I hope this was supposed to have been a thought bubble

Cidu Bill on Nov 14th 2017

marla.JPG

Otherwise, if this strip is even remotely centered in reality, Marla’s a cashier at A&P by next week.

Filed in Bill Bickel, Retail, comic strips, comics, humor | 47 responses so far

47 Responses to “I hope this was supposed to have been a thought bubble”

  1. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 03:07 pm 1

    Actually, if this were a lead-in to a storyline about Marla’s burn-out, that might be kind of cool.

    Although… maybe they could do a spin-off strip about her recovery process and call it Retail Therapy.

  2. Winter Wallaby Nov 14th 2017 at 03:15 pm 2

    Yeah, I think it was supposed to be a thought bubble. Obviously in comics characters do things that their real-world counterparts would only fantasize about doing. But if it was supposed to be verbal, there would be a reaction from the customer.

  3. James Pollock Nov 14th 2017 at 03:36 pm 3

    ” if it was supposed to be verbal, there would be a reaction from the customer.”

    Why? Their previous interaction shows that the customer isn’t actually listening.

  4. Arthur Nov 14th 2017 at 04:16 pm 4

    Her mouth is open. I think it’s dialog not thought.

  5. ja Nov 14th 2017 at 04:30 pm 5

    >>If this strip is even remotely centered in reality, Marla’s a cashier at A&P by next week.
    Given that A&P ceased operations two years ago, we’d need to suspend reality for that to happen ;^)

    However, I agree that this should have been a thought bubble.

  6. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 04:51 pm 6

    James, the customer is listening, she just doesn’t care: I’m sure she’d pick up on an insult.

    And Ja, alas, I know: there was an A&P right down the block from me, and they really inconvenienced me by shutting down. But it was the only supermarket chain whose name I felt would be understood anywhere between, well, the Atlantic and the Pacific.

  7. Christine Nov 14th 2017 at 05:10 pm 7

    I think it’s supposed to look like the customer has stepped far enough away that Marla can say this out loud (albeit in a quieter voice.)

  8. DemetriosX Nov 14th 2017 at 06:24 pm 8

    @Cidu Bill: “But it was the only supermarket chain whose name I felt would be understood anywhere between, well, the Atlantic and the Pacific.”
    And yet in 37 years living in California and Oregon, I don’t think I ever saw one. I did some research and they left CA in 1971, so at the oldest I’d have been 9, and were not farther west than Missouri by 1974. I mean, I’ve heard of them, but then I’ve heard of Piggly Wiggly and Kroger, too.

  9. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 06:39 pm 9

    DemetriosX, did you know what I was referring to?

  10. JHGRedekop Nov 14th 2017 at 06:47 pm 10

    I can’t remember the last time I saw an A&P. All the ones I knew were converted into Dominions, then Metros.

  11. Winter Wallaby Nov 14th 2017 at 07:35 pm 11

    Interestingly, the internet “thinks” (as gauged by search engine responses) that “A&P” is just as likely to refer to the John Updike story as the ex-supermarket chain.

  12. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 09:46 pm 12

    But the Updike story takes place in…?

  13. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 09:55 pm 13

    And okay, since I know somebody will be curious…

  14. PeterW Nov 14th 2017 at 10:14 pm 14

    Every Retail strip ever is about how retail workers wish they could really react to retail problems.

  15. Mark in Boston Nov 14th 2017 at 10:18 pm 15

    A&P shutting down because of competition is poetic justice.

    In the 1950’s A&P would move into a town, sell their goods below cost until all the Mom & Pop stores went out of business, and then raise the prices to normal levels or higher.

  16. Winter Wallaby Nov 14th 2017 at 10:18 pm 16

    Cidu Bill #12: It takes place in an A&P, obviously. I’m not saying that A&P is an obscure reference. I just thought it was interesting that a single story about the chain is half of the likely user intent for the chain name.

