Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Open Letter to Homeland Stores

Dear Homeland,

My husband and I drove 88 miles from Lawton to Oklahoma City yesterday. We make that drive at least once a week. That’s 176 miles round trip every week--let’s see, that will be around 700 miles a month--close to 8,500 miles a year. That’s a whole lotta driving for fruits and vegetables!

6410 North May Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK
We don’t mind the drive though because we get the best organic produce (and a few other lovely things) at Sunflower Farmers Market, which just opened in OKC last month.

It seems the fellow who started Wild Oats sold his stores to Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck Foods) a while back. Then, I guess he was bored with his millions so he started Sunflower. I’m so glad he did; if it wasn’t for him we’d still be limping along at the only grocery store choices we have in Lawton, Oklahoma: Country Mart and the dreaded Walmart.

As we popped in to Sunflower OKC yesterday we saw two Homeland protesters in front of our favorite grocery store. And not just two ordinary protesters, mind you, but two grungy, sloppy, overweight protesters with homemade signs. And not just any homemade signs, mind you, but homemade signs with false information and misspelled words on them.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture. We were driving the Miata and by the time I saw the signs we were about to be pulverized by a couple of pickup trucks, so we had to skedaddle.

It turns out the unkempt Homeland protesters were sort of rallying over the fact that:
  1. Sunflower is not an Oklahoma-based company, and
  2. Sunflower does not sell Oklahoma-made products.
(I say your protesters were sort of rallying because they weren’t very enthusiastic protesters. They looked more like they were waiting for a ride.)

#1 Sunflower Is Not an Oklahoma-based Company
First of all, SO WHAT?! Sunflower is a big store that created a lot of jobs ... IN OKLAHOMA. Here is what I found on the Country Mart and Homeland sites:

No positions available? What are people supposed to do? Wait for Country Mart and Homeland to hire? Not take a job with a reputable company with good-paying jobs just because it’s not an Oklahoma-based company? Absurd.

But here is what is more absurd: Country Mart is part of Homeland Stores, and HOMELAND STORES is a subsidiary of Associated Wholesale Growers (AWG), which is a Kansas City company. Here is the Wikipedia link to AWG here.  Homeland is headquartered in Edmond, Oklahoma; but filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002 and was bought by AWG. Read about it here.

Sunflower REALLY looks like this!
Homeland, if you're going to send henchmen to picket a non-Oklahoma-owned company, you should make sure no one finds out YOU are not an Oklahoma-owned company (God, I love the internet!).

Aside from your conflicting standards, you should be more concerned that Sunflower has incredible-quality products at crazy-low prices. The employees are friendly, cheerful, and helpful. The store is clean and organized. It's dazzling!

So I’m wondering, Is someone just afraid of a little competition? Well, suck it up, Homeland! If you did a better job running your grocery stores, Sunflower wouldn’t look like an overpacked sardine can every hour they’re open. They wouldn’t have so many happy, smiley shoppers. (Honestly, you should see these shoppers. They are like peppy veggie zombies slamming through the place like there’s no tomorrow ... and I’m one of them!)

#2 Sunflower Does Not Sell Oklahoma-made Products
Your sluggish protesters couldn’t have actually gone into Sunflower because if they had before hefting their faulty placards, they would have seen Oklahoma-made products all over the place. The shelf signs clearly indicate the many Oklahoma-made products, and we buy a number of them.

Our Bottom Line
I thought you should know why we drive almost 180 miles a week for groceries instead of shopping at the Country Mart in Lawton:
  1. Poor quality products--your vegetables don’t last two days in my refrigerator.
  2. Higher prices for lower quality--I pay less at Sunflower for good quality products.
  3. Poor facilities--very unsanitary conditions with run-down environment.
  4. Lack of organic selections--very few selections, and those are overpriced.
  5. Terrible customer service--unhappy employees with no customer service skills.
And now you can add:

     6. Your corporate double standards and unethical, baseless attack on your competition.
    We HAVE TO drive 180 miles a week to shop for groceries because there isn’t a decent grocery store where we live. I’m a vegetarian and my husband is about halfway there; we buy organic as often as it’s available; and we don’t want to buy old, dead, dirty food that’s been sitting in trucks for weeks and then over-priced before it's thrown onto shelves. We want to see knowledgeable, cheerful employees constantly stocking new product. We want to shop in a clean store. We want prices that match the quality of what we buy. We want to give our hard-earned money to fiscally responsible, ethical companies.

    Given your poor report card, I have to wonder how you can be so careless by sending your picketers to attack a great company that is employing Oklahomans, and then loading up your picketers with erroneous data.

    If you must persist, though, you should rethink your public image strategy regarding protests. If you’re going to send people to picket for you, make sure they are presentable. (I will say, though, that yesterday’s protesters were a very good representation of Lawton’s Country Mart stores: rundown and untidy.)

    Make sure no one can find out that YOU are not an Oklahoma-owned company.

    And at least have some professional picket signs made. For crying in a bucket, handmade with a marker, sloppy handwriting, misspelled words! You were represented by a couple of illiterate hillbillies. I doubt anyone took them seriously.

    I’ll be back at Sunflower Farmers Market next week, and I imagine I’ll see Homeland protesters sort of protesting about imaginary things again. But what I wish, instead, is that Homeland will take a clue from your competition and do something positive and proactive about your image and your products. If you cleaned up your act, we might be your faithful customers.

    To your health,

    AJ DePriest

    P.S. I wrote to you through your website, also, but I have serious doubts about receiving a response from you.

    1 comment:

    1. Wonderful tongue lashing!! It's deplorable that any business would spread such propaganda about their competition. Very glad that your response to their slander was so well thought out, and well written. I am definitely sharing this on Facebook for all of my friends to see. There has to be an end to it.