Viewpoints

Washington Should Learn From Supermarkets

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Well it is official. The White House and Congress just don’t play together very well — and as a result, this fiscal year’s budget cuts of $85 billion (and $1.2 trillion over the next decade) became official.

The cuts will touch practically everything to do with food — the 83-page detail can be found here: http://bit.ly/SNseques, and as you’ll read, the effect on our industry will be holistic and consequential.

I learned a lesson early on that I would like to share with those we have elected to represent our interests in our capital. I started my career working for my dad selling cheeses and canned meats to supermarket buyers, to foodservice operators and to the butcher stalls in the Gansevoort, Hunts Point, Newark and Bronx Terminal markets. One of the most important lessons I learned is how to compromise.

Some might call selling commodities to the food industry a negotiation — those days I could easily lose a sale over the difference of a half a penny a pound.

And truthfully it wasn’t a negotiation. The buyer held all the cards. I was selling products that could easily be supplied by dozens of others, with little (if any) difference in taste or quality. I quickly learned that it was all about the  relationship.

In order for me to “sell” the products off my list, especially as a new guy right out of college, it wasn’t about the products or price. I had to convince my buyers that I was there for them.

Read more: Sequestration Could Sideline USDA Food Safety Inspectors

Whatever it took, late night phone calls for emergency orders, picking up products in my car and delivering it to their customers, being yelled and cursed at, and even listening to  really really bad meat packer jokes.

To succeed I had to prove that I was there in the thick of it with them. And I was. And I sold a lot of cheese and ham.

What we have witnessed in our nation’s capital is that the opposing sides do not feel that they are in this together. Neither side is willing to put aside their differences and understand that they (and we!) are all in this together; and if the “sale” doesn’t happen the customer might not get their food and no one gets their money. Perhaps it’s time to give them all order books and a list of food buyers to call on.

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Contributors

Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Mark Hamstra

Mark Hamstra is the editor of the Retail/Financial section of Supermarket News covering mergers and acquisitions, quarterly earnings reports, executive changes and other significant events and trends...
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