Amazon? For Groceries?

Amazon Fresh?Apparently Amazon didn’t get the memo and is planning to start grocery delivery in San Francisco this fall. With one exception every company that’s tried to do this before has failed. Something tells me that for San Francisco Amazon will fail like the others, but at least it has a another side of it’s business to fall back on.

Few people remember back in the 90’s when there was a company called PeaPod that operated in San Francisco delivering groceries. They actually were buying their groceries from Andronico’s which meant you were getting top shelf fresh produce and meats, but it was a bit higher. Granted if you wanted top quality food delivered to your house it would cost you a bit more, but overall it really was maybe around $5 on a $100 order of groceries. Wife and I used to use them a lot because my family stopped going grocery shopping and just told us to pick it up for them when we went shopping.

This caused a few problems as we would now have to lug around two shopping carts and confuse the checkers as to why we would be paying for two carts separately which for some reason seemed strange to them. PeaPod changed this since we could order my family’s food online and have it delivered to them all paid in full. This worked out fine until one of the deliveries refused to bring the delivery up the stairs so my Mother assumed that they would never do this again which led us to have to go back to shopping for them.

It wasn’t too bad since PeaPod decided to close up shop around the same time, but a new company called Webvan had started up just a little before. Webvan wasn’t as good as PeaPod. I don’t know where they were getting their groceries from, but the couple of times we used them they would substitute something we ordered that they didn’t have with something that wasn’t even close to the same. Like you order six apples, but they’re out so they send over a watermelon. I’m not sure who did the thinking on the substitutions there, but they also didn’t last long.

Safeway is the only store that delivers groceries for a flat fee, but at this point it’s just as easy to go to the store for them since both of us aren’t working 40 hour weeks anymore. There’s no word yet on where Amazon is getting their supplies of groceries from or where they’re planning on stockpiling them, but the idea of bring back a Web 1.0 concept that didn’t work figuring you’re so big that you won’t have a problem is, well, a problem. I have a love for some of the old Web 1.0 companies. I used to use Kozmo all the time to rent DVD’s and then started added other stuff like ice cream and snacks in with the DVD. I especially loved that all I had to do was walk down to the corner from my house to return the DVD. That’s kind of like what Amazon is planning on doing, but with groceries as the main item and then you can supposedly add in some of their other products as well. Keep in mind that Amazon invested over $60 million dollars that it lost in Kozmo.

Good luck to you Amazon. No wait, not good luck to you. Amazon makes it’s employees wear ankle monitors like prisoners released to house arrest so that they can track them and data mine their workers to make them more efficient and fire them if they aren’t. That is not the kind of thinking that San Francisco has ever liked unless your home was Alcatraz.

The Worst Safeway in San Francisco

Noriega & 30thApparently people like to complain about the service and stock at the Safeway groceries stores. I understand that, but I noticed something about a Safeway close to me that adds a new twist to the equation. What happens when former employees start complaining about the store?

My wife and I used to shop regularly at the Noriega and 30th Safeway, but since we have a car we’ve started to go to the beach Safeway in the Richmond District or the Daly City Safeway in Westlake and we’ve discovered something in our trips. All over the city in just about every Safeway we’ve been to we see a former employee of the Noriega and 30th place. When asked they all say the same thing, that was the worst place to work.

Now it’s one thing when people who shop there say that because well, people like to complain. I get that, but when the employees are moving to other Safeway’s because they don’t like it that’s a whole different story. I have to say that my experience has been seeing only cashiers that have moved to other locations and I can see why. They don’t like being associated with that store. They’re pretty good at what they do, but to be associated with all the other bumbling people who work there is something they don’t like so they move on.

So what exactly is the problem with this Safeway that puts it above the rest to be called the worst Safeway in San Francisco? Take a look at my personal list of favorites:

