You Choose – Buy a Miracle Whisk From A Hawker or Buy Online For A Third

One of those chores we all do.  Walk through a large market picking up things you can’t do without. 

We stepped in the BJ’s in Fort Lauderdale and immediately heard someone blathering about some promotion.  I responded with telling the PA Announcer to “Shut Up”.  Really!  You just don’t need someone loud on those things, and other than a public emergency I really don’t see why they are needed at all.

No worries.  I walked past the high profit items near the doors like TVs and Stereos with a chuckle.   Ok, sometimes those high profit items aren’t all that bad a price, but stores always put the impulse items near the doors.  Just how many TVs do you need in a two bedroom house anyway?

That announcement again.  Some nonsense about a Miracle Whisk and how it is supposed to be MY! BJ’S! WHOLESALE! CLUB!

Yeah, get back to me on that one, if it really is mine, I’ll take my profits and sell the thing.

More impulse items in store, although I did take a long look at wiper blades.   Having a Jeep means that you never can find blades.   I use a 13 inch blade for the front window, and most cars start at 16 inches and up.  I noted the price and kept on moving.  I probably would have grabbed one of those had they had it but there just aren’t that many 2002 Jeep Wranglers in the area to drive demand. 

Mental note, check online.  I won’t have to use gas to buy the thing in that case.

We keep going.   I grab a bottle of “My Port Wine” and some clothing items and round the corner to the outdoor stuff.   It’s South Florida, you just need pool salt any time of the year.  We’re a different market than where BJ’s is headquartered, and for that matter, all those big department stores.   There used to be Burdines where you could get stylish clothes that made sense when you are running Air Conditioning in December.  Now it’s Macy’s who is trying to convince me that I need to dress for New York City weather.

Nope.  Just nope.  Sorry, Macy’s, you just aren’t The Florida Store!

We’re laughing at the pool equipment when all the sudden we’re stopped by the source of all of those announcements.

“Hey we’re having a raffle and it’s starting in 5 minutes, here’s a ticket-come-on-down!-you-mightwinsomethinggreat!”

He was speeding up as he got to the end to get us in there before we lost interest.  Then he left in a gust to hand out more “raffle tickets Thankyouverymuch!”.

With a laugh I was being told that under no circumstances would we do this if we had to watch a presentation. 

I overruled that.  We were here, he was starting at the end of this aisle, and who knows it might be fun.

These hawkers all have a rap, a patter.   It’s a case of showing you a product that you may or may not have a need for.  In this particular case it is a “Miracle Whisk”.  Now being a baker, and a pretty good cook, I do have a whisk.  I hate using the thing.   I can whip cream to a stiff peak, and have made meringue with it, but it really is tiresome.  Much easier to use the stand mixer and a little of FPL’s finest electricity.

I watched this guy pour some ice cold non fat milk into a flat bottom glass measuring cup and with about 10 seconds of effort make a passable whipped cream.  It may have had a little help mixed in, I don’t know, but he did make the whipped cream.  If it really does work, that would be worth it.   Whipped cream is rather nice on some of the baked goods that I make.

*shake that thought out of my head*

I’m thinking anything more than $10 it’s not worth it.

$20.  But wait there’s more!

The end of the schpiel came.  Pay $40 and you get two regular sized plus a mini whisk. 

Yeah, I’ll pass.   So did I win?   Nope.  A pre-teen kid got the ticket.  He got mom to get the prize of a 25 dollar dinner invite.  A couple people sprung for the Big Bargain Bag.  Let’s go!

It was amusing, and well worth watching someone squirm about being in a demo for a product that we just didn’t need.

I went through the rest of the store getting things we did need and pretty much forgot about the Must Have Kitchen Gadget of the Year!!!

Laughing about the experience, I managed to get home and forget entirely about the Magic Miracle Whisk!  Now with extra whipped cream until lately.

I was going through some of my regular online routine when I saw my old friend.  The Miracle Whisk.  It was on sale for $7.  I have to admit, for $7 I considered it. 

Now $7  is a lot better than the $20 for one the hawker was selling them for so I decided to search.

