Grand Larceny at Grand Union

Students have reported unusually high prices at the Grand Union grocery store in Hamilton. A seemingly common consensus among all shoppers is that prices were lower when Tops managed the store. Many residents hoped that the change in ownership would bring lower prices and a better selection of products. Some shoppers have been disappointed. “I’ve noticed that the variety of products that they have there is not as good as it was when it was Tops,” Hamilton resident Rob Stahl said. “I’ve also noticed that the customer service certainly has not improved. Overall I would say thus far I am dissatisfied.”Stahl’s major point of contention, however, is the higher cost of food at Grand Union. “I did notice a change in price,” he said. “For the most part the prices were more expensive.”Grand Union Store Manager Ken Bowman admitted that some prices were too high, but maintained that Grand Union had not intentionally raised prices.”We didn’t change a single grocery price at the time of the takeover,” Bowman said. “Our assumption is that Tops might have been raising prices. We aren’t sure why they were raising them.”Bowman said that Grand Union had adopted the prices that Tops had established to make the ownership transition easier. “We had to upgrade the systems, so we went to a system similar to what Tops had,” Bowman said, also pointing out that the store currently sells some goods at a much lower price than it did under Tops. Grand Union is owned by C and S Wholesale, which acquired twelve Tops supermarkets in eastern New York last year. It was simpler for the company to adopt the same systems – such as cash registers and price inventories – as Tops.Bowman pointed to another issue that may have caused an increase in the prices of goods at Grand Union. “Produce prices across the whole retail business were going up. California’s produce was up,” he said.Regardless of who is at fault, there are fears that Grand Union’s pricing issues could be harmful.”I think it has a negative impact on the town because I think people will go out of town to go grocery shopping, and once they go out of town to go grocery shopping they are going to go shopping for other items as well,” Stahl said. “Any time, in my opinion, that people feel that they can’t get quality within our town and go elsewhere, it hurts us all.”Bowman fully appreciates the possibility of a loss of customers to other food retailers. “It takes time,” he said. “We’ve made some initial changes in pricing. It’s an ongoing process. Every week there are changes. We understand the community’s concerns and we are going to pay attention to them.”Those who do not shop frequently at Grand Union tend not to notice the changes, and then there are people who – pricing aside – find the new store to be better than Tops.”I have been very happy to see some things show up in the produce section that didn’t seem to be there before, like tomatillos,” area resident Debbie Huerta said.Huerta does not live in the Village of Hamilton, but in the Town of Hamilton. She reported shopping at Grand Union roughly once every two weeks for “staples,” preferring instead to shop at Wegmans Supermarket in De Witt, NY, because of its better selection. As for Grand Union, “In general, it’s pretty much the same,” Huerta said.Students, who generally do not shop at Grand Union as frequently as faculty members or town residents, are still aware of the higher prices. Junior Cori Schattner was aware of the higher food costs, although she acknowledged that it was not immediately apparent to her because she only shops for one or two items at a time. Nevertheless, she has seen improvements. “I feel like stuff is a little better organized and I feel like it’s better stocked,” Schattner said.