Shopping Disparities in Atlanta

I wrote earlier in the week about my thoughts on everyone sweeping Andrew Young’s recent bigotted comments under the carpet. A few readers of Metroblogging Atlanta made some interesting comments; one reader commented on the obvious disparity between services and goods in stores in affluent areas versus those in “the hood.”

This got me to thinking, and I took a look around at the disparity evident in intown Atlanta neighborhoods. Particularly, I started comparing my experiences at two Kroger stores: Both are on Moreland Ave., but one is in the burgeoning Edgewood Retail District, while the other is older and located farther south on Moreland in East Atlanta. The ‘older’ Kroger is older by just a few years – I remember when they built it and people were excited about having a new Kroger in the hood. At first, the East Atlanta Kroger was clean, well-stocked, and friendly. Things started to go downhill when a new Publix came to East Lake on Glenwood Ave. That store became the new, clean, well-stocked store. Service and cleanliness went noticeably downhill at the East Atlanta Kroger within a month or two.

Enter the new super Kroger at the Edgewood Retail District. This new Edgewood Kroger is cleaner, has better produce, a larger wine selection, more fresh flowers, a better deli and bakery selection, and friendlier service. It has a cleaner parking lot (albeit with some really difficult to see stop signs and street markings – pedestrians beware!) and from this mother’s point of view, a cleaner, better selection of kid-friendly shopping carts (those are ‘buggies’ for us Southerners). Did I mention that it also has a Starbuck’s? Obviously, Starbuck’s is a necessity when you couldn’t find a cup of joe for, oh, i don’t know, 250 yards in every other direction in the area. God forbid one must walk across the parking lot to Target or Barnes and Noble for a black cherry green tea mochafrappuccino. But I digress.

I recently stopped in at the Kroger closer to my home, the one in East Atlanta, and I had both kids in tow. I unstrapped them from their carseats, had one on my hip and the other gripped firmly by the hand, and we headed across the very hot asphalt to the closest cart return, searching for a cart that would accomodate two children. (To my knowledge, there are three types of shopping carts: The singles, where one kid will fit up top, with holes for the child’s two legs; The doubles, where two kids will fit side-by-side up top, with four holes for their legs; and the cars, where one child can sit up top, and two kids can sit side-by-side in the car below, pretending to drive.) Nothing in the return, only the single child carts. We head over to the where the carts usually are, in the brick enclosure next to the entrance. No suitable carts there. I scan the parking lot, looking for carts, but all I see is the graveyard where shopping carts go when they die. Carts without wheels, carts turned over on their sides, carts halfway up on the grassy medians at the edge of the lot. I gaze longlingly at another mother who has procured a car-style shopping cart and her one child is lounged in the seat of the car, legs hanging out. I drag the children inside, looking vainly for a cart, and then head back outside to the entrance, grab a single, strap the baby in the top, then put my toddler into the cart’s basket. Sure, I could only get about half the items on my list into the basket with my son, and those were smushed beyond recognition, but hey! there is always the chance that he might stand up in the basket, tumble to the floor, and bust his head open resulting in the opportunity to sue Kroger. Have I ever had to overcome so many obstacles just to begin my shopping at the Edgewood Kroger? No way.

Anyway, this is a very long way of saying that Yes, dear reader, there is an obvious discrepancy between the service and goods at stores in different areas in town. I still don’t see how that could be construed as the fault of “Jews, Koreans, and Arabs,” though. And then I came across this interesting article, written by Thomas Sowell, about the same subject. Sowell avers that Young’s comments might be less out of bigotry than out of ignorance of basic economic principles. Granted, I don’t remember there being any race riots in East Atlanta, but other points in the article might apply, if not to a chain store like Kroger, then to the IGA across Moreland. Interesting to think about, anyway.

p.s. My apologies to readers whose delicate sensibilities are offended by my discussion of [gasp!] children. I am sure that they will soon be outlawed inside the perimeter and will assail you no more.

18 Comments so far

  1. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    Does Metroblogging have no standards on the quality of writing? The “new” Kroger on Moreland south of EAV opened after the Publix at East Lake, which renders your assumptions about the reasons for Kroger quality going down invalid.

    And it’s “Starbucks”, not “Starbuck’s”. How hard is that to figure out?

    The whole comparisons of Krogers is kind of pointless in this discussion. We’re talking about markets where Kroger has decided its worthwhile to invest in new stores. Sure, it’s likely that the south Morland Kroger has worse service and is otherwise less pleasant than the north Moreland Kroger because of a perception of market tolerance for such things, but the real comparison would be to look at what the big nationals like Kroger are doing in areas that are growing more affluent like East Atlanta and those that are not. I doubt a lot of national investment is happening in the poorest parts of Atlanta, which was Young’s horribly-made point.