How is a low of $.20 in bulk?  An upgraded Silicone version for $1.20 in bulk.  In RED! Oooh, Red!

$7 is the going price online.

What did I take away from this story?   I had a lot of chuckles out of the affair.  It also shows me why “stores” are doomed.  With “traditional” malls closing due to people not showing up for many reasons, and Brick and Mortar stores having entertainment like these hawkers selling things at triple the price on line, why bother?

I make it a point to be well informed, and I shop heavily online.  It’s more convenient, better priced, and I can do it sitting in my comfy chair.  If someone wants to sell me something new and improved that I have not ever had before, I have been trained to look online while thinking of it.  Impulse shopping for things like Miracle Whisk or Wiper Blades are just not done. 

After all, you have to pay for those bricks and all that mortar.

The best way that can be combated by traditional stores is to match online prices.  If you can’t compete, you’re a dinosaur.  Just ask any mall retailer.

I haven’t gotten that Miracle Whisk.  May not.  Probably not.  My house is chock full of kitchen gadgets.  But the entertainment value was well worth standing there and watching people debate whether to stick around or not.  I certainly got a chuckle out of it.

Murder at Costco – Humor

I guess I should be glad I gave up on Costco a while back.  They never had my dog’s favorite dog food and BJ’s Wholesale has it.  In fact BJ’s has it at a good enough price that I save the cost of a membership after buying two large bags of “Purina Lamb and Rice” there.  After all it really is all about my dog Lettie, isn’t it?

As for the membership fees – they’re bogus no matter where you go.

At any rate, a friend Scott from up in Philly sent this one along.   He’s got a dark sense of humor sometimes… maybe he’s trying to tell me not to go back to Costco.  There’s this story about someone’s last trip to Costco…


Tired of constantly being broke and stuck in an unhappy marriage, a young husband decided to solve both problems by taking out a large insurance policy on his wife, with himself as the beneficiary, and then arranging to have her killed.

A ‘friend of a friend’ put him in touch with a nefarious, dark-side underworld figure who went by the name of ‘Artie.’ Artie explained to the husband that his going price for snuffing out of a spouse was $10,000.

The husband said he was willing to pay that amount but that he wouldn’t have any cash on hand until he could collect his wife’s insurance money. Artie insisted on being paid at least something up front, so the man opened his wallet, displaying the single dollar bill that rested inside.

Artie sighed, rolled his eyes and reluctantly agreed to accept the dollar as down payment for the dirty deed.

A few days later, Artie followed the man’s wife to the local Costco Warehouse.  There, he surprised her in the produce department and proceeded to strangle her with his gloved hands. As the poor unsuspecting woman drew her last breath and slumped to the floor, the manager of the produce department stumbled unexpectedly onto the murder scene. Unwilling to leave any living witnesses behind, ol’ Artie had no choice but to strangle the produce manager as well.

However, unknown to Artie, the entire proceedings were captured by the hidden security cameras and observed by the shop’s security guard, who immediately called the police. Artie was caught and arrested before he could even leave the premises.

Under intense questioning at the police station, Artie revealed the whole sordid plan, including his unusual financial arrangements with the hapless husband who was also quickly arrested. The next day in the newspaper, the headline declared..

(You’re going to hate me for this…)

‘ARTIE CHOKES 2 for $1.00@ Costco

Free Beer at the Wholesale Club

We get a lot of birdcage liners here.

Come home from a dog walk and magically appearing at the foot of the driveway is one of Those Papers.  You know the sort.  It’s a “newspaper” almost completely advertising with an article every fifth page.  They’re basically an excuse for a “publisher” to get paid to distribute manufacturer’s cents off coupons to more homes than would be normally.

After all, I get my news on the internet first anyway so why buy the paper?

BBC first, then the local news sites, then the Progressive websites and all the Tech News sites I read to keep things up to date.

I don’t particularly want to fill up my recycle bin with a dead tree every day.  I have the Postal Service doing that already.

I would normally grab these newspapers from the bottom of the driveway and immediately drop them into the recycle bin, then walk into the house without reading them. 

