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Why I never go to Fairway anymore


Pan
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Tips for shopping at Fairway (or Zabars Xmas week):

Wear visibly heavy footwear--something intimidating like combat boots--worn outside the pants.  Seeing you, others with lesser footwear will instinctively shrink back to avoid having their feet mangled..

Wear old, preferably dirty clothes. It's a good idea to look like you might smell bad. 

Adopt a  deranged, distracted look--an expression of "I might snap at any minute--or possibly soil myself" .

Bark, growl or make inappropriate, angry remarks from time to time.

Dark sunglasses are a nice addition. The idea is to make others think you don't see them and might blunder into them at any second.

Walkman headphones (with no music playing) give you yet another edge. You can hear them (though they don't know it) and they'll  think you're too lost in thrash metal to hear any screams of pain as you careen down the aisle with your cart.

Disturbing props can be your ticket to the express line: A headless doll held to your chest, a sock puppet, scuba mask or a garland of unwrapped condoms will make everyone--from other customers up to the manager want to get you through the system as quickly as possible.

Problem is that you'll look like every other Fairway customer. :smile:

Edited by mikeyrad (log)
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I always have found Zabar's to be a better shopping experience than Fairway; Although they are not quite apple-to-apple comparisons, (Fairway has fresh produce and a few aisles of canned goods) on the items they compete in, Zabar's always comes out a winner with me--

The olive bar is much more attractive, and a better selection at Zabars-- I have witnessed Fairway pouring peanut oil right into the olives at their olive bar-- I hate olives swimming in oil! The yogurt prices are generally a little to a lot cheaper at Z's; The coffee is far superior at Z's; The store is brighter and cleaner-looking; the Z's staff generally is not as foreboding, and I don't think the above-mentioned bagel incident could happen at Z's.

Oh, for a nice piece of sturgeon now..... :smile:

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It's been said before, but it bears repeating. Either branch of Fairway is a nightmare at peak hours. But if you have the luxury of a car, you can drive to the uptown store either early or late and have an incredibly pleasant experience. Go on a weekday around 9:00 p.m.- you'll be very surprised. There's nothing like walking right up to the cheese station and tasting six cheeses before you buy. And having no one waiting behind you.

One exception: the meat counter in the big refrigerated section. They seem to recruit folks who want to seem intimidating, so you'll just buy the stuff they've packaged and not ask any questions.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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Gotta agree wih Pan on this one; banging into people on purpose is not a good long-term NYC survival strategy. Eventually you will encounter someone really crazy who may well try to kill you. This is less likely to happen at Fairway, but I still try to be a good person. I just have a non-confrontational personality.

Now disembarking from an escalator leaves no alternative to bumping into a non-understanding soul; that's just physics.

I try to shop at Fairway early mornings. I bring my own shopping cart, which I park in a usually clear space, like across from the frozen pastas, and run around collecting things while the countup to my deli counter number proceeds. Familiarity with the store layout helps tremendously.

--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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I'm willing to bet that the folks who offer assistance on the trians are not native NY'ers.

How much money are you willing to lose? :laugh::raz:

In terms of early and late driving visits to Fairway Uptown, I recommend early and not late. If you go late, like after 9pm, you get screwed at a number of the departments: the bread selection is terrible, the fish selection tends to be picked over, and all the managers are long gone. In the morning, the managers tend to be around setting up their departments. You can talk directly to the head coffee guy or the head butcher, and get exactly what you want. And everybody is in a much better mood, not having spent all day dealing with the maddening crowd.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've never really had problems with downtown Fairway. I try to avoid peak hours - never go on weekends, and if it's crowded, I'll turn around and walk out without buying anything.

I actually refuse to shop in any Duane Read because they accused me and Blovie of stealing something - and we had a bag stapled with a receipt. I think some of these managers and security guys are on power trips and it's an ego thing to make people's lives miserable.

For the most part I stick with Fairway Uptown. I go when I have to move my car, so I get there about 11:15. Normally, the only other people there are firemen. I zip through, and I can't remember the last time I had to wait on line. I was there the monday before Thanksgiving, and it was the most crowded I've ever seen it (there was serious gridlock in the parking lot) but I through everything into a basket instead of a cart, and again lucked out with an open register.

