Confessions of a Harris-Teeter loyalist

DavenportLast week brought news that Harris-Teeter may be sold to one of several suitors, Publix among them. This is an interesting development for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I have been called a “snob” because of my loyalty to Harris-Teeter.

Political controversies are notoriously heated and divisive, but I often wonder if our differences are more fundamental in nature, as in culture and class. In my family and among my circle of acquaintances, impassioned rhetoric is summoned not by the Democrat-Republican or liberal-conservative divide, but by discussion of the merits of Target as compared to Wal-Mart; of Harris-Teeter as compared to Food Lion.

On the surface, the issue seems trivial, inconsequential, and irrelevant. This I do not concede; it is a fascinating cultural study. One’s choice of department stores or grocery stores, it seems to me, is a fairly reliable indicator of one’s class and degree of refinement. Such decisions are not strictly determined by household finances, by the way: I know very well-off families that shop at Food Lion, and I know struggling families that do their weekly shopping at Harris-Teeter. There are men who live on the edge of poverty, but carry themselves like aristocrats; there are wealthy men who behave like peasants.

That said, it is folly to pretend that there is no difference between Harris-Teeter’s clientele and Food Lion’s. The distinctions are vivid, even when the respective stores are located in the same part of town. If you’re skeptical, conduct the following experiment: purchase half of this week’s groceries at Harris-Teeter on New Garden, and the other half at Food Lion on Fleming. (Or, if your needs necessitate a visit to a department store, purchase a few goods at Target on New Garden, and the remainder at Wal-Mart on Battleground.) I will eagerly anticipate a report of your observations.

Maureen and I went to Harris-Teeter (New Garden) Saturday morning, and there took place an episode highly illustrative of my point. There is a certain brand of Pop Tarts Maureen likes, but H-T does not sell them. Food Lion does. Much to my dismay, Mrs. Davenport told me she would send me to Food Lion (“I know how you love Food Lion,” she added) Sunday afternoon to get them, while she cleaned house. Standing next to us at that moment was a middle-aged blonde who, upon noticing my displeasure at the prospect of this errand, laughed with mirthful scorn. She was a woman of elegance and refinement—the type you rarely encounter at Wal-Mart or Food Lion. Maureen and I laughed along with the stranger, knowing full well the object of her derision.

My elation diminished somewhat when we reached the check-out line. Maureen, you see, is quite particular about the bagging of groceries. As a friendly young lady scanned our purchases, a young man of high school age began bagging them—at a blistering pace, and with such adeptness, that Maureen was moved to comment: “I commend you for your bagging skills.” The young man was bewildered for a moment, and finally replied, “Is ‘commend’ good or bad?” Such is the state of our government schools.   

I prefer not to be accosted by thunderous rap music in parking lots, and I appreciate a clean, well-organized grocery store. I would rather not shop in the company of youthful males who wear their pants around their knees, or in the company of women in evening costume–pajamas and slippers. (The aforementioned offenses, incidentally, are committed by blacks, whites, and Hispanics alike.) I also prefer to shop among other speakers of English. Does this mean I am a snob? If so, then I confess.

I don’t care if a gallon of milk costs 25 cents more at H-T, or if bread is an additional 50 cents; I will gladly pay the difference in order to avoid the vulgar proletarians slouching and strutting about Food Lion. 

The disappearance of Harris-Teeter will be no small source of anxiety to many of us. We can only hope that it will be bought out by an equally “elitist” chain that will be happy to accommodate those of us who, for so long, were H-T loyalists.

Charles Davenport Jr.

12 Responses to Confessions of a Harris-Teeter loyalist

  1. Dan Bayer says:

    “That spandex is a privilege, not a right!”:

  2. JP says:

    What about Aldi? The nicest shoppers in the world are at Aldi, and the prices are the best.

    btw, what does this have to do with anything that would interest anyone? We are on the brink of the greatest economic collapse this country has ever seen, and you’re writing tripe about being a supermarket snob.

  3. Tony Moschetti says:

    I’ve done the “experiment” numerous times. A bag of lays deli style chips is $2.69 at Wal Mart grocery, $4.28 at the Union shop (Harriss Teeter). A 12 pack of 12 oz sodas at Walmart is about $4, and $6,25 at the union shop. A box of gnocchi is about $2 at Walmart and about $5.50 at the union shop. The difference can be found in almost every item.