Then the lightbulb went on.  I was tossing away money.

I started clipping the coupons for things that we would buy normally, then realized that it was easier for me to change brands that I bought based on the coupons.  Then BJ’s wholesale club began promoting that they are taking the manufacturer’s coupons as well as their own private coupons.

Last night I went shopping.  We had run down on some odds and ends and I had a nice little stack of coupons.  I’m not one of those Extreme Couponers but I do have a goal to make the Eagle Scream On The Back Of The Quarter.

Dutifully shopping from a list, buying as little as possible, and only those things that I couldn’t make at least a substitute for in the kitchen, I realized that I had had enough coupons to make me get that case of beer this time around.

You see by looking at the coupons and counting up the total, I had enough to reduce the bill by a solid 11%.  Nice return on the investment of the time.

Hey what do we need down that Aisle it’s just drinks?
Drinks and … Beer.
You need beer?
Doesn’t everyone? 
Fish and Chips.  Beer is proof that god loves you and wants to keep you happy.

Or so the conversation went. 

Into the cart went a case of Yuengling Lager with a smile.  Paid for by all those wonderful coupons for Cheese, Milk, Soap and other needed items.

Call it Bonus Beer.

Besides, who doesn’t like a bottle of lager to wash down Fish and Chips?

You don’t?  Sit down, lets have lunch…

The Emperor has no Clothes or Shopping at a Warehouse Club

If someone takes a little time, you can find some amazing buys these days.   There are a whole laundry list of specific industry and market websites as well as many general purpose sites that are geared towards finding you the best price on a given item.   Many companies have websites that are designed to be the best in their breed and be better than their competition.   There are companies who make all their money by writing software so that the store can beat their competition by having a better experience for the web shopper.

So why is it that there are still stores that you have to pay to get into when the prices are really not THAT much better than the market price?  Here in South Florida, I have a GFS Wholesale Store nearby.  I shop that place before I go to the slightly more distant BJ’s Wholesale club because the quality and some of the prices of the merchandise is better at GFS.  GFS is Free, BJ’s costs me $40 to get in the front door.  Costco won’t even let you on the sales floor without a card and are quite arrogant about that.   Those cards from what I can see are only there to give the shopper or Member a feeling that they belong to something special that others just can’t get into.

Seems to me that I’d feel happier with a kick in the pants.

I have been members at Sam’s Club, Costco, and BJ’s.   I keep a card at BJ’s simply because I can get the dog food there at a slightly better price than other places that I have found in the area.   Their quality is average, and there is a disturbing amount of mediocre “Berkley and Jensen” captive brand merchandise there.  Costco I was wholly unimpressed with and dropped it after a year.   Sam’s Club was what I left for BJ’s about a decade ago, and did so because it was inconvenient.

So is it worth $40 a year for dog food?  Probably not.   The BJ’s on Powerline Road in Ft Lauderdale has Gasoline sold there.   That Gasoline irks me the most.  The thing is that while the local stores were selling gas at $2.61 a gallon the other day, BJ’s was at $2.63 a gallon.   I know there is a lot of variance in prices in gas in any given area, but BJ’s has this Member Price where you were made to feel special when you pay MORE than the market price.   If you are not a Member, and are there in an emergency (which is highly doubtful) you pay an extra 20 cents a gallon for the privilege of buying gas at a BJ’s.   Yes, $2.83 a gallon for gas which was 22 cents a gallon more than the Mobil station just down the road.

Basically there are a very few things that I can’t get anywhere else than BJ’s but every time I go in there I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of.   There is another disturbing trend at BJ’s with roving window salesmen.   You’re in there looking at what ever overpriced item you are considering and some eager young person, and they are always young… ALWAYS, will swoop over to you and start to sell you things that you don’t need.

BJ’s you are becoming the Tivo of the Wholesale Clubs.  It used to be that you’d pay to get in the door, and feel good because you had higher quality than average merchandise and all was good.   Now you have merely average, mass market merchandise at a giant aircraft hanger of a store, no sales support for “complex items”, not enough depth in the selection of the goods, and these annoying sales people wandering around throwing themselves in your path trying to get more money out of you.  Stop it.

