A Letter to Tops Friendly Markets

August 5, 2001 by Mark H. Anbinder

Dear Tops folks,

I learned recently that Tops Friendly Markets has bought the A&P Supermarket on Triphammer Road in Ithaca, with the specific intention to close the store in a few short weeks. I am writing to ask you to reconsider, and keep this popular, apparently profitable store open.

The A&P Supermarket at Ithaca's Triphammer Mall has been open since 1966, when the area, just south of Route 13, consisted mostly of well-spaced houses and farmland. The A&P Supermarket at Ithaca's Triphammer Mall has been open since 1966, when the area, just south of Route 13, consisted mostly of well-spaced houses and farmland.

I've been an A&P shopper in Ithaca since 1987 (and in Hastings-on-Hudson before that), and have continued to do most of my shopping at A&P despite the arrival in Ithaca of new Tops, P&C, and Wegmans stores. When I moved to Sheraton Drive a year ago, and renewed my lease this summer, a big reason was the easy walking-distance accessibility to the A&P and other stores in the Triphammer Mall. Not having a supermarket in walking distance will make our apartment complex much less suitable not just for me, but for the many other folks living there, some of whom walk or take the bus everywhere. Some of my elderly neighbors walk down to the A&P for the exercise as much as for the shopping.

Moreover, I have found the customer service attitude at the new Tops store on Triphammer Road to be quite uninspiring. Other than on opening day, when I visited the store at the urging of an enthusiastic friend who has long shopped at the Meadow Street store and found everyone to be bubbly and excited, I have not felt that your staff cares that I'm there. My most recent bad experience at this store occurred in June, when I was in line behind a woman who'd forgotten her Tops Bonuscard. She asked the cashier to scan a store card so she could have the substantial discounts afforded by her large purchase, but was told, "We don't do that here." I was appalled that someone who was so clearly a regular customer could not simply be given the Bonuscard discounts. When I've forgotten my card at other stores (including the A&P and the Ithaca Wegmans), the cashier has happily scanned a card that sits at the register for that very purpose. My shopping companion offered the woman her own card, which the cashier scanned without comment. I haven't been to this store since.

The extent to which Tops understands Ithaca was driven home when a postcard and newspaper ad touting the new store both featured maps showing the store in the wrong location. (Ironically, roughly where the A&P is. Maybe that's why the A&P is still profitable despite the P&C and Tops each about a quarter mile away.) If your new store's business hasn't been what you'd hoped, maybe it's because you never managed to tell area shoppers where it was. Now, months later, your web site's "Locations" page still shows only one Tops store in Ithaca -- the Meadow Street store.

Please keep the Triphammer Road A&P store open, preferably with the same attentive and competent staff it has now, rather than with a crew of Tops-quality replacements. It clearly serves a different audience than your nearby store, and if it's profitable, you might do better by keeping it open than by closing it. Surely, if you wanted the competitor's store closed, a more traditional approach would be to have your store excel at product, price, and customer service, and let the competitor simply go out of business. To buy a competitor's store for the sole purpose of closing it seems grossly anti-competitive, and doesn't reflect at all well on your business.

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