The Boston Globe this morning reports that "the teenage sleuths of Hyde Square are at it again.
"Six years after prompting TD Garden to donate $1.65 million for a skating rink after discovering the complex failed to hold fund-raisers for local recreation programs as required by state law, they have another behemoth in their sights: Stop & Shop.
"In researching how inflation affects low-income families, youth organizers with the Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain learned that a grocery cart of items at their local Stop & Shop cost $34 more than the same products at the chain’s store in suburban Dedham."
The Globe goes on:
"On the same day in March, about a dozen teens made nearly identical grocery runs at Stop & Shop stores in Jamaica Plain by the Mildred C. Hailey housing complex in Jackson Square, and in Dedham, a suburb south of Boston. Because the prices of staples like fruits and veggies fluctuate, and they needed to buy things they’d probably eat, the teens’ purchases were heavy on the frozen food.
"Prices for Stop & Shop crinkle-cut French fries, for instance, were 90 cents more in Jamaica Plain. At the Jamaica Plain store, a box of Bubba’s turkey burgers was $11.49, compared to $9.49, a quart of Brigham’s vanilla ice cream was 90 cents more, while Smithfield bacon was two dollars more. A few items, such as a frozen box of Ellio’s pizza, were priced the same at both stores."
The story notes that "many of the Hyde Square teens have watched their parents or caretakers toil to make ends meet, and felt cheated to learn their families and others are paying more for groceries than shoppers in a more well-to-do town."
“Finding this out means that we’ve had our money stolen, that we’ve been ripped off,” Danny Vargas, 18, one of the sleuths, who is graduating from City on a Hill Charter Public School this month, tells the Globe. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The story notes that "Ken Tangvik, Hyde Square Task Force’s senior manager of organizing and engagement, said he reached out to the corporation in April to present the group’s findings, and requested a meeting to discuss food pricing store-to-store." Stop & Shop responded in writing this way:
“Unfortunately, we cannot respond to all the questions about our operations, products and services that we receive as it is important that our focus remains on our business and serving our customers … Additionally, the information requested or sought is often proprietary … good luck with your project.”
The Globe writes that "officials from Stop & Shop — a Quincy-based corporation whose parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported nearly $59 billion in US net sales in 2022 — would not comment for this article."
- KC's View:
I have to say that I am filled with admiration with these kids - they're young, but they are demanding respect and attention, and they have every right to both.
The report they compiled makes the point that in a year, if they bought the same things, a family would spend two grand more a year at the Jamaica Plain store than at the Dedham store. A 15-year-old who worked on the project, Euniss Yoyo, says "that’s $2,000 of college tuition, $2,000 on your bills, $2,000 that could go towards building generational wealth."
Now, I suppose that Stop & Shop would argue that its expenses may be higher at the Jamaica Plain store, and so higher prices are justified. But it didn't make that point. Rather, it responded with an email that strikes me as condescending, and then doesn't even answer the Globe's questions. And it appears to be a front-page story in the Globe - maybe the folks at Stop & Shop (and its Ahold ownership) need to rethink their media strategy.
If there's an explanation, make it. Talk to the kids. You may not convince them, but you have to engage. Condescension is not a good look.
In its email, Stop & Shop says that its "focus remains on our business and serving our customers." Well, the kids on the Hyde Square Task Force, and their families, are Stop & Shop's customers, too. Right now, they feel ripped off, and those feelings are being communicated to everyone in New England who gets the Globe, and anyone who reads the paper online.
Like I said. Not a good look.
Here's what I'd so if I were with Stop & Shop. I'd immediately invite the kids to a meeting, and allow the Globe to be there as well. I'd engage in an open exchange of perspectives, and, where possible and appropriate, equalize prices. And then I'd invest in college scholarships for members of the Hyde Square Task Force and maybe bring on some of them as interns.
People like these kids are the future. I'd make the most of this moment and turn it into an opportunity.