  1. Produce isn’t fresh. That can be kind sometimes. It’s usually starting to rot and they don’t have much of selection of rotting produce either.
  2. They run out of staples like milk and eggs and what is left has usually been beaten to death.
  3. No matter when you go they never have enough cashiers working.
  4. Dont ask, where is ____ because hardly anyone speaks English. Even the people who you think would don’t. Seriously. I asked where the bisquick is and was replied with, beesqueek? After explaining the whole process of using it to make homemade beeskits at home I was brought over to the Pillsbury pop-n-fresh pre-made beesskits.
  5. They painted the parking lot upstairs with marine enamel which gets slippery in the rain. My wife slipped and fell once and I let the manager know and he took our information and said he would call us and he never did.
  6. The people running the recycling out in front make too much noise and aren’t very neat in keeping their recycling in one place. They spill broken glass all over the parking spots and the place is so dirty that I’ve seen cleaner bus station bathrooms.
  7. Management just doesn’t care [most heard from former employees]. See 5. above also.
  8. Rats, rats, rats. The bread and beans are all chewed up and every door you walk into has at least two rat traps on either side. I’ve seen people bring up rat eaten bread and beans and they’ve received the response of, OK, thanks.
  9. The Starbucks creates spill over that leads to people blocking the aisles standing around talking with a cup of coffee. If you want to sit and talk, go to a real coffee shop, not a grocery store. It’s a grocery store, not a place to loiter.

Is that enough? I actually applied for a job at Safeway once and when going through the 4 hour training at the Noriega branch I learned something. They send people out to check and make sure that they’re following company policy and they listed a number of things they looked for. I guess they didn’t check this store prior to telling us that because they were in violation of every one of the rules that a Safeway isn’t supposed to break.

This is all very sad to me because I like to go out grocery shopping and I don’t like to feel like it is or should be an ordeal. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a problem driving to other Safeway’s, but I feel that the one closest to me should hold up its own and do the job it is supposed to do. There’s only a few cashiers left who know what they’re doing and once you learn who they are you pick them out right away and stand in their line even though you know it’ll be a longer wait.

OK, time to run off to Lucky’s…


It may not be the biggest or the best, but it is the oldest shopping mall in San Francisco. People in the Sunset, Ingelside & Oceanview areas very rarely go downtown to shop, they go to Stonestown which opened up in 1951 to serve the shopping needs of those living away from downtown.

Originally, it was a smaller open air mall anchored by the Emporium. Some of the biggest draws in the old days besides the Emporium were Brooks Brother’s suits, Summer and Kaufmann shoe’s and Blum’s an ice cream shop that sold chocolates and candies. Those were at least the shops my family would frequent and usually in that order. Brooks Brother’s didn’t come into play until I got my first job and then of course in those days, I needed a suit.

All of these stores are gone now, though I still have a couple of plastic sealed candy easter egg diorama’s from Blum’s. that date back to the 60’s. In the early 80’s shopping malls all became upscale by adding the word Galleria to the end and in the early 80’s it became the Stonestown Galleria. Old timers like me still refer to it as Stonestown.

What I didn’t realize was that when it was built the area known as Parkmerced was included so that there would be housing for people who would then frequent the shopping area. These started as apartments and then moved on to townhouses as Stonestown became more popular. When it moved over to the Stonestown Galleria in the 80’s it became an enclosed space with underground parking and gained a second level so that the shopping experience would become denser. The problem was that an upscale shopping district didn’t fit with the blue collar middle class that shopped there. The stores started to leave because they couldn’t afford the rents and were replaced eventually by upscale chain stores. Nordstroms moved in and Brooks Brothers went out. Godiva Chocolates moved in and Blum’s closed and Sees candy downsized [I still like Sees candy better].

You’ll find all of the same stores that you would find in any upscale mall around the country just on a smaller scale now. The Stonestown Galleria seems to still be trying to find it’s niche to fit in with the community. The Apple store is still the one store that no matter what time of day you go in it’s always busy. If someone had a coffee stand outside they would make a mint so people wouldn’t have to go upstairs to the food court to get a sampling of the typical mall food.

Stonestown Galleria is the place we all go when we need something more than what we can get closer to home. San Francisco isn’t really a mall type of city and you’ll notice that when you first drive in and see a sign that lists the Stonestown Galleria Code of Conduct. Really? They’re telling you how to behave at a mall? Apparently they are, but I haven’t seen a guard around to enforce it.


I Am Tempura Guy™!

I’d love to me known for the many things I’ve done. I wanted to be known as a great musician, but I was remembered for being the President of the San Francisco Aquarium Society. That wasn’t too bad because I got to be on television a few times, but what has happened over the passed two days is beyond me. I am now Tempura Guy™.

My wife and I visit the Trader Joe’s at Stonestown frequently. They have a tempura shrimp that is frozen and when you heat it up in the oven comes pretty close to beating Japanese restaurant tempura shrimp. One day we went to pick some up and they were out. I asked about it and was told that it wasn’t very popular so they discontinued it.

