Sub-standard conditions at the Waldbaum’s store on Cross Bay Boulevard have reared their ugly head again despite a report card issued by The Forum in last weeks issue, which actually informed our readers of some improvements at the store.
The last two months have seen articles in this newspaper detailing conditions at the store: rodent droppings on the shelves, outdated meat and dairy products, spoiled produce and the lack of merchandise, especially sale items.
Within two weeks of the first article’s appearance, residents of 95th Street joined together and signed a petition to represent their escalating concerns over the lack of security, incessant garbage all over their property, shopping carts from the store left on their driveways causing damage to their vehicles and a host of other concerns, the most serious of which was the discovery of drug paraphernalia, including used hypodermic needles.
Phone calls were made to corporate offices, the regional manager and the store manager. The petition was submitted and corporate addressed some concerns by fixing the lights in the parking lot and installing slots into the fence so that much of the garbage from the store is contained in the lot. But as for the maintenance of the store’s stock and merchandise, it is increasingly obvious that management has not taken the concerns of the community seriously.
This weekend in two separate trips to the store there were several indications that things at Waldbaum’s are not satisfactory and there is much more quality control necessary in the store.
On Saturday an in-store promotion for oven stuffer roasters at $0.69 cents per pound led shoppers to the poultry section of the meat case with hopes of tremendous savings. A bird weighing almost 7 pounds was priced at $4.64, about one third the usual price, apparently a great value. But inspection of the case revealed the real reason for the “unbelievable value”—the sell-by date on the meat was from the prior day.
Because The Forum has been forbidden to photograph anything in the store after releasing photos of poor conditions inside, our mystery shoppers now go in and actually purchase the goods so that we can bring you the photographic evidence without breaking the rules laid out to us by corporate.
The oven stuffer was opened up after it was photographed and upon making a small slit in the bag, the odor that was released was all the indicator we needed–the expired meat had soured and was not fit for consumption. To clarify, the sell-by date on the foul smelling fowl was 04/13 and the receipt showed a date of 04/14. After photographing the package and the receipt we returned it to the store and were issued a refund.
On that same trip we went to the produce department and purchased strawberries, packaged lettuce and a coconut. The berries and lettuce proved to be fine, but upon cracking the shell of the coconut, it was completely rotted and covered in slime.
The spoiled fruit was returned to the store and once again a refund was promptly issued.
A young lady named Danielle was behind the customer service counter and handled the transaction with the utmost courtesy, apologizing for the inconvenience and the rotted merchandise. For consumers who have to make a trip back to the store to return damaged goods, it is certainly a much more pleasant experience when the staff shows such attention and respect to the customers.
It’s been months since The Forum started this consumer crusade and during that time we have received phone calls, letters, emails, faxes and in-person commentary from the residents of Howard Beach who have thanked the newspaper for trying to force the store to change its unacceptable ways.
At this point it is a fair assumption that Waldbaum’s apparently was not serious in their statement about commitment to fixing what’s wrong at the store. But where does that leave the community?
A senior citizen or someone with less than perfect eyesight or a diminished sense of smell might very well have prepared that chicken and eaten it. The consequences of eating bad meat, especially poultry, are serious. Spoiled or contaminated chicken can cause serious illness. Poultry contains bacteria that produce toxic by-products able to survive the cooking process and cause digestive and systemic poisoning.
According to police sources at the 106th Precinct there has been talk about the store signing a trespass affidavit so that the police have authority to take action on the store’s property legally. The source also said that there are minor occurrences at the store almost every day and that sector car visits have been stepped up by the precinct.
In addition, there continue to be people hanging around outside the store who accost shoppers asking to help with packages, asking for money and trying to sell illegal DVD’s and CD’s. On Sunday morning, two men were observed in the parking lot doing body and fender work on cars.
On Feb. 28, the following statement was emailed to The Forum by Marcy Connor, public relations spokesperson for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company who owns Waldbaum’s, “A&P does not have any current plans to close either of our Howard Beach Waldbaum’s stores. We are committed to providing our customers with an enhanced shopping experience where they can enjoy clean conditions, in-stock shelves and great customer service.”
Now almost two months later we’d like to know during what century the company was planning on acting on their written commitment? All further calls to corporate and emails directly to Connor have been ignored.
By Patricia Adams
I wish to make perfectly clear that this newspaper is not devoting so much time and resource to this series because have an axe to grind with the store. The Forum is engaging in this comprehensive coverage because the residents of this community, who pay a premium for real estate, taxes and goods and services are entitled to cleanliness and food that is not out-dated, spoiled and dangerous to eat.
As many of you are aware, I am a Howard Beach resident and rely on the supermarket to address many of my household needs, as do you. It is outrageous that we cannot expect to be serviced by a major supermarket chain that supplies a superior product and service.
This is a hard working community where the heads of households are stressed and pressed for time each day. Their trips to the supermarket should be one-stop visits. Very few of us have the spare time to return products that we have paid for and are unsafe and unusable. If we fail to return the merchandise we have just thrown hard-earned money into the garbage.
We have been beating this drum for nearly seven weeks. I would just like to assure you that we will keep beating it until we get the results that we are all entitled to as consumers.
On a note about the employees at the store, please remember that it is very difficult to maintain a good attitude while working for a company that constantly put its employees in a position where they have to explain or apologize for things beyond their control.
Imagine having to handle irate customers over and over again, every day. They are working for minimal salaries and are forced to field non-stop complaints all while dealing with the swirling rumors that their jobs are not really secure because of the company’s precarious financial position.
We’d like to see the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company not only treat their customers the right way, but to supply basic incentives so that their staff will do the same.
Please feel free to contact us with your comments and suggestions. I know we can bring about the change we are deserving of.