August 28, 1999
“What are you doing here?” was the most frequently asked question I was asked Saturday as I loitered in the new Provisions Market on the Marvin Center ground floor.
Quite simply, I wanted to find out if fellow students appreciated the GW grocery shopping experience, so I checked it out myself instead of taking the butcher’s word for it. Three hours seems like a long time to hang out in a grocery store, but the things I learned made my day of “hey you, slow down, give me a quote I can use for the paper” all worthwhile.
Provisions Market is impressive at first glance: loads of candy tantalize shoppers walking by, aisles wide enough for that visit from “Soul Train” we’re all praying for, a produce section for the health nuts, a frozen food section wide enough to cruise for pick-ups, and a deli where you’re allowed to yell “give me the meat” as loud as you want.
Overall, I found the new market a happy place where students’ needs are met by manager Arni Malin, who treats his store shoppers as if he’s Mr. Rogers and they’re in his neighborhood. When I hung out with Malin, the food service director of the MC ground floor eateries, I was comforted to know that Provisions Market is the people’s market, where students’ demands are heard. Here’s an example:
I got a chance to play mediator between one disgruntled shopper and our friendly shop manager during my visit. Senior Jennifer Kieley, a glutton for vegetables, was upset to find no fresh broccoli or heads of lettuce in the produce section, so I did my duty as a Hatchet reporter and confronted Malin.
The outcome wasn’t as dramatic as I’d hoped: Malin nodded his head once and said he’d add the vegetables to his next order.
But what about the prices?
I learned that GW students aren’t too picky about prices as long as they have their GWorld cards to protect them. Groceries can be bought on meal plan points, so most students were all smiles and giggles picking out anything that looked interesting because, hey, it’s all on the parents!
Some students, like sophomore Meg Reardon, chose the no-look, just swipe approach when it came to buying groceries at the market. She had no clue how much her parents had just paid for her weekly milk.
Other students noticed that Provisions Market prices are a little steeper than they’re accustomed to, but most weren’t ready to raise havoc over them.
“Everything at GW is expensive,” junior Megan Morris reasoned about the market’s mark-up on groceries. Morris also clued me in on the new grocery lingo that every student is required to know: while last year’s market was called the closet, this year’s Provisions Market (Store) is affectionately labeled the “PMS.”
Students liked cigarettes, but they liked them even more when their parents were unknowingly footing the bill. A carton of Parliament Lights at the Market will cost you $30, if you pay cash. But on points, the carton is free as far as student shoppers are concerned.
I followed sophomores Alisa Goodwin and Lauren Brauer to Safeway after they were unable to find six of the seven required ingredients for their Saturday night lasagna dinner. When conversation got boring, I conducted an investigation comparing the Safeway prices with Provisions Market.
And the results: Provisions Market is more expensive (see graphic).
While many students flock to the Market out of convenience of payment and location, others remain loyal to their Watergate Safeway for superior selection and pricing.
“There’s no way, but the Safeway,” junior Adolfo Plaza cheered while people stared, confused.
Malin admits defeat when it comes to competing with Safeway prices, but he says his prices are competitive with convenience stores like the 7-Eleven.
The quasi-Mr. Rogers with more business sense reminds students that their needs will be met:
“If there are things that will sell and there is shelf space, I am more than willing to try anything.”