Letter To The Editor: Smith’s Near Monopoly In Los Alamos

By MARION L. STELTS
Los Alamos

I have lived in Los Alamos since 1980. I have appreciated having a well-stocked supermarket in town. Before Smith’s bought out Safeway, we did have Ed’s Supermarket and some C-stores for some alternative.

When Smith’s arrived, especially after moving into Smith’s Marketplace and opening its gas station things changed. Ed’s went out of business. The Smith’s gas station had low prices and drove most other stations out of business. We do have the Co Op but they tend to be pricier and without the selection that Smith’ has. I did notice that when they moved into the Marketplace that their selection of groceries was reduced.

Lately, I have noticed changes.

The gas station has raised its prices to the extent that it pays to buy gas off the hill when possible.

They have announced that they will no longer accept Visa cards so they can keep prices low. Prices seem to have gone up. I suspect it was to they could continue to pay their corporate managers salaries of 10’s of millions. It takes longer to checkout using a bank card.

They are having increased problems keeping their shelves stocked recently.

They have replaced checkers with “attendants” and an increase of self-checkout stations. These stations seem to require many interventions by the attendants. This does give us time to discuss how Smith’s has deteriorated while waiting for the attendant to deal with the many other stations requiring intervention!

I decided to discuss this situation with the manager, Isaac Chavez. He indicated that there was little probability of the quality of service being restored. At this point, I stated that the only power we had over Smith’s was to hurt them economically by taking as much business as we could off the Hill. At this point he gave me his phone number and promised to check me out personally!

I told him the problems were bigger than just me. I got his email address as well his phone number. I emailed a couple to times to indicate problems that I had observed. He does not read his email. I had to print out copies for him to know what the issues were. He sent one of his employees to verify that what I had written in the emails was true.

Almost everyone I know has noticed problems with Smith’s. Some are going to the Co Op saying the good quality and excellent service are worth paying more. I have begun making a long-term shopping list.

We went shopping this morning at Walmart in Espanola. A few items were cheaper at Smith’s, but most were impressively cheaper than Smith’s. I was checked out by a real checker, quickly and efficiently. I felt well rewarded by making the trip. I did regret having gassed up at Smith’s recently so that I was not able to take advantage of the much cheaper gas prices.

I would urge people to try to shop off the Hill when they can. I think we could make an impact that might make Smith’s return to better service and prices.

If anyone knows how to set up a Facebook page, this might facilitate carpooling and perhaps give alerts to good deals off the Hill.

Note: I do have the highest regard for the employees of Smith’s. I think they do a great job.

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