  2. Annie (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    Ah, Cap’n. . . Nope, no standards at all here at Metroblogging. We are allowed to write willy-nilly about whatever we want, as long as it is about Atlanta. Glad to see you are now gracing Atlanta Metblogs, as well as the EAV boards, with your always interesting commentary. You definitely have a knack for spicing up a discussion. . . .

  3. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 11:14 am

    Hey, it’s THAT Annie from EAV Buzz. Ha! Yeah, I’m a jackass. I really am. But seriously, it seems a little more research should be in order for a Metroblog post, doesn’t it?

  4. Annie (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    “Yeah, I’m a jackass.”

    If the shoe fits. . . .Seriously, if I recall correctly, you are an LSU fan – It’s probably just the liquor talking. :-) And like I said, there are no requirements for well-researched posts. We can post our perceptions and thoughts, with no accurate research or source material at all. Ah, free speech. Gotta love it.

  5. Jam (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

    There is a huge difference between the 2 Moreland Krogers. I go the East ATL Kroger b/c I cannot deal with the traffic and always crowded conditions at the Edgewood Kroger. Also, I noticed that the Edgweood Kroger charges a little more for some products, Silk (Soy Milk) being one.

    Yes the selection on produce and poultry is so much better at the Edgewood Kroger.

    Why this is I don’t know. Does it matter? Not really. Is it a hassle sometimes when the East ATL Kroger doesn’t have decent zuchini or sweet potatoes? Absolutely.

  6. Annie (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 5:18 pm

    I agree – From a shopping standpoint, it really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. I go to Edgewood for produce, etc., but drop in at the closer EA Kroger when I need non-perishables like, oh, beer. But then, I have a car at my disposal.

    Does the reason for the disparity matter? I guess it depends on what the reason for the disparity is. What if Andrew Young is right, and it IS the “Arabs, Jews, and Koreans” sticking it the African-American community.

    Might also depend on who you ask. For example, you and I seem to shop them interchangeably, based on our needs. i would think that an elderly woman who can’t drive, but who can walk down the street to one and has to take the bus to the other, would find having to take the bus just to get to some decent lettuce to be pretty darn annoying.

  7. Andisheh Nouraee (unregistered) on August 24th, 2006 @ 11:27 pm

    If you’re really in the mood to comparison shop, I suggest you check out the one of the two closest Kroger stores to my house in Southwest Atlanta’s Capitol View neighborhood. They’re so bad that I can only assume that the Arabs, Jews, Koreans, Commies, Jihadis, Martians, Opus Dei and Freemasons have all teamed up really, really, REALLY stick it to us.

    You’ll run back to the EAV Kroger on Moreland and kiss the ground.

  8. Annie (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 10:00 am

    Andisheh – I totally acknowledge that EAV is not exactly at either end of the end of the spectrum, as far as affluency. I guess I just had blinders on, thinking about my little part of Atlanta, but then again, this wasn’t exactly a scientifically-based research project. Just my thoughts on the whole thing.
    I wonder where the absolute grocery stores are in the city? I wonder which stores are the tops, too?

  9. danboo (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    … claims that the East Lake Publix opened in 11/2001.

    … claims the South Moreland Kroger opened in 3/2003 minus about “about 18 months”. That comes to “about” 09/2001, which is before 11/2001.

    Granted the “about” is an estimate, but is it really off by 3 months or more? Which is wrong?

  10. Andisheh Nouraee (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    Annie — I meant my comment as humorous support/illustration of your point. The poorer the surrounding neighborhoods, the fewer grocery stores there are. The fewer grocery stores there are, the less competition. Less competition = not trying as hard.

    Part of the problem is that grocery retailing is a very, very, very low margin business. With budgets limited, the effort goes into the stores with competition nearby. That closer a store is to affluent shoppers and competing stores, the nicer it will generally be.

    The same is true of fast food in SW Atlanta. Getting a damned diet coke at any of the restaurants can be an ordeal.

  11. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

    Sowell, is right, and for that reason Young is right. The point is that Wal Mart’s economies of scale make it much less susceptible to the factors that causes the Mom and Pop stores to “rip off” people in the poor communities and can be seen as a positive presence on those grounds.

  12. Annie (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

    Gotcha, Andisheh. Now i am outraged over the southwest Atlanta diet coke situation. I thought our right to easily accessible diet Coke was in the Bill of Rights?

    Rashid – You’re going to have to help me out here. I am a little slow. How does Sowell’s being right translate into it being alright for Young to throw around racial and cultural slurs? I’m not following you.