I don't think people on the UWS are any ruder than anyone else in this city. And before you paint everyone as rude, remember, there are plenty of people who shop at Fairway and Zabars who don't live on the UWS, but rather travel from elsewhere.

Sam - I love your theory on crowd dynamics. It drives me nuts when people just stop in the middle of the street to have a conversation. I think there are some people who are completely oblivious to the world around them.

Edited by bloviatrix (log)

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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That's absolutely right, Fat Guy. When I go late, I skip the bread entirely. But I don't find it practical to go in the early a.m.

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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Sam, I really like your observation about crowd dynamics. This is what Wegman's is like on A sunday afternoon...and while it will still continue to be frustrating to me, at least I can attribute it to " crowd behavior disorder! " :laugh: I'll be going throught the store, cart-locked at an aisle intersection, thinking :" CBD! CBD!"

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I dont like the UWS Fairway to much

When I ran the Bruno Ravioli store at 79 @ BWY

I heard horror stories about fairway, we had many people say they would rather pay more with us (we cant compete on price) and get better service..then shop at fairway/zabars.

I bake there for I am....

Make food ... not war

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I've thought about this recently because I have friends who are constantly having people bump into them in the grocery store, on the street, in subway stations, etc. whereas it hardly ever happens to me.

I find physical size has a lot to to do with that. I am hardly ever bumped, but my wife (who is about 1/3 my size ) gets pushed around like crazy. One Fairway shopper actually pushed her headfirst into a cart!

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slkinsey,

i loved your comments on crowd dynamics...i often wonder if anyone else ever thinks of these things at all!

bourdain,

of course, that's what i try to do on the subway to keep people away, or when i want a seat!

but really, what i've ended up doing is deciding when i really need to go to fairway and when it really makes sense to order from fresh direct! i love them. i live on the fourth floor of a walk-up building and i'm tired of lugging up my seltzer and other heavy comestibles...

anyone else have anything to say about fresh direct?

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How is the existing Whole Foods on 24th Street doing? Has it pulled business away from any particular establishments, or has it mostly created a new niche? Is it pulling people from farther away than the immediate neighborhood?

I have a friend who lives in Red Hook Brooklyn and she shops there for specific things when she's in that neighborhood. She doesn't drive over to Manhattan JUST for that but when she's as far over as Union Square or points west, she makes it a point to go there for certain things she can't buy at her "regular" grocery store.

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i loved your comments on crowd dynamics...i often wonder if anyone else ever thinks of these things at all!

I think about things like that. And highway dynamics too. Why does the LIE come to a near stop at points when there is no obvious cause? I think there are a few people around that get paid to think of answers to questions like that. I wish I was one of them. How about long subway corridors? Fluid dynamics would tell you theat the velocity of a fluid is highest at the center and zero at the walls. Not true with people. How about the Chase Corporate challenge races in the park? Why do walkers line up at the front of the crowd and stay in the middle? Why do people stand in front of me waiting for a green light even though they walk so slowly I re-pass them withing seconds once the light changes? I rant. Please return to the topic.

--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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i loved your comments on crowd dynamics...i often wonder if anyone else ever thinks of these things at all!

I think about things like that. And highway dynamics too. Why does the LIE come to a near stop at points when there is no obvious cause? I think there are a few people around that get paid to think of answers to questions like that.

Yes, there are. Engineering schools like Polytechnic University give Ph.D.'s in Traffic Engineering.

And now, back to our show... :biggrin:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 2 years later...

Today I had my first hostile experience at the 125th street Fairway. I'm not sure if it will stop me from ever going there anymore, but it definitely sent the the place a couple notches down on my "recommend" list.

I believe Steven or somebody else might have mentioned it in the past, but I completely forgot that Fairway prohibits photography within the store. So of course, like a dumbass, I was snapping away like a Japanese tourist on speed today, getting photos for eG and Off The Broiler. I had gotten to about my 20th picture when I hit the bread/cheese area where they have the olive oil tastings set up, when a short man, that was conversing with the kosher supervising rabbi that was there, who proclaimed to be the General Manager, got up right in my face and said

"Put that goddamn camera away now!"