    I have no problem shopping at H-T on occassion for specialty items or sale items, but I refuse to spend 25-50 percent more just so that cashiers can make $30,000 a year and provides a service little to no different than Walmart of Food Lion.

    I agree that Food Lion prices are not that much lower than H-T, but Walmart’s ARE. Where I liuve Walmart are literally across the stree from one another, and H-T is about a mile or do away. And Charles, except for you I don’t like the kind of people. for the most part that shop at H-T.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Obama/Biden sticker at Walmart whereas the H-T parking lot sometimes looks like Obama election hdq!

  4. If you have an issue with the proletariat, then don’t shop, anywhere. As a former Harris-Teeter employee, I have seen others slouch and strut, as you so nicely put it, around the store, just the same as I see around Food Lion. The customers are just as bad as the employees.

  5. Harold Milner says:

    H-T’s are very clean and for the most part the employees are always cheerful and helpful. We only visit them when we’re close to one and need a few items. Never purchased more than two plastic bags of stuff at one time from H-T. Their prices are horrendous and I can’t see spending 4.00 dollars form a gal of milk. I am of the opinion they only purchase dairy products from unionized cows. Wifey and I for the most part buy from Wal-Mart and Aldi. Besides buying food on the cheap, we’re able to rub elbows with the common man. On occasion we’ll buy from Costco in bulk form. When Whole Foods first came to town we purchased some groceries but came to feel the name should be changed to Whole Paycheck. At least our area has a good number of choices of g-stores to choose from.

  6. Kate says:

    Specific items can be a lot cheaper at Kroger or Food Lion, Kroger being, in my area, about halfway between the two as to price, quality, and what’s for sale. I’ve had some experience with Publix and I’m hoping that’s where the sale would go. Publix stores in Georgia and Florida have a wide offering of good produce and other items, not too much different from H-T, certainly not like Food Lion.

  7. Agreed, Kate. The wife and I go to Publix in FL, and it’s a nice store. Thanks for the feedback!

  8. Mr. Grimes, I suggest that you conduct the test I mention in the article. On average, H-T shoppers are better dressed and better behaved. There’s no doubt about that. Thanks for writing.

  9. Ed note: “JP” is Julia Poole, according to her email address.

    Miss Poole,

    Apparently the Harris-Teeter post was quite interesting: we had a huge surge in traffic because of it. Furthermore, I don’t intend to seek your approval regarding the topics I (or any of my contributors) address. That’s one of the reasons I chose to start my own blog: I write about whatever I want. There are plenty of other blogs to read; perhaps you should frequent them instead of the Guardian. Better yet, start your own blog. Your argument, btw, applies to any number of things: why address X when we should worry about Y? Why address A when we should worry about B? For instance, why worry about “economic collapse,” when babies are being aborted?


    Charles Davenport Jr.

  10. Kayser Sosa says:

    There is no doubt that HT is a cleaner, more pleasant store to shop at, along with having a wider selection of the foods we enjoy. This is undeniable. However, you, sir, are just as disgusting as the ghetto-blasters at Food Lion. Your attitude and air of entitlement is no better than the slouching, obese, house coat and flip-flop wearing, welfare-queen baby mama who laughs all the way home while using YOUR tax dollars to pay for her groceries. Idiot. Instead of defending your own imbecilic snobbery you should be thankful God has given you the means to choose where you shop. A little humility would serve you well.

  11. Chef Schnauzer says:

    I started my own business and have engaged in a new level of education. Starting with moving from the abstract to stark reality concepts like ‘cash flow’. I sold my house to make payroll and taxes in the third year of operations (just starting my 5th year) I hope to both break even and start paying myself this year. Harris Teeter is just not worth the premium at this time. As I grow and manage my business (planning expansion) I can’t justify the unnecessary expense – I’m one of only two shareholders in the company and to pay those prices violates my primary obligation to responsibly manage resources. Sam’s Club and Target are the smart business decisions.

  12. sal leone says:

    I love saving money and use a lot of coupons. My wife uses a grocery game to save money. I shop at Food Lion, H.T, Lowes Food etc, I love saving money and conserving my every dollar. Besides the more I save, the more the gov’t will take anyway.

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