Business proprietors have responsibilities that come with operating a business. Among these, they must adhere to the law, ensure they have proper licensing and insurance, provide a safe environment for their employees and their customers, and take every possible measure to deliver their products in a manner that is not harmful or unpleasant.
Successful business owners and their staff know that they need to be consistent, reliable, professional and courteous, seek out ways to serve their customers to build loyalty, and make decisions that will secure the continuation of that business.
Not all of these things are requirements, of course. Some owners can choose otherwise, but to do so comes with a cost; that is, a potential loss of both short-term and long-term revenue.
When business owners do, in fact, choose to do otherwise (and by doing so model these poor choices for their staff), the business will -- and should -- suffer.
There is a business in Grand Bahama that has consistently violated nearly every one of these essential business practices: City Markets on Seahorse Road.
This grocery store is shameful, embarrassing and pathetic. It's management and ownership appear to have abandoned it and left it to die a pitiful death, rotting away before the very eyes of those that have the misfortune of going there.
This is not a recent development; this disgraceful state of affairs has been inflicted on the residents of Lucaya for at least three years. In the two photos shown here, the first taken on June 23, 2010 and the second taken August 11, 2010, you can see that one of the most basic of all food supplies -- milk -- is completely absent from the shelves.
Even before this, one reader of BahamaIslandsInfo.com told us and showed us about the disgusting condition of eggs in this store, more than 22 months ago.
This week, on Tuesday, October 26, this writer had the misfortune of visiting City Markets on Seahorse Road on the way home, to pick up a few last-minute dinner and home items. Our sad experience began with an attempt to select a shopping cart. After trying four different carts -- each of which were either completely missing the rubber part of the wheels or had a severely inoperable wheel -- we gave up and took a hand basket (hardly a good solution to carry two bags of pet food).
Of the eight items we intended to purchase, three of them could not be found: a block of cheese, ranch salad dressing and toothpaste. Not one of these common items were in stock -- not one! We ended up going to a gas station to find these items.
Our frustration peaked while waiting several minutes for an unkempt, distracted and disinterested grocery bagger to fumble with our items and bags, pausing every 10 seconds to carry on a conversation with another so-called "attendant" (who was hardly paying attention to their customer) two counters over.
By the time we reached our home, we felt contaminated and soiled from being at City Markets on Seahorse Road. The conditions are far below acceptable and, we believe, unsanitary for serving customers of any kind, let alone any sort of food sales activity.
We know that living on an island can sometimes mean difficulties in receiving timely shipments of goods, but this can hardly be an excuse for the mismanagers of City Markets. How is it that a half dozen other food outlets on the island are able to keep a reasonable supply of food, but City Markets cannot?
Recently we visited Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and while there we went to Maxwell's, a grocery store that opened in August of this year. This shining example of a well-managed operation had a stunning selection of food and household items -- including more than 20 cooler doors of ice cream products! Not only is shipping to Abaco more costly and more of a challenge than it is to Grand Bahama, but Grand Bahama has more than three times the population of Abaco, making it (what should be) a more lucrative opportunity for those businesses that know how to manage themselves and serve their market.
Here in Grand Bahama, Sawyer's Fresh Market is an excellent model of efficiency, organisation, management and value, perhaps the best on Grand Bahama. This company is able to maintain a pleasant, clean and bright environment, employs and trains staff that are courteous and responsive, and all the while consistently maintaining the lowest prices of any other food outlet on the island.
Grocery stores are not like a candy store or a movie theatre. Grocery stores supply a vital commodity in a community; they provide an essential need for life to exist. Certainly, our economy allows for (limited but expanding) competition, but a vital business that is permitted to carry on operating in such deplorable conditions is an offense against our community and our country.
City Markets on Seahorse Road is just two miles from Grand Bahama's largest tourist district; it is what both long- and short-term visitors to the Bahamas are most likely to encounter when seeking a food store. Is this really the experience that we want them to have? That we don't care enough to sustain a decent standard of business? That we are too incompetent to plan for cheese, milk and toothpaste to arrive in time to stock our shelves?
City Markets on Seahorse Road is an embarrassment to the entire Bahamas, not just a frustration to the unfortunate souls that stop there for a last-minute purchase.
Soon, there may be two new food retailers in Freeport (Butler's Food World and Save More Food Store). While this will bring more choices for Grand Bahama's residents, both of these will join the majority of others that exist around and west of East Mall; they will do little for the larger shopping demands of the residential community of Lucaya.
This writer is calling on the Grand Bahama Port Authority to suspend the business license of City Markets on Seahorse Road to compel the owners and management of this business to change their business practices or shut down. They are presently doing more harm than good to the Grand Bahama economy if they are allowed to continue.
Further, we implore the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Bahamas Ministry of Health to conduct an investigation into the health practices and unsanitary conditions of this location. From what we have witnessed with our own eyes, along with the anecdotal evidence of many others over the last two years, we suspect that the investigation will be a short one.
(Speaking of anecdotal evidence, just in case you think that this is a our own personal vendetta, just read this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.)
Finally, we urge all residents of Freeport to immediately and completely boycott City Markets on Seahorse Road. If you work near downtown, go to any of the other options before heading east after work. Or, go to Thompson's Family Market on Coral Road or Tyler's Food Mart on north Balao Road. Even one of the eastern gas stations are more likely to have the essentials than is City Markets on Seahorse Road. Whatever you choose to do, do not endorse, support or acquiesce to the reprehensible service that City Markets on Seahorse Road provides.
As long as we continue to accept mediocrity we are doomed to endure it.
In The Tribune on Wednesday, October 27, an article stated that rumoured talks between AML Foods and City Markets -- believed to be headed towards AML buying out a portion or all of City Markets' operations in the Bahamas -- had broken down and that a deal was not likely to be reached. While the veracity of this has not been officially verified by either party, it would seem that any hope of City Markets in Grand Bahama being given new leadership under AML has been lost.
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