MAILBAG: Enough is Enough! Grocery Stores In The Catskills Need To Be Held Accountable


For the past number of years, I had been unable to spend my summers in the Catskills, with work constraints forcing me to remain in the city. This year, for the first time in probably 25 years, I’m back in the Catskills, enjoying the relatively breezy weather. I’m happily stunned by the amenities that now exist in the once-backwards Catskills, but one thing seriously bothers me.

I haven’t done a scientific review of it, but it seems to me that many grocery store do not have prices listed! I’m not a multi-millionaire, and even if I were, I imagine I’d be careful about my spending. And when I or my husband have to go grocery shopping, we like checking the prices to inform us whether to purchase an item, and to ensure we know what the bill will be at the register.

But there are no prices to be found. If you’re in the mountains, check it out for yourself. Walk up and down the aisles at some of the major supermarkets,and you tell me how much a box of cereal costs. You won’t know until it’s too late. Need to buy cookies and nosh for the kids? Good luck knowing which ones fit within your budget.

Even putting aside spending budgets, why would stores not tell you what the price of an item is? I’m not a halachic authority, but wouldn’t that fall into the category of lifnei iver? You’re literally keeping people in the dark about what they will have to spend until it’s too late. And don’t tell me that you can just put the item back once it’s scanned at the register. You know it’s not practical.

I would like to see grocery stores in the mountains have a little more care, concern and respect for their customers by simply placing price labels on their products. Is that too much to ask for?

I think it’s time for the masses to boycott these stores once and for all and we should demand change.

My next letter will be about the literal robbery that some of these stores are doing. Everyone is entitled to make a Parnassah. No one is asking supermarket owners to be in the Tzedakah business. But the prices are simply outrageous, and it’s literally outright theft from the shoppers.

You store owners are all reading this. Every single one of you. And you should know that we are sick and tired of this behavior.

Sara Berger – South Fallsburg

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


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  1. It’s like complaining at the only Kosher restaurant in an oot community. What are you gonna do? Go somewhere else?
    Seriously, they can get away with it so they do. It’s probably more lack of organization than anything else

  2. I am a customer in the Catskills. I expect prices to be somewhat higher here than back home in BoroPark. These stores have to provide Parnassus for a whole year. Shmura matzos and esrogim are priced also to provide livelihood for the owners and their staff for a whole year. Think about it.

  3. I have been going upstate for nearly 40 years, as far as I can tell there is only one store in the Catskills that fit your description, and yes they are very over priced. There are many, many other stores, with prices, to choose from. Perhaps you should start shopping and one of them

  4. Do I have to point out that’s she’s complaining about groceries as she vacations in the catskills….I think I saw an article about that guy in the Hamptons who was complaining about the price to wash his bentley

  5. They’re used to a state law requiring stores to list prices for staple items. I believe that law expired but that local governments still regulate the practice. I know it’s regulated in New York City. Not sure about south Fallsburg.

    In any event, capitalist forces tend to iron these problems out.

  6. I have two comments
    1 . You are 1000% correct.
    2. I have a relative who has a store upstate (not food) his experience is in the summer people binge spend. Basically if you “think” you may want this item you buy it. Probably the same in a supermarket many are already in over their heads with the cost of day camp and the bungalow the price of a bag of super snack is the least of their concerns. But you do have a good point.

  7. My brother has a grocery in the Catskills .
    Now facts: Hel pays rent all year round to be open for 9 weeks .
    The Goyim he brings up he has to pay $21 hour plus time and half for overtime .
    To price out every single item will need another Goy and secretary to print those labels :
    He starts preparing a week after Pesach and finishes packing up after sukkos:
    After the season he has to find a place to unload all his leftovers for a fraction of his cost :
    And after all this work he just barely makes a Parnassah:
    How about complaining on all those bungalows being priced at $9000-16,000 for 8 weeks, then day camp prices through the roof and how about camps charging more then my tuition all year round:
    Bottom line we have a choice, we should follow Europe Israel when everyone takes two weeks off and that’s their vacations.
    You can shop in the city before you drive up and save yourself a lot of money.

  8. Easy, pile on one of each item in your cart, go to the checkout counter and ask for the price, since it isnt listed- after wasting their time checking prices and having to put items back for that reason, the store will get the message.

  9. Holy Moe: I hope that you are joking. No, price gouging is not OK for people who want to make a parnasa by working for a years worth of income for 2-3 months. According to that the same guy who sells, esrogim, matza and summer groceries is making enough to support three families. Yes it is a free market and no one is forcing anyone to buy anywhere but the letter writer is just asking for fair practice (fair prices would be nice too but is a side point).
    You will notice that the store in question is really taking advantage of what is becoming a larger trend: not looking at prices. I believe that only a small minority of frum shoppers compare prices and will not buy an item because the price is too high. The trend is “I want it I buy it”. If the price at the register is exorbitant all we do is kvetