Holds Alert: GROCERY

NPR’s All Things Considered featured Michael Ruhlman’s Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America (Abrams; RH Audio/BOT), moving the book up Amazon’s rankings and driving holds. Libraries are seeing reserve ratios well over 3:1, in one case 10:1.

The interview takes place in an actual grocery store. Surveying the plenty spread out in the aisles, Ruhlman says a grocery store is “the best of America and the worst of America.”

Grocery stores are run with such narrow margins that they cannot stand to lose a customer, which is why they ask as at checkout if you found everything you were looking for. Not finding something is why shoppers change stores.

Because of the ease of online buying for commodity items like orange juice and cereal, Ruhlman thinks thinks grocery stores will shrink, selling only specialized items that customers want to pick by hand. The future will look more like the past, when stores were smaller and more specialized.

As a literary side note, a recent NYT Weddings column details Ruhlman’s long-held crush on Ann Hood (The Book That Matters) which last 20 years and led to a wedding last month (with Laura Lippman officiating).

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