people for whom it would be a better option. However if you saw it as a criticism, so be it. In fact, I know El 3atal has a name, I suspect you were also born with one. Next time you visit, please feel free to use it. :)

 
At 12:00 PM , Anonymous Mimi said...

How was the whipped cream availability? Or the chocolate chips? Hmmmm.....

 

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