  17. Cidu Bill Nov 14th 2017 at 11:55 pm 17

    What’s interesting (and, okay, a bit scary) about Google is that when you searched, you mostly got John Updike; while when I searched, since there used to be an A&P in the neighborhood, I mostly got information about the supermarket chain.

    I suppose I should feel thankful my final A&P shopping list didn’t pop up on the screen.

  18. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2017 at 12:00 am 18

    Mark, it’s worse than that: the chain ultimately shut down because declaring bankruptcy was cheaper than paying their debts including pensions contractually promised to their employees. In other words, the people in charge made out like bandits while everybody else got screwed.

    In case this wasn’t evil enough, our local A&P shut down just before Christmas, with very little notice (after they’d officially stated the store would remain open)

  19. Winter Wallaby Nov 15th 2017 at 02:26 am 19

    Bill #17: Yep. And throw in the fact that they personalize their results based on your search history and behavior, and that they run experiments testing out different rankers on different users, and its amazing that different people ever get the same results.

  20. Kilby Nov 15th 2017 at 05:37 am 20

    There was a German supermarket chain (called “Kaiser’s”) that used to stock some A&P branded products. They went out of business recently; almost all of their stores were bought out by two other chains. I don’t know whether there was an underlying connection to the American chain that caused the collapse.

  21. DemetriosX Nov 15th 2017 at 06:35 am 21

    @Bill (9): Yeah, I got it. But I could just as easily not have. For folks west of the Mississippi who don’t pay attention to that sort of cultural reference, A&P is bordering on a geezer tag. When I was looking to see if A&P had ever been on the west coast, I learned that there really aren’t any national supermarkets. There are national conglomerates, but the naming tends to be regional.

  22. chemgal Nov 15th 2017 at 10:45 am 22

    @Cidu Bill: “But it was the only supermarket chain whose name I felt would be understood anywhere between, well, the Atlantic and the Pacific.”

    You forgot about the portion N of the 49th parallel. No A&P’s in Canada that I’m aware of.

  23. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2017 at 12:08 pm 23

    Playing the odds, Chemgal.

  24. larK Nov 15th 2017 at 12:11 pm 24

    Mark in Boston: you are right about the first part, but not about the second — they did sell cheaper than the Mom & Pops and did drive them out of business (they were the Walmart of their day), but they were dedicated to lower prices — they did not raise prices when their competitors were out of business. They were just fundamentally cheaper being more innovative and having been in good positions at the right time. Ironically, the 1950s you mention are when they entered their decline — they had achieved their innovations in the 20s and 30s, and by the 50s others had caught up with them, and management changes and their inability to keep up and innovate put them in a position where they couldn’t be doing what you accused them of.

    Fundamentally, they were a countervailing power that made food cheaper and available to more people, allowing especially the poor to be healthier. And this was disruptive.

  25. Ted from Ft. Laud Nov 15th 2017 at 12:43 pm 25

    A&P also left at least some places on the east coast a long time ago. The one that was near me when I grew up was gone by the late 1970s, I think, and all were out of south Florida by the early to mid 1980s at latest. While I certainly recognized the reference, I’d be surprised if many from/in this area under the age of 40 would be familiar with the name. To be honest, to get a truly “national” chain that would be known here, you’d have to go with Whole Foods (which might not work for your quip), or something like Walmart, Target, or Costco (which are 3 of the 4 largest US “supermarkets”, but wouldn’t bring up the image of supermarket for most people). The “national” chains known in the northeast (Kroger, Stop&Shop, SuperValu?, others?) have no presence at all here - Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and a few others have a presence but are not widespread so are probably unknown to most. The biggest supermarket chain around here (by far) is Publix, which is (last I saw) 5th largest in the US, but is only in the southeast, so likely unknown in most of the country.

  26. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2017 at 01:16 pm 26

    The better example of karma, I think, would be Toys R Us, that put the neighborhood toy stores out of business but are now in bankruptcy because of Wal-Mart (and soon enough, Barnes & Noble/Amazon will be an even better example).