WHAT! In one of the largest Asian communities of San Francisco tempura shrimp wasn’t selling?!?! I immediately went to the Trader Joe’s website and sent them an email adding in a bit of saber rattling of how I would no longer be able to shop at Trader Joe’s in Stonestown and would have to move my business to the Westlake Trader Joe’s because they carry the tempura shrimp.

The next day I received an email from the manager of the Stonestown Trader Joe’s telling me how they welcome my business and that they would agree to stock tempura shrimp and it would be delivered on Tuesday. Well, I got held up a bit and didn’t get there until the Monday after the Tuesday only to find out that they were out of stock. I asked a girl about it and she said that it was probably discontinued because it wasn’t selling well. This was an Asian girl and I asked her if she ever tried it. She said, yeah, it was pretty good. Let me check with someone. She runs away and in a few minutes a manager comes out and hastily points to me and stammers out, you’re Tempura guy™.

Great, I’m Tempura Guy™. He then apologizes and tells me that he checked and there was an order arriving tonight that would be available on Tuesday. So Tuesday comes around and my wife says, hey Tempura Guy™ you want to run to Trader Joe’s and get dinner for tonight? Sure. I’m Tempura Guy™.

So off I go to Trader Joe’s and I check the case where they always have it and…it isn’t there. Trader Joe’s has angered Tempura Guy™ and he is displeased. I walk up to a worker in a Hawaiian shirt and tell my story. Half way into it he says, Tempura Guy™ and runs off to the back. He comes out sweating and stammering and says that they don’t have it in the back but wait, gimme a second and I’ll find it for you. He starts a frantic chase down the aisle and another worker says, can I help you find something and the other co-worker says tempura shrimp! The co-worker’s jaw drops and his finger points at me and he says, Tempura Guy™! It was right out of a Godzilla movie with the Japanese pointing to sky yelling GOJIRA! luckily they had moved it to a different location and I purchased two leaving only one left.

Tempura Guy™ is not pleased that they only ordered three tempura shrimp. Do not anger Tempura Guy™. You won’t like it when he’s angry.

Shrimp is good.


Ghirardelli Square: Chocolaty Goodness

While most people who come to Ghirardelli Square see a collection of shops and restaurants it was originally the home to the Pioneer Woolen Mills before Domenico Ghirardelli purchased it and set up his chocolate making shop. The main focus of the square is the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop that gave the shopping center its name. While the date isn’t properly known, it was sometime in the late 1800’s that Domenico bought and opened up shop in this place.

In the early 1960’s the chocolate making operation moved to San Leandro and there was a chance that the GSQ as they refer to it now would be demolished. Thanks to the hard work of San Francisco Citizens the place was given a makeover adding shops and restaurants and reopened in 1964 with the chocolate shop still intact even if the chocolate wasn’t made there anymore.

For me, I have a fond remembrance of the chocolate shop as a kid because my family started a tradition around Christmas time of driving around the city to see all the big houses that were lit up for Christmas ending the evening with a trip to Ghirardelli’s chocolate shop for a sundae. My favorite was always the Tin Roof which was a basic hot fudge sundae with Spanish peanuts on top.

The businesses have come and gone over the years, but the chocolate shop still remains with the vaguely medieval stone chocolate conche device in the back grinding the warmed roasted cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter releasing the volatiles and acids of the chocolate that gives the room its distinct scent that you’ll never forget.

Chocolate snobs connoisseurs will argue over what type of chocolate is the best. Most prefer hand made artisanal chocolate that’s made by impoverished South American’s that are paid a fair trade price for their organic beans. I honestly have no idea where this not quite hand made but not quite fully mass produced chocolate comes from, but it definitely has it’s own taste unlike other chocolates such as Neuhaus or Perugina. It’s not of the chocolate truffle variety. It’s just plain old chocolate. Not much fancy added to it, just milk, dark and now they’ve started adding nuts and a few other things to expand their line up. They don’t tell you the percentage of cacao in each bar it’s just dark or milk and it’s damn good chocolate.

I suppose I should talk about a few things there other than the chocolate shop, but that should really be the main reason for going. More recently the shops have become more food oriented to attract the foodie crowd which in my opinion is a good thing. They have a downstairs indoor shopping mart so to speak that is flanked on the sides by snack places serving upscale versions of common fare such as Pomme Frites and Yap’s Wraps. It’s a good place to stop buy for a nosh, but you have to make a stop by the chocolate shop.

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