Wow it’s been a while. So what have we been up to? We are still working to stabilize the Market. Basically figure out what works, what doesn’t, and try to reduce our losses as much as possible. As I’ve stated before, the Market is small but also unique because of its location. Tourist traffic is a big revenue stream for the Market but it still needs the local community as a buffer. We took over the Market because of how bad we thought the impact would be on the community. So our priority is to offer what we think the locals want and need. Being a somewhat of a convenience store you don’t really have to reinvent the wheel. Look at what other convenience stores offer. Then tailor it from there. So we definitely needed to carry alcohol and tobacco (even though I hated it). Lotto was a big one but we never got a response back from California Lotto, just not enough traffic. Then there is typical snacks and drinks. Now because we are the only market in town we have, I think, an obligation to offer food items. I wanted to offer as much healthy food options as possible but we had a problem. First problem is that we are very small, so we are not accepted into the large wholesale distribution network. We simply don’t have the space to purchase the the required minimum for delivery. Because of this we can’t compete price wise on some staple food items. Next problem is waste. We have tried to carry as much fresh food such as vegetables, fruit, dairy, etc only to have it go bad. This is a challenge to manage. But we know the community wants to support and shop at the store as much as possible so what’s the problem? SNAP
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is government payment assistance for food. We know that a significant amount of people within the community receive and use SNAP. This means that they will do most of their food shopping at stores that will accept SNAP payments. We currently aren’t able to accept SNAP payments but not because we haven’t tried. Starting the first week of the store opening we submitted our application, going on three months now, what’s the hold up. I will list out the issues
- Even though SNAP has and uses this online application for submission, they do not believe in electronic communication……in the beginning. When you apply you have to provide a lot of identity documentation. They had an issue with one of our documentations. Instead of them sending a notification through email, they sent it through snail mail.
- Once that was resolved we got a store inspection pretty quickly. We were confident we would pass. NOT
- We were notified once again through snail mail many weeks after that we did not pass because we were missing ONE dairy category. This was Mike’s fault, he assumed eggs were dairy. So they requested we send them proof through receipts that we had another category of dairy before the date of the inspection. We didn’t have that. I am an extremely stubborn and resourceful person, I did my research and read that we can still qualify based on Need Access because the Market is literally the only market in town for at least 10 miles.
- So I called the person assigned our application and let her know we won’t passed based on another dairy category but we have a chance thorough Needs Access. She looked up the map that shows areas that are considered food deserts and agreed. Said she will send it up and get back to us the following week. I was feeling triumphant.
- One week passes, we heard nothing from her. I call her, doesn’t pick up so I leave a message.
- Two weeks later still no response from our agent. This time when I call it goes straight to voicemail.
- Three weeks, her voicemail is full and can’t accept anymore messages. I’m pissed. I called the regional representative. He is clueless, tells me to call the customer service people. They are clueless.
- Then we get a letter through snail mail. Asking us to provide gross revenue reports for the past three years and all the purchases categorized. Basically they want to know what percentage of our sales is staple foods. I almost blew a gasket. This has nothing to do with Needs Access. Basically more needless work that will get us nowhere. I still could’t reach our agent and the customer service were still clueless. But they tried to help by messaging our agent to contact us……..that didn’t work.
- I saw that the only way forward is to just cancel the current application and reapply. And thats what I did. It got the right people’s attention. I was told I could reapply and were hoping we’ll get a different agent. LOL
- So we do get a new agent at first and behold she used email to reach us. But she was also asking for the ridiculous request of gross income receipts and categories. We told her the whole story of how we got here and she decided she should forward to her supervisor. Boss didn’t want nothing to do with the mess we were offering and decided it should go back to the same incompetent agent we started off with. Yes, right back to our favorite government worker. But this time they were nice enough to forward through email and add her supervisor.
- And nope, the madness doesn’t end yet. It took Mike invoking the Inspector General before we got a response from the agent. She was nice enough to finally call me back, and acted like she remembered nothing about our case.
- I reviewed that whole case with her again. She says she wanted to help and all we have to do is send receipts of that third dairy product that was purchased before the inspection. And again I had to tell her we do not have that. Then she asks for the gross income receipts and again I state that we are not a butcher shop, we can not qualify based on gross income. Finally she asked if I’d like to speak with her supervisor……oh god when is this going to end.
- Finally get the supervisor on the phone. She talks to me like she’s way more intelligent than me and details what is needed for me to pass the criteria. Again I stated I can’t pass the criteria, just need to be reviewed for Needs Access. WTF, is there some kind of penalty for reviewing Needs Access. Well she finally agreed to that and I asked how long will that take, she said not long at all maybe a few days.
- So because I really don’t trust their competence or honesty I sent an email summary of our discussions and what we are expecting. And now we wait some more.