  27. Bob Nov 15th 2017 at 01:53 pm 27

    Seems that Canada had A&Ps until around 2005 according to this article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/a-p-grocery-chain-files-for-bankruptcy-again-1.3159818

    I find lark’s comment about their decline in the 50s interesting. When I was a lad of single digits (early 1960s), an A&P was built in what would have been literally my back yard except for the raised railroad tracks. (My mom would send me for an item and time how long it took me - if the store wasn’t busy, usually less than 2 minutes from the kitchen and back.) However, that location became a car dealership in the late-70s. Not a long life for a grocery store (at least in that area), but it sure was convenient for me as a kid.

  28. larK Nov 15th 2017 at 01:58 pm 28

    My biggest problem with the race-to-the-bottom is that we’ve long since reached the bottom, and have kept going; we have burned off all the fat, and are now burning up the muscle. Walmart and their ilk have caused us to lose the distinction that brand names used to provide (and yes, the brands themselves are complicit): the Levis jeans, the Sony TVs, the Toro lawnmowers, sold in Walmart, in order to be cheaper in price, are cheaper in quality — they are not the same Levis jeans, Sony TVs, Toro mowers you buy (bought?) elsewhere. This, unlike before we reached the bottom (in my opinion), is a net loss for society: used to be you could point to the lower prices benefiting the poor, which in turn uplifted all society, etc., etc., but now all we get is that you can’t trust a brand name to have a certain level of quality, benefitting no one, and crap jobs where they show you how to sign up for Medicare and Foodstamps as part of your orientation.

  29. larK Nov 15th 2017 at 02:15 pm 29

    An A&P strategy was to not buy the land their stores were on, but to rent it, that way they could move on a dime and were not invested in real estate; this tied into their strategy of being debt free, which really helped them when the depression came. They were tightly held in the family, allowing them to stick to their long term plan of growing by volume through lower prices, but of course when the patriarch died in 1950, it left them adrift; of course by then they were such a huge behemoth that they didn’t realize they were dead till nearly 30 years afterwards. (Kilby: in the mid 70s they were sold to Tengelmann Group, which is where the connection to Kaisers comes in.)

  30. DemetriosX Nov 15th 2017 at 02:25 pm 30

    Toys R Us isn’t in bankruptcy because of Walmart. It’s in bankruptcy because a vulture capital firm bought the company in a semi-hostile takeover and then shifted all the debt incurred back onto Toys R Us. It’s a victim of late-stage predatory capitalism, but by a different vector than the sort exemplified by Walmart.

  31. Winter Wallaby Nov 15th 2017 at 03:26 pm 31

    On a related note to the big vs. super-big discussion, today’s Retail comic has Stuart trying to claim that Grumbel’s is a “small business,” because “hey, while they’re a large chain, they’re not a giant like Amazon.” I know you’re supposed to think Stuart is an idiot, but I could sort of see it. Sort of. :)

  32. Christine Nov 15th 2017 at 04:11 pm 32

    larK - and the race to the bottom has made it almost impossible for a brand to compete on offering quality, because everyone assumes you have to replace things really quickly, so they’ll get the cheap crap, despite knowing it’s crap, because they can’t trust other things to not be crap too.

    Winter Wallaby - I was actually going to be a food processor at the Bay because hey, at least it’s a brick-and-mortar store (and it might be a giant, foreign-owned souless corporation, but if you’re going to have those, it’s good to have more than one). But with the number of barriers they throw up to actually buying something from them I had to give up.

  33. Brian in STL Nov 15th 2017 at 05:52 pm 33

    There used to be national chains in St. Louis, but now all supermarket chains are three local ones. There were A&P stores when I was a kid, but not for a long time.

