Come fly with me

I personally visit the stores profiled in our Retail Spotlight features, which means I am in the airports quite regularly. On my last trip from Newark to Salt Lake City to profile Petersons Fresh Market in Riverton, Utah, (you will read all about it in our December issue) I purchased a bottle of Gold Peak iced tea in one of those Hudson News concession stands. I was taken aback when the cashier informed me that the price was $4.27 including tax. $4.27 – for a bottle of iced tea that might be worth what – $1.00 at most!

I’m traveling on a pretty lucrative expense account – I only get mildly chided when I Supersize my lunch entrée at McDonald’s – so the money wasn’t a factor, but what about families traveling with children who each want a bottle of soda to take on the plane? That might be 20 bucks a pop – so to speak.

What really ticked me off is the night before I was shopping in the A&P and got an entire 12-pack of 7-Up for the same price! That got me thinking. Why can’t supermarkets run the newsstand/concession areas in airports and charge supermarket prices? I don’t know how it would come about. Hudson News seems to have a lock on every airport concession, but maybe this is something FMI could look into. Wouldn’t it be cool to have supermarkets running those airport newsstands and kiosks. They could sell sandwiches, soft drinks, candy, snacks, cookies, fruit, gum, Pepto Bismol and Imodium at reasonable prices, and flyers would get to deal with pleasant employees at the register.

In each city the airport concessions could be run by the strongest chains. Safeway might have San Francisco and Oakland; Jewel, Chicago; Acme, Philadelphia; Harmons, Salt Lake City; Kroger, Atlanta; Stop & Shop or Star Market, Boston; and ShopRite or A&P in the New York area airports. In addition to travel mainstays they could also sell items for which they are regionally famous. Dorothy Lane could make a killing selling gift boxes of its Killer Brownies in Ohio’s airports and A&P could do the same by selling tins of its Jane Parker fruitcakes as last minute Christmas gifts to harried travelers at Newark Airport. Plus, seeing the trusted logo of the local supermarket in the airport lobby might help ease the frayed nerves of anxious travelers.

Of course my trip – and this blog – would not be complete without a grocery-related travel nightmare on the tail end of my trip.

As part of my Retail Spotlight visits I like checking out other local supermarkets to get a feel for the community. Unfortunately unlike a Macy’s or Dillard’s, if you walk around a supermarket for a half an hour without buying anything you will definitely get some stares, and replying “Oh I’m just browsing,” to an inquisitive stock clerk who asks, “May I help you?” will definitely set off security. That is why I always look for a few local delicacies to purchase to take home.

On this particular Salt Lake City trip in addition to Smith’s and Harmons for my price checks I also visited a Dan’s and Reams. I bought several local items and stuffed them into my suitcase. However, when I got to the USAirways counter the attendant informed me my suitcase weighed 52 pounds and I would have to take something out. I took out a couple of items including a 16-ounce tub of Miller’s Whipped Honey, which is apparently a Salt Lake City delicacy as it was carried in every local store, and an 8-ounce can of Giorgio steak sauce with mushrooms, which I had never seen before. I placed them in my carry-on bag and headed to security.

Well, when I got to security the TSA agents held up my bag. They opened it and took out the Miller’s Whipped Honey and Giorgio Steak Sauce.

“What is this?” the agent kind of snottily asked as she looked at the tub of honey. “It is Miller’s Whipped Honey, a local delicacy,” I informed her, thinking to myself, you are from here you should know what it is. “Well this is a 16-ounce container and FAA regulations only permit 12-ounces,” she said. “You can’t bring this on board.”

Next she shook the hermetically sealed steel can of steak sauce and shook it. Shook it hard. “This sounds like it contains a liquid. We don’t allow that on board,” she said.

I told her it was steak sauce. She suggested I go back to the USAirways counter and put it back in my checked luggage. This was a totally stupid idea on multiple levels. First, I informed her, the reason I took it out of my luggage was because the luggage was overweight. Second – and I kept this thought to myself – if my little 8-ounce can of steak sauce was dangerous in flight what difference would it make if I placed it in the overhead bin or the luggage hold?

I asked what will happen to the items. She said they would be thrown away. I suggested she keep them. “We can’t. We get fired for that,” she said. I once again urged her to keep them.

Then it dawned on me. Why can’t the airports have boxes where confiscated groceries are placed and then donated to the local food bank? It works for the Fancy Food Show when you try to walk out with a tote bag full of samples. At least the food would not be going to waste and one of the myriad of homeless people I passed on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City could have had a nice tub of Miller’s Whipped Honey. He would enjoy it. I believe it is a local delicacy.

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