Thursday, February 17, 2011

2.17.11 Bee-otch of the Day: Rick Snyder

Name: Rick Snyder
Age: 52
Occupation: governor of Michigan
Last Seen: Ann Arbor, MI
Bee-otched For: giving the state sticker shock
If the governor of Michigan has his way, people in this state may end up getting shocked at the checkout counter of their favorite supermarket. 

Governor Rick Snyder is pushing a bill through the now Republican-run legislature in this state that no longer requires grocery stores to put price tags on items. Instead, the prices of most items will be represented by a sticker on the side of the shelf. 

Right now, Michigan is only one of two states in the country that has this law, passed 35 years ago. The other state that does this is Massachusetts. Now that most grocers and other stores have scanners, it seems to be worthless to have stickers on each item, right? 

According to a report cited by Gov. Snyder, businesses lose $2 billion annually just by forcing their workers to slap labels on products. In his State of the State Address a few weeks ago, Snyder said, "In today's world of scanners, barcodes and automated inventory systems, we are simply adding an undue burden on retailers and consumers. It's bad for business, and it's bad for consumers."

Several smaller grocers in this state love the idea, including Phil Deering, the owner of Deering's Market in Empire, a town of slightly under 400 20 miles west of Traverse City. He told the Leelanau Enterprise newspaper that in the Winter alone, he and his staff spend eight hours a week holding a price gun, and it quadruples in the Summer when tourists come and visit the nearby beach or Sand Dunes. Bear in mind that Deering's is a small store - I was there a few years ago and I guesstimate that it's only 8,000 square feet, give or take - that adjoins a bar. It's also worth noting that Deering's has been in business for over 60 years and its founder - Phil's father - still works in the back room doing some of the pricetagging. Many Traverse City grocers - Tom's, Oleson's, Maxbauer's and another Deering's - all are related to Deering's.

Phil even told the paper that not slapping on prices would free up their time, keeping shelves full and even helping the customers on the floor instead of being out in the back.

But of course, there's the fact that no sticker on the item means that customers might be forgetful on how much each item costs. Many analysts - myself included - believe that one fear regarding the new law is that once somebody goes up to the counter and the scanner zaps the wrong price, the customer's screwed. Trust me. A few weeks ago, I bought some shampoo at Walgreen's and I warned the cashier that the second bottle was 1/2 price. Thankfully, the manager came and refunded my cash.

Another thing to think about is the fact that not all stores have scanners! Gordy's Market on Division near 44th in Grand Rapids, for example has two checkout aisles and they don't have 'em. Thankfully, they have tags on everything. I don't think that another Spartan Store in town, D'Amico's have scanners either. Then again, grocers that have scanners do love them since they can keep track on what sells and what doesn't.
But here's another problem, and it's for the employee: what if this law passes and it allows store owners and managers to cut hours, or even worse, cut staff? I was once a stocker at a grocery store years ago, and when business slowed down, my hours were cut. I know, and it sucks.

Personally, I think that Snyder's proposal is more for the stores and their owners and not the consumer. This new law allows them to save their own money while in some cases, the customer gets screwed over at the checkout. As somebody pointed out on a news site I visited, this is big box grocers like Walmart and Meijer getting into the pants of Gov. Rick. More money for them, and less for the consumer and even less for the poor sap who works in retail.

But once again, don't blame me, I didn't vote for him.


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