Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paramus ShopRite hit with $470 fine

Progresso Chicken Soup
Image by dklimke via Flickr
It took some doing to buy a can of Progresso Soup for $1.09 during the ShopRite Can Can Sale.

Editor's note: Bergen County consumer affairs officials have stepped into a dispute over Can Can Sale prices at ShopRite. Today, I also discuss Restaurant Week in Manhattan, the difference between farmed and wild salmon, and rising prices at Costco.

The ShopRite supermarket in Paramus has been fined $470 for misrepresenting the price of Progresso Soup during the Can Can Sale.

On Wednesday, an official at the Bergen County Weights and Measures Office in Hackensack said "corporate" sent the word out to other ShopRites to honor the lowest price, even if the customer doesn't buy the 10 cans listed on a Super Coupon in the sales flier -- "10 for $10.88."

There is nothing in the coupon or the flier indicating the customers "Must Buy 10," as in the past. However, there is a $10 minimum purchase. The Can Can Sale price is $1.25 per can and the Super Coupon price is $1.09.

The consumer official said when he tried to buy nine cans at the Paramus ShopRite, they rang up at $1.25 each. He cited the store for nine counts of misrepresenting the price of the soup.

Today, at the Hackensack ShopRite, it took a bit of doing to buy eight cans of Progresso Soup for $1.09 per can.

An employee at Customer Service wasn't aware of any change, but I asked to speak to the manager, who said the "front end" had been notified. At checkout, my cashier was clueless and she called over an assistant manager.

He made sure I had $10 in other items. Then, the soup rang up at $1.57 a can, a savings of $1.02, with another 32 cents deducted automatically, bringing the price to $1.25 a can. Another $1.28 -- or 16 cents a can -- was deducted manually, giving me a final price of $1.09.

Weights and Measures took action after two consumers complained about the stores' refusal to honor the lowest price for less than 10 cans.

I also purchased a half-gallon of Smart Balance Fat-Free Lactose-Free Omega-3 Milk for $3.99, then doubled a 75 cents coupon for a final price of $2.49. Last week, the same milk was on sale for $1.99.

I put 2 liters of Goya Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Spain in my basket, thinking it was on sale for $4.99 a liter, but when I went back for a third bottle, I looked carefully at the shelf sign and realized the sale was on half-liter bottles or the equivalent of $9.98 a liter. 

I didn't buy any.

$24.07 lunch

It's Winter Restaurant Week in Manhattan, so we had a three-course, $24.07 lunch at Blue Fin Seafood and Sushi Restaurant on Wednesday before catching "Jersey Boys" on Broadway.

I started with a tasty Winter Vegetable Minestrone and my wife had the Blood Orange and Endive Salad. We both enjoyed the cheesy bread crisps with sesame seeds served in a basket with a couple of rolls, but my wife said the butter was too salty.

For an entree, we both had the Sustainable Scottish Salmon served on a bed of wonderful lentils and pureed winter squash with a blood-orange vinaigrette, and it was a  valuable lesson in the difference between farmed and wild-caught fish.

The Blue Fin salmon fillet tasted fine, but it was paler in color than its wild cousins and didn't have the same robust flavor. In farmed fish, the color is artificial, added through the feed.

However, the restaurant cooked the skin until it was crisp and presented the fillets skin up. I ate mine in one bite and gulp. Extraordinary. 

For dessert, I had a trio of sorbets and my wife enjoyed a trio of ice creams. We paid a total of $62.04, including $4.27 in tax and a $9.63 tip (20%).

We had coffee at Starbucks, 1585 Broadway, the first I've seen with large touch-screen computers that allow you to take your own photo and send it to your e-mail address.

Winter Restaurant Week ends Feb. 10 (Monday to Friday). 

Web site :

Three Courses for $24.07

Blue Fin Seafood and Sushi Restaurant, Broadway and 47th Street, 
in the W Times Square Hotel; 212-918-1400.

Salt in smoked salmon

Almost every item I bought at Costco Wholesale on Tuesday cost more than a couple of weeks ago.

Earthbound Farm's Half and Half organic salad went up 20 cents, to $4.99; 5 pounds of Sunset Beefsteak Tomatoes were $6.99, up $1; Salted Alaskan Pollock was $7.29 for 2 pounds; and Jarlsberg Thin-Sliced Reduced-Fat Swiss Cheese was $9.49 for 2 pounds, up 50 cents.

And for the first time, I bought Kirkland Signature Imported Smoked Salmon, an artificially colored farmed Atlantic salmon, because the Hackensack warehouse store was out of smoked wild salmon.

The 1.5-pound package, divided between two pouches, was $18.99, a better buy than a 1-pound package of Blue Hill Bay Smoked Salmon for $14.59, also farmed and artificially colored.

I tried the Kirkland Signature salmon in an omelet this morning and found it paler in color and less flavorful than the smoked wild sockeye salmon from Alaska that is also sold under the Kirkland Signature label.

But the Kirkland salmon is far less salty than the fish from Blue Hill Bay -- with sodium listed at 19% for a 2-ounce serving of the former compared to 33% for the same serving size of the latter.

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