Oh and those TV Sets at the end of the aisles with the constantly blaring commercials running really truly need to go away.  Give the sets to a needy school and give us all a break from that incessant advertisement.  I don’t feel like a Member, I feel like I’m trying to dodge the homeless on a city street.

GFS Marketplace Review

In short, I like the place.   In fact I like it a lot.   I just finished a lunch of their Manicotti and have a Cherry Pie in the oven from GFS.  You will see the pie tomorrow.
I have been a snowbird for years, and finally moved here to South Florida in 2006.   I’d be driving around and would see their location on Federal Highway just south of NE 26th Street and would be intrigued.  That link was the building, behind the 45MPH speed limit sign.   Looking at the building, I had always assumed that it was a Wholesale Club or strictly To The Trade.   I’m glad that when I moved here I had checked it out and was wrong.

GFS Marketplace is here in Florida and through the midwest.   If you are near one, stop on in.  I’m also a member at BJ’s Wholesale and was a member at Sam’s Club and Costco before returning to BJs Wholesale and GFS as well as filling in the cupboards at other markets like the Publix that is within 1/2 mile walking distance to the house.  These days, to get your best value you don’t stick with one traditional Supermarket, you pretty much have to shop around.   I do like Publix, I’m OK with BJ’s, disappointed with Costco and Sam’s Club, but I’m really quite happy I wandered into GFS.
I knew well of their competition Sysco because when I’d drive down to the Florida Keys, it seems like I’d be constantly trying to pass one of their trucks.   Seems like they have a strong presence down there, to the point where all the restaurants have one of their trucks parked unloading at some time of the morning.   I even wondered why should one even bother paying the prices at the high end restaurants when “All the food comes in on the same truck”.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement since I’ve had some truly horrid meals in the Keys, but it certainly isn’t the food service distributor’s fault no matter who that distributor happens to be.

I started with Wholesale Clubs back in the 80s when a friend said you can get the commercial strength cleaning supplies and large scale frozen foods that some folks like when they go out to restaurants.   To this day, you still see some people who can’t qualify for a commercial account at a larger food wholesaler hauling large flat trolleys of food and drink that will be used for tomorrow’s sales at a retail restaurant.
GFS Marketplace allows people like me to walk in off the street and get large flats of Manicotti, Pork, and Chicken for example and load up my freezer with the same thing that the restaurants get.   I’ve seen GFS trucks at loading bays through the area and I know that the quality of the food those restaurants are getting will be excellent.  The way I know is that I buy it myself and cook it myself.   The cupcake picture from yesterday was baked with GFS’s Chocolate Cake mix, some of their store brand chocolate chips, GFS chopped pecans, and icing that was mostly from their store brands and BOY was it good!  I’m also particularly fond of their commercial strength cleaning supplies and their frozen foods.
Past the frozen foods, the Staff at GFS Marketplace in Ft Lauderdale has always been, frankly, Excellent.   They are always engaging, open for questions, and seem genuinely happy to help you.   All too often you walk into a shop and are grumbled at by a surly person and I have never seen anyone at that shop in a bad mood.  Bill The Manager (and ALL of the other managers) there are always going out of their way to help you out and have frequently came over to me and offered free samples (try their Macaroni Salad, its great!) and had a chat.
Prices there are normally better than the local supermarkets for the items they have.   You can shop there but they are not a full service supermarket so you’ll find yourself going here and there for odds and ends if you try.
This particular store has just undergone an upgrade and I’m looking forward to seeing it all sort itself out.   I was there this week in the midst of all the insanity, uproar, and boxes lying all over the place, and the folks who were on the crew there working to upgrade were watching out for us.   In fact, one actually asked me what I was looking for from a lift station about 20 feet from the floor while he was working on pipes for the new refrigeration plant.  Now *THAT* is what I call service!
Thanks, GFS, you won me over!  If anyone at Corporate sees this, your South Florida staff is excellent, and I include the folks from the adjoining areas of Hollywood and Miami in that.

(Hello Grand Rapids Readers…)

No Complaints At All!