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Checkout This: You Get Fewer Choices

November 15, 1998

* Local small businesses are not the only ones being cheated by the grocery store mergers; consumers are also ["Grocery Mergers No Bargain for the Southland," James Flanigan on California and the West, Oct. 21].

I have been a loyal Vons shopper for approximately nine years, but since the Safeway-Vons merger, I have had to shop at three stores instead of one. Every week another item has been taken off the shelves at Vons, which forces me to shop somewhere else or to use a different, and sometimes inferior, product.

The biggest misnomer of all is the propaganda statement: These mergers will create huge savings for the consumers because of the buying power these huge grocery chains now have. Well, then explain why my grocery bill has been steadily increasing year by year when I buy almost the exact same items week after week. In the last year, my bill has increased approximately $20 to $30 per week.

CHRIS JACOBOVITZ

Burbank

* I've been reading the latest news about the Kroger-Fred Meyer deal, and it appears that just like many other industries, consolidation is the way to expand market share and shareholder wealth--period. Myopia sets in as the overlooked suffer: the small-business owners; the regional or ethnic suppliers who don't have access to mass demographics; and, oh yes, the consumer's freedom of choice.

Ironically, we no longer have a real choice. When four major players, operating under their respective pseudonyms, control suppliers, slot charges, pricing, etc., they also control us. We trade our consumer profile each time we present our bar-coded key chain or club card in order to save pennies. The real savers are the grocery companies who cheaply obtain this information from willing consumers.

Alarming also is the number of these outlets, growing as if there were a new onslaught of consumers or some recently developed megalopolis community needing a Ralphs, Vons, Wal-Mart, Albertsons, Lucky, etc., on each corner. Have we overdosed on convenience?

I guess it just boils down to big business getting bigger, no matter what the business is. The unknowing or apathetic consumer falls in line and consolidation-life goes on. California businesses are pawns for corporate America; just look around.

CHARLES SANDOVAL

Long Beach

* In response to the purchase of Fred Meyer by Kroger, I would like to urge consumers to be aware of the possible consequences of these types of mega-mergers.

In cases such as this, in which one company overtakes the debt of another in a corporate buyout, consumers tend to find themselves faced with fewer choices and higher prices at the checkout stand.

This merger will create the largest national supermarket chain, giving Kroger the power to determine from Cincinnati which brands and products will be offered to millions of customers here in Southern California.

Although the company has announced that many of the stores will still operate under the names Californians are used to, decisions ranging from employment policies to community investment will be made at the national level.

As a result, consumers may see fewer familiar products and faces at their local supermarket. Large mergers are not about lowering prices for consumers--they are about company profit and corporate expansion.

JANEE M. PELLETIER

California Public Interest

Research Group

Mar Vista

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