  13. Smoove D (unregistered) on August 25th, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

    Who the fuck cares? Kroger sucks donkey nuts no matter where the store is. Publix is where it’s at. Especially the one in Vinings. I have no idea what the produce looks like or if they mop the floors, because I’m to busy staring at the mad hotties in their twenties. BTW, I drive 10 miles to get to that particular store.

  14. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on August 26th, 2006 @ 11:27 pm


    Last time I checked, “Jew,” “Arab,” and “Korean” weren’t ethnic slurs – that is unless you have some predisposition to not like these groups. Young didn’t say that people in these groups were somehow crooked because of their ethnicity. If he had, that would be a clearly racist comment and he would deserve to be reprimanded. Instead, he said that people who fit this description (i.e. outsiders to his community) were charging exorbitant prices for inferior goods in his neighborhood.

    I don’t know how much Sowell you read, but he notoriously bashes left-leaning figures for sport. He betrays his bias by singling out “black leaders” who are overwhelmingly Democrats. What makes Sowell’s partisan hackery particularly dangerous is the fact that he is a hell of an economist and researcher. Unfortunately, it’s clear that his only primary research on this issue has been his conversation with his niece in Harlem.

    Regardless, the bottom line is that poor neighborhoods generally get bad services and a limited choice of goods due to perceptions – real and imagined – of a higher cost of doing buisiness. The supply chain inefficiencies that Sowell mentions are indeed an issue with smaller businesses and do affect prices and selection. Wal Mart – with their ferociously efficient supply and value chains – is relatively impervious to this issue and as such, can provide a better selection of goods at a lower cost and create a few jobs in the process.

    So yes, Sowell is right and therefore Young is right. Bring on Wal Mart.

  15. Annie (unregistered) on August 28th, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

    Rashid – Great comments, While I did not mean to imply that “Arab,” “Jew,” or “Korean” were in themselves derogatory, a “slur” is an insult or disparagement, and I did mean to say that the way in which Young used them was indeed a slur against those groups. I certainly don’t have a problem with Wal-Mart, or the independent stores (who have a right to make a buck and run their business as they see fit), but I do feel strongly that Young was out of line with his comments, and if he wasn’t, then why were so many people bothered by his comments and more importantly, why did he resign his position and issue apologies to leaders of the groups he disparaged? Seems to me like an admission of guilt. Frankly, it seems that you fit the bill of those i was criticizing in the first place – People who will overlook comments like Young’s because of his political leanings. I don’t think you would be so quick to agree with the comments if Young was a white man, or a conservative.

    Concerning Sowell, i have read some of his stuff and while I agree it is very partisan, isn’t anyone’s comments partisan if they are a proud card-carrying member of either big party, trying to prove a point about the competition? I mean, wouldn’t that also apply to, say, Maureen Dowd? She tends to “betray her bias” pretty often, too. I might not agree with their opinions, but that is their job – they are Op-Ed writers.

  16. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on August 28th, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

    Hey Annie,

    People are bothered by Young’s comments because they have been primed to be bothered. Just like dogs have been primed to fetch sticks and tennis balls we are primed to be pissed off any time somebody calls out a race or otherwise pinpoints an ethnicity.

    I’ll excuse your assumption about who I would defend and who I wouldn’t as a first time offense. Don’t be so quick to think that I am some kind of knee-jerk liberal. I am on record defending Bill Bennett and plenty of other white conservatives for statements that were just as reviled as Young’s. Of course the number of people offended by a statement has no bearing on how accurate it is.

    Young apoligized because he is still ultimately a politician, and as such, sometimes still has to kowtow to the whims of ignorant and self-righteous masses. You have to know how that goes, see Trent Lott – another person that I’ve defended.

    I only brought up Sowell’s bias to reconcile the fact that I was pitting his conclusion with Young’s. I like Sowell, but his columns are generally first class hackery. His books on the other hand, are very illuminating.

  17. Annie (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 11:28 am

    Rashid – Yours are by far my favorite comments I’ve ever received for any of my posts. First of all, you are completely right that I should not have made an assumption about your political leanings. I don’t like it when others make those assumptions about me, and I shouldn’t have done it to you. My apologies.

    I still don’t agree with Young’s comments being excused by so many, but I do agree with you that people being offended by a statement has nothing to do with the relevance or truth of the statement.

    I hope you will continue to comment on Atlanta Metblogs, as I think you have an interesting perspective on current events.

  18. james (unregistered) on September 2nd, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

    i used to call on krogers for a vendor in a former life. i can tell you as sketchy as the one on moreland can get, it PALES in comparison to the ones on stewart ave, bankhead highway, old nat and the old one that they tore down on memorial drive right at the interstate.

    it used to be something little ole me walking into those stores, let me tell you….

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