West Side Rag begins its new “Whatever Happened to…” column with this followup to the story of Fairway’s Thanksgiving stuffing fiasco.
By Elliot Podwell
I seem to have touched a nerve last month with my essay: “Caveat Emptor: An UWS Market Pulls a Fast One.” In it I described how Fairway, a few busy days before Thanksgiving, placed a large pyramid of bagged stuffing mix in a heavily trafficked part of the store. There was no price on the bags, but I needed stuffing so I grabbed a couple, only to find at checkout that each bag cost a whopping $19.99! The two bags cost me more than the large turkey I also bought that day.
To my surprise, my essay got 13,000 reader views, inspired 128 comments, and was the fourth most-read story in the Rag in 2022. Many of the commenters described equally obnoxious practices at what used to be one of the neighborhood’s best grocery stores – such as, charging more at checkout than the price posted on the shelf, and the reduced quality of various products.
All those comments inspired me to write to Fairway’s boss, Joseph Colalillo, the CEO of Wakefern Food Corp., in early December. Wakefern also runs ShopRite and Price Rite, among other supermarket chains. I told Colalillo my tale and attached my WSR essay. Our local New York Assembly Member, Linda Rosenthal, put a link to my essay in her newsletter and wrote Colallillo a letter of her own, stating that after the Rag’s article “about Fairway’s deceptive practice of upcharging customers, a handful of my constituents contacted my office to share similar concerns and experiences.”
A few days later, a Wakefern customer relations person named Amanda (no last name given) called me. Omitting the price was a careless oversight during a very busy shopping week, she said. The $20 price was also an error. (The correct price, according to my previous research, should have been in the $10 range.) Amanda promised that after the busy holiday season she would send me an email listing changes Wakefern would demand of Fairway. Once Christmas had passed, she said, she’d have more time to communicate with the store and would send me the results.
It’s now mid-January. I’m still awaiting Amanda’s email, and I’ve heard nothing at all from CEO Colalillo. Assembly Member Rosenthal’s letter to him has also gone unanswered, according to her communication director.
So, fellow UWSers, “caveat emptor” remains a good policy for us to follow if we continue to shop at Fairway. As for me, I will no longer shop in a packed store just before a big holiday, when lines are so long that I don’t reject a purchase when I arrive at the cashier and discover that it costs two or three times what it should. In any case, maybe next Thanksgiving I’ll cook something other than a turkey–something that doesn’t call for stuffing.