A short time ago I was grocery shopping at Albertsons, the predominant grocery chain in my community. I was in need of a few tomatoes and was stunned to find that ALL of the tomatoes on display for purchase at my local Albertsons store were imported from either Canada or Mexico.
Not one. single. tomato. was from the United States.
Huh? How can that be?
I live in Montana. We are an agriculture state.
As I stood there with a perplexed look on my face, the manager of the produce department approached me and asked if I had found what I was looking for or if I needed help.
I took a deep breath, slowly let the air out while looking around at the other customers and then began…
“Do you have any United States tomatoes?”
“Do we have what?”
“United States tomatoes.”
“Oh…I’m…well, I think so.”
He walks around checking the labels on the various bins of tomatoes and the labels on the tomatoes themselves.
After he checks all the tomatoes on both sides of the stand, he says, “It looks like we have tomatoes from Mexico and Canada.”
“Yes, that is what I discovered also.”
“How is it that a grocery store chain as big as Albertsons doesn’t have any United States tomatoes for sale? Would you say that most, if not all, of your produce customers are Americans?”
“Then why is Albertsons choosing to support the citizens of Mexico and Canada over their own customer base? I find it hard to believe that there are no tomatoes available for purchase by Albertsons in the whole of the United States of America. All of your American customers are supporting your job and the jobs of the Albertsons’ executives, why is Albertsons not working harder to support the jobs of their customer base?”
“It’s probably more cost-effective for them to buy from Mexico and Canada.”
“Ahhh, for whom? You see, that’s why our economy is in the shape it is in. Companies like Albertsons choose to buy products for cheap from other countries and then turn around and sell those products to Americans — often for an inflated price. So, here’s the deal. I’m not buying any tomatoes from you today. Instead I am going to go post on Facebook that I could not find a single United States tomato from my local Albertsons grocery store.”
“Oh please don’t do that,” he said with kindness.
At this point I realized that we had a small audience of customers watching and listening…and one woman was watching and listening intently.
As people were nodding their heads in agreement I knew I needed to let this poor manager get back to his job and so I began talking with a friend who had come upon the scene.
I noticed that the produce manager began talking with the woman who had been watching and listening to our conversation so intently. I assumed that she was another customer with a question.
My friend and I continued talking as we moved into another aisle. She was telling me about her own experience over a cantaloupe.
We had been talking for about 15 minutes when the produce manager walked into our aisle smiling.
“I’ve been looking for you. I’ll have United States tomatoes here by tomorrow afternoon!”
I perked up.
“The woman that had been standing to the side listening to us was from Sysco. She said that she could deliver a case of United States tomatoes by noon tomorrow. Would that work for you?”
BIG SMILE. “Yes, that would! Thank you, James.”
The next day I returned to Albertsons.
Guess what…the United States tomatoes were there.
They were cheaper than the tomatoes from Mexico and Canada!