I said "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize" and shoved it in my pocket. I profusely apologized further and explained to him that I wanted to take pictures for OTB and eGullet, and he said "I don't give a damn who you are or what web site you have. Unless you want to get me excited, and you don't want to do that, you'll stop doing what you're doing right now."

I walked away about 20 feet and went into the meat room for a few minutes to escape the guy, where Rachel was looking at the oysters. After explaining to Rachel what had just happened I then headed over to try some olive oil at the tasting area (incidentally, the extra virgin kalamata oil is really nice and I bought a bottle). A few other customers were there looking at the olive oil, where there's a sign that says "no double dipping". Before any of the customers could put a piece of bread in the oil, he starts yelling at the top of his lungs at them.

"NO DOUBLE DIPPING! THATS GODDAMN DISGUSTING!"

The guy turned bright red and then yanked a few of the plastic containers away, I guess to refill them with uncontaminated oil.

If this was the guy's normal state, I don't want to see him when he gets excited.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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And that's why I LOVE the Fairway in Red Hook... none of this madness, plenty of space (and I mean PLENTY), and great prices on produce and products otherwise very hard to find in Brooklyn. Manhattanites, I thought that's why you lived there, all the excitement and hustle and bustle, the "character". MMM-Hmmm???

Also, re: the very entertaining discussion of crowd dynamics; my finacée and I have a phrase for it--"The 360 Degree Consciousness". We judge human enlightment based on how many degrees of the potential 360 an individual seems to be conscious. You'd be surprised how many native NYers seem to fall well short of 180. My particular pet peeve is someone coming out of a store and refusing to merge into the flow of 5th Ave (Brooklyn) foot traffic. Just today I saw a confrontation regarding a woman blithely walking out of a store and not looking to her left, and she was basically run over by a man who didnt see her coming. Awareness!

Re: The UWS, and don't kill me for this, but there is CERTAINLY a strain of personal entitlement that has found fruition on the UWS. Pushy, wealthy people who believe their own needs are all that matter. I have seen it all over the neighborhood, from restaurant behavior to Lincoln Center performances to movies. throw in the stress of holiday overcrowding? Oy. I can only imagine.

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I suspect that for some reason the behavior of the crowds at Fairway has created the sometimes cranky staff.

Pan's experience is inexcusable behavior on the store's part.

Yet, often the behavior of fellow shoppers is such that I am suprised the staff are not armed with whips and chairs!

Perhaps it is the atmosphere.

I was once attempting to edge my way closer to the tiny cheese counter at the UWS branch and watched while a shopper reached into one of the barrels of olives scooped up some ate them and then tossed the pits back into the barrel.

I have had numerous close calls with people with carts (the aisles are too damn narrow for carts) and have been literally elbowed and shoved aside by people straining to get to a counter or force their way past me in their quest for whatever.

The whole store(s) layouts and selling methods and merchandising seem to bring out the worst in shoppers (and staff). Also the places are literally crammed with stuff--much of which is not all that good.

Compare this with the more sedate and calm atmosphere at Citarella next door (even when there is a crush at this place the patrons are better behaved). Aisles are bigger, no carts, and less self serve. they also have higher prices for the most part but what price civility?!

FG is right--the quality (of many items) and prices at Fairway are excellent--if one can put up with the chaos and rude behavior from patrons and often from staff.

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Yet, often the behavior of fellow shoppers is such that I am suprised the staff are not armed with whips and chairs!

perhaps it's not fair to post this on a fairway thread, but once i overheard a funny conversation at zabar's: a grandmother pushed someone with her shopping cart and her adult granddaughter told her, "grandma, that's not polite!" the grandmother snapped back, "i don't have to be polite; i'm in zabar's!" i suspect some fairway shoppers might also have this attitude.

can't believe it's not butter? i can.

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I suspect that for some reason the behavior of the crowds at Fairway has created the sometimes cranky staff.

Yet, often the behavior of fellow shoppers is such that I am suprised the staff are not armed with whips and chairs!

I make a few trips to Fairway (uptown, or UWS) from Jersey during the year when I need stuff, like when I'm out of the various olive oils they have under their own label, which are excellent. But I do take a deep breath and prepare myself for the experience (!!)