  34. larK Nov 15th 2017 at 06:37 pm 34

    Ah! So that’s what STL stands for!
    I wonder, though, if your local chains aren’t actually just branding owned by national chains (though you might be in one of those situations where the national chain is local to St. Louis — off the top of my head I think Panera is based out of St. Louis)…

  35. Winter Wallaby Nov 15th 2017 at 06:46 pm 35

    larK #34: I’m not sure what the third chain Brian is thinking of, but Schnucks and Dierbergs were genuinely founded and still headquartered in St. Louis.

    And I believe Panera is still locally called “St. Louis Bread Company.”

  36. Mark in Boston Nov 15th 2017 at 11:28 pm 36

    Our German readers will have to correct my spelling and genders, but I remember when A&P was bought by a German company there was speculation as to whether we would have to call it “Der Grosse Atlantischer und Pazifik Teegesellschaft.”

  37. Cidu Bill Nov 15th 2017 at 11:41 pm 37

    Perhaps, Mark, but most people would just call it A und P.

  38. Brian in STL Nov 16th 2017 at 02:33 pm 38

    “larK #34: I’m not sure what the third chain Brian is thinking of, but Schnucks and Dierbergs were genuinely founded and still headquartered in St. Louis.”

    Shop ‘n Save. While owned by some other conglomerate, virtually all the stores and the HQ are local. With Schnucks and Dierbergs they form the “big three”. The chains essentially negotiate with the union as one entity.

    There are other stores that I don’t consider to be supermarkets, including various discount groceries, Whole Foods and other specialty stores, Aldi, etc. There are some independents.

  39. Brian in STL Nov 16th 2017 at 02:37 pm 39

    “Ah! So that’s what STL stands for!”

    I didn’t know that was obscure. It’s the airport code, and is a pretty common abbreviation for the city.

  40. larK Nov 16th 2017 at 03:14 pm 40

    I don’t know if it’s obscure or not; I just know that I could never figure out what STL was, but obviously, I didn’t try too hard to find out, either…

    To my mind, the abbreviation assigns too much weight to the “Saint” part, and not enough to the “Louis” part, which is the information heavy part.

  41. Winter Wallaby Nov 16th 2017 at 03:18 pm 41

    Despite having grown up in St. Louis, I don’t recall seeing STL as an abbreviation for the city, except in the context of the airport code. My first parse of STL is “standard template library.” (I know, I know, “Brian in Standard Template Library” doesn’t make a lot of sense.)

  42. James Pollock Nov 16th 2017 at 04:38 pm 42

    “I don’t recall seeing STL as an abbreviation for the city, except in the context of the airport code.”

    It was commonly used to indicate both the Rams and the Cardinals on scoreboards. Now the Rams are LAR, but I assume the Cardinals are still STL.

  43. Mark in Boston Nov 17th 2017 at 12:50 am 43

    Did you hear that Stop & Shop is going to merge with A & P?

  44. Cidu Bill Nov 17th 2017 at 02:15 am 44

    Mark, isn’t A&P dead and buried?

  45. Kilby Nov 17th 2017 at 04:08 am 45

    @ MiB (36) - That buyout occurred long before I ever even thought of coming here, but I don’t believe the connection was well-known in Germany, either. Tengelmann’s use of the “A&P” brand name was spotty and half-hearted at best.

    P.S. Considering that you produced it from memory, your German orthography is remarkably good. Unfortunately, “-schaft” happens to be one of the endings that always produces a feminine noun, so the “der” should be “die”. Including that and a few other minor items, it would be “Die große atlantische und pazifische Teegesellschaft“. I considered trying to work in “aktien” (stock) or “mbH” (Inc.), but that seemed to be overdoing it.

  46. Mark in Boston Nov 17th 2017 at 10:13 pm 46

    If the Stop & Shop and A & P merger had happened, they were going to call it Stop & P.

    Have you forgotten all your third-grade jokes already?

  47. Kilby Nov 18th 2017 at 10:17 am 47

    @ MiB (46) - I told that one to my son. He wasn’t able to guess the right answer, but he laughed uncontrollably when I delivered the punchline.

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