Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading Terminal Market (mis-)management

Ousting Olivieri may be the main accomplishment of the past few years for the management crew at RTM. 750k was all it took to remove a successful, long term vendor.

Anyone who shops there much must wonder: why spend 3/4 of a million dollars giving the ax to someone who was widely respected when there is no reliable fish vendor, a single organic vendor, and certain establishments are loaded with critters ? Priorities seem driven by pettiness and abysmal vision and judgment.

Which brings me to
Giunta's Prime Shop, natural and organic. I was in RTM yesterday and noticed the "organic" signage. Now I don't work for the USDA or anything but i checked Giunta's case pretty carefully and I found one legit organic item out of maybe 50 or 60. I asked the counter person and he had no clue what was organic.

Posting an organic sign and selling non-organic is deceitful, it's plain wrong. It's a slimy business practice to mis-lead consumers. Shouldn't it be managements' responsibility to verify the claims of vendors? I gave a call to RTM management today. The person who answered attempted to deflect my question so I had to leave a message with Paul Steike. I asked if it is policy to verify the claims of vendors. I'll report back when he returns my call.

I could be wrong about the whole thing. Maybe Giunta is able to somehow source organic items and sell them as cheaply as conventional. It could be that Giunta has all this organic stuff and feels it isn't important to inform customers of the sources.

Lastly Giunta's prime shop seems like another mis-use of a word that has specific meaning. I did not see any item in the case with a prime USDA stamp on it, so if nothing is prime and really nothing except for one bagged chicken is organic seems like BS is the product.

UPDATE: Paul Steinke returned my call this morning (11-11). He was friendly and candid in discussing my concern. Paul said that he too questioned the veracity of the organic signage and that he's working on it.
Update: Message from Mr. Giunta 11/23:


Since opening Giunta's Prime Shop two years ago, I have been proud of the high quality of the all natural, hormone and anti-biotic free meats sold, both organic as well as non organic. We carry a range of products to appeal to the variety of consumers who shop in the market each week.

Your experience with our staff who was uninformed of the organic products we sold was unfortunately and certainly not to the standard I want my customers to experience. Thank you for making me aware of this situation.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss in more detail your comments regarding the products sold. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail or via the store directly at 215-627-6175. Thank you, Charles Giunta. "

Reply to Mr Giunta 11/24:

Dear Mr. Giunta

I sincerely apologize if I mistakenly claimed your signage is misleading. The reason I concluded your claim to Organic is bogus is because the term includes conforming to a stringent set of practices. These include separate knives, saws, cutting boards, and tables as well as storage and handling requirements. Most importantly the distributor for the products must be certified. I didn’t see these procedures followed when I visited, I found no info identifying your organic supplier and I couldn’t find a CQI stamp except on a bagged chicken.

If your business adheres to these practices would you please provide some documentation or post it at your shop? Daily logs and QAI certification docs would immediately dispel any questions about the “Organic" status of your products.

With reference to “natural, hormone and antibiotic free” promotional information about the feeding and source of the products would be both informative and good for business.



Update 1/19/09. Here's a bit of follow-up from blogger Rob Libkind.


Racheal (Zara) said...

i'm with ya on this! please keep us posted. i always buy meat here but none of it is organic... i just taste the difference in comparison to grocery stores. i just buy the chicken breast. not organic, so i'm not sure why they taste so much better... grass fed maybe? non caged? not sure...

Phil said...

Actually, the term organic is founded well before the hippies latched onto the term. Knives have nothing to do with organic chemistry. Adhering to Halal principles is all nice and friendly when it comes to microbiology, but none of that enters into any realm of the proper term indicated by organic.

In fact, you'll find any person demanding organic or being a difficult person about all that, to know little or no basic food chemistry, and don't come anywhere near the eduction required to talk about the ramifications of any "organic" strategy in agriculture or food science. Credit card hippies asked for it, so farmers and retailers are more than happy to oblige, due to the higher price this demanding market wants.

In the end, organic means nothing. It is indeed a scam.