One time I was waiting at the prepared foods counter (UWS) when a woman with a nasal voice and a condescending tone had her number called, and told the counterman "I'll have a half of a pound of the string bean and and peppers, but I want only string beans". The guy informed her, perfectly nicely, "I'll try, but you see it is called 'string beans and peppers'." The woman answered in a voice more condescending than the first time, "You'll do your best." Then she turned to the other customers (sadly, I was the closest so she addressed me) and said "The attitude in this store leaves a lot to be desired!" And I replied "Starting with yours." Immediately she asked me "you mean my 'You'll do your best' comment? - do you think I was too harsh on him?" I turned and walked away from her, and the other people around, sensing they were about to be drawn into this, turned away.

But I have always thought that in the face of this treatment by custmers, that the Fairway UWS store employees do remarkably well.

Another time I had come for the Spanish Arbequina olive oil specifically (Fairway label) and found them out of it - a wasted trip from Jersey! So I asked, and the fellow said that the were truly out but that the Uptown store 'should' have it. I asked if there was any way to be certain before I drove up there, and he radioed to somebody to call them, and they said they had it - so I pointed the car uptown. When I got there, there was none, and the guy said he thought they were out. So I told the story of the other store calling and being told they had it, and he said he'd go look. Then he came back empty-handed (I never know if people really go look, or just kill time when this happens) and he said that they did have it just come in on a truck that day, and if I had fifteen minutes to kill, they could get at it for me - and while I shopped around, they brought me a case of it.

So, strange as it seems, I may be the only person who has happy Fairway stories to tell.

(Unlike the time we were in an adorable store in France that was a French version of Home Depot, and took photos like crazy because of how adorable we thought it was, and upon leaving were surrounded by security guards who demanded possession of our camera and asked us to wait while they called the police. While we waited for the store manager to get there - we demanded they call him - we surreptitiously erased all the photos on the camera except for the few exterior shots we had taken on the way in - then we showed the manager by flipping through the photos that we had just a few shots of the outside of the store, and before those, photos of our last night's dinner, and the dinner before that.. so he told the men to let us go!)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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For us, the trick to a pleasant experience at Fairway (Broadway and 74th) is to go very late at night, after the opera at Lincoln Center, say. Not crowded, not crazy. Mind you, we buy only a few things there (mainly Beurremont or Plugra butter), so we're in and out quickly anyway.

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I've taken a few elbows at this fine grocery store myself. Thought about returning them but didn't think it appropriate for healthy 6'2" man to be trading blows with middle aged women. Honestly I was more impressed with (lack of) response my utterance of "oh pardon me" when I was trod on. "Excuse me" is apparently not part of the language there, much less "Sorry sir, I didn't mean to drive my heel into the top of your foot." Push and be pushed. Lucky for me, the UWS Fairway is too far away from my apt to be much of a draw.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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These stories blow my mind. really. Up here in the provincial, unsophisticated hinterlands it just doesn't happpen like that - even when stores are busy and it's crowded. Having lived in NJ for four years I would have expected to read stories like this about shopping in the more congested areas of North Jersey (admittedly - I did have a few touchy experiences at the Stop 'n Shop in Lyndhurst back when I lived iin that area).

Granted - Syracuse and cities liek it have a slower pace of life, few trafffic probelms and and far fewer stressful factors in daily life.

But is there something about people's relationship to both food and shopping in the Manhattan environment that might account for this seemingly aberrant behavior?

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definitely phaelon56! let's say you pushed your way onto a crowded cross-town bus to get to fairway, you have to push your way through the store (to avoid getting run over by overzealous older people or snooty younger people) and then there are no real lines, so you have to figure out where to stand in order to actually pay for your hard won produce, then you get yelled at for not running quickly enough to the next available cashier...then you have to schlep all the groceries home to your crap apartment in a walk-up building (oh, that's just me :rolleyes: ).

once, i wanted to get some stuff delivered from fairway because it just seemed easier that day (i bought three cases of seltzer to really make it worth my while). when the delivery guy shows up, i have a five dollar bill in hand, ready to tip him. instead, he gives me a stinky attitude and tells me that i have to go downstairs and get the last case of seltzer (because he just doesn't want to do it). so i pocketed the five...hopefully obviously. i'll tell you, makes a big case for fresh direct.

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