The New Sobey’s in Ajax

21 December 2002

As part of Andrew Patterson’s timeline running through the YYZ Publication of Money Value Art, we find on page 220 the following:

1994 — An anonymous Halifax artist place homemade cookies in a local Sobey’s grocery store. The cookies were shaped like letters, spelling out “WORDS”. The packages included Sobey’s style bar code stickers. Sobey’s engaged the RCMP, but no avail”.

A new oppurtunity for such interventions (and a chance to get onto their Art Award radar) has opened in the sleepy little car heaven of Ajax Ontario. Ajax is like the battle ground of a Japanese Anime or Godzilla movie. Two giants go head to head in lumbering combat – in this case, it’s big box retail outlets engaged in capitalistic competition. Sobey’s opens up a new 24 hour store, at the corner of Westney and Hwy 2 – while up the street, there’s a 24hr Dominion, and down the street, a Loblaws. It’ll be a good christmas for the plastic bag manufacturers. The colour scheme is a bit depressing, a coca-and-cream motif with beige and Sobey’s green. Gastrointestinal propaganda is everywhere, “This way to great meal ideas” “Great meal ideas await you” “May your next meal be a great one” etc etc, although, those are paraphrases since I don’t want to remember such sillyness verbatim. The ceiling reveals the girders and ventilation pipes covered with clumpy foam insulation, painted that terrible brown, which I find distasteful.

The layout is awkward. My first impression, with low fruit stalls and bakery at the entrance, is that it resembled the Dominion up the street. I wanted to buy bath supplies and looked all over nearest the entrance, where such things usually are grocery stores, but it was way in the back where one would expect to find frozen food. I had a hard time finding everything I was looking for. This happens whenever I go into any new g-store, so that’s not really a surprise, but it is still annoying. Why is it they flirt with standardization (putting fruit at the entrance) and then do something unique (like putting the bath supplies in the far corner)?

Just as we know that the foam monster with flailing arms in a Tokyo studio is just some guy in a suit making some easy money, we also know that Sobey’s doesn’t give a shit about it’s customers as long as they keep choosing their store over the kilometre away competition, so they too can make some easy bucks to give away at cheesy award ceremonies. Everyone is complaining about the staff – they’re undertrained and are making mistakes. At checkout, the girl had to cancel one input three times before she got it right. The other day, my mother was charged 21.95 instead of 12.95, which she was lucky to catch a couple of days later and get corrected. The staff all look young, the majority seem to be under 25, and “in store procedure” takes precedence over “customer service”.

I think I’m going to stick to buying my food at Loblaws.

Rating: 5/10

Instant Coffee Saturday Edition

  1. Dec 2002: Appeared in Instant Coffee Saturday Edition Issue No° 12
  2. 2002-2015 Archived on my websites & blog
  3. Sept 2015: this version produced