Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ongoing war of the supermarkets


Before I talk about the favorite subject of the Dutch: PRICE synonymous to MONEY and their national pastime: COMPARING PRICES of goods and services (even after weeks and months of having bought the item/service - just so they can validate their purchase decision that they indeed got the best deal, lol, so typical Dutch!)... allow me to post some pictures that I took outside of my hotel in Amsterdam.


A subdued street right outside my hotel room in the south of Amsterdam late at night... and, how it looks like early in the morning at 8AM.

I stayed last Wednesday until Friday in Amsterdam for work. Although I live just 40 kilometers away from Amsterdam in another city (Utrecht), the company made a decision to book me instead into a hotel because the first nights event will be finished late into the evening.
Nothing is better than having a good nights rest and going to work fresh the next day.

The only thing I regretted was not taking a picture of the canals at night (left my camera in the hotel room, how very smart of me, lol) during the canal dinner cruise.

Moving forward to the topic of today’s blog entry, the ongoing war of the supermarkets in the Netherlands...
I firmly believe that the root cause of this consumer turmoil, resulting into near bankruptcy and mergers & acquisitions of several Dutch shopping chains (Edah bought by Plus, Konmar being sold, the Albert Heijn scandal, etcetera), notwithstanding internal company mismanagement of course, is the price-sensitive culture of the Dutch.

Those who live (or have lived) in the Netherlands, have Dutch relatives, have Dutch neighbors, colleagues and friends, can very well attest how they, the cheeseheads, can be so utterly keen on justly spending and price (in Philippine language, kuripot). They do not always pick the cheapest item on the rack because the Dutch want value for their hard-earned money. Accordingly, they want the cheapest price for high-quality products. Uh-huh.


If I were to simply categorize the locals here based on grounds of consumer attitude and advocacy, they would come up number 1 on the list as THE most discriminating and skeptical consumer.

Why discriminating and skeptical?

Because a large concentration of the Dutch consumers are by nature, judicious consumers; they do not buy on a whim (exception are the younger generation). They shop around, they compare, they research and scour the internet for feedback from other consumers, they are on the look out for sales discounts and offers, they are never shy to bargain and most importantly, they wait, and wait, and wait.

In my 4 years -going 5 of living in Holanda, I have learned the wisdom behind the saying, “Haast u langzaam.” [Hurry slowly], which means, when making decisions, especially when purchasing items that will eventually cost us a lot of money, not only upfront but recurring, i.e. maintenance and such --- do not hurry, do it slowly and rationally.

Because of this adapted rationalistic decision buying process of Dutch consumers, there are now countless price comparison websites available at our fingertips on the internet.

And rightly so, since our subject matter in this entry is about the war of the supermarkets, I have here a website, Supers.nl, comparing the price difference and quality of products sold by local supermarkets in the Netherlands.


Click for a larger view please. Prijsvergelijking (price comparison) / Kwaliteitsvergelijking (quality comparison)


Nettorama scores high on the price factor while Hoogvliet bags the quality slot from Supers.nl website (in Dutch).

We currently shop at Edah mainly because the supermarket is just a stone’s throw away from where we live. In today’s fast paced world, convenience and time are the major key elements in picking the choice super (how we call grocery stores here) to shop, particularly when you are, (a) working full-time and (b) carrying a 1-week load of produce, meat and grocery items, otherwise, we would have gone easily to Nettorama.

As a bothered consumer, my main experiences and concerns with Edah are:

(1) Some of the produce they have on the shelves are not fresh. This irritates me because we eat vegetables every single day. Vegetables and fruits are 40% of our daily dietary program.


(2) Lately, the Braeburn apples that we stock weekly are of very bad quality. You do not see any telltale signs outside of the apple, but inside, it is soft, tasteless and crumbly. The apples are not fresh and crunchy. Such a waste, we threw them into the trash bin.


No wonder, Edah scored the lowest in quality!

(3) Last week the Dutchman surprised me when he screamed and fled from the kitchen after opening the fridge. Well, well, what have we got inside? --- A huge worm (that looks like a cross mutation between a snail and a leech) sitting royally on top of the cauliflower and moving languidly. The worm’s movements remind me of an exotic belly dancer’s belly.


(4) Why is it that they always ran out of toilet paper and brown wheat bread on Saturdays? More worse news: they replenish on Mondays.

(5) There were instances when the cashiers were being negligent. You have to always counter-check the receipt, like babysit them, because they sometimes forget to deduct the 35% discount on the product. Some products on sale, especially meat and produce, the discounts are not automatically deducted into the point-of-sale computer system. They are manually entered. I guess due to the nature of the product, short life & shelf cycle, they treat the items on a case to case basis.

(6) The “Laagste Prijzen” [Lowest Prices] they advertise and decorate in their shops is a real laugh. They are 20% higher, in almost all articles, than Nettorama. A €45 Edah shopping cart would be around the vicinity of €35 to €40 in Nettorama. If you take up the difference, multiply by 4x a week and multiply again by 12x a month, I surely could buy 2 or 3 new pair of shoes, perhaps even go on a holiday to Ibiza!

I also shop from time to time at expensive Albert Heijn, of the giant global Dutch supermarket empire, Ahold, some gourmet and international food items. This usually happens when I have my odd cravings, which I should really stop, that is, if I want to keep fit.


In other words, if we are careful of what we eat and of what we buy - all carried out in moderation, we are not only saving money but doing ourselves a big favor of NOT GETTING FAT, which is by the way an incredible dilemma most of us face when we hit the 30’s timeline.

Thus... my humble domestic goal is to make sure my cupboards and fridge are semi-empty!!!

Here are some interesting shopping tips from the Supers.nl website:

>> If you use a certain product all the time, buy a good amount if they are on sale.

>> Never go shopping with an empty stomach.

>> A shopping list helps against impulse buying.

>> If there is a cheap product (that you always buy) being taken out of the supermarket shelves, complain to the manager and to the company.

>> When buying in kilos and you want to compare prices, always compare based on the kilo price.


>> Check your receipt before leaving (actually, watch the cashier when adding up the items because human error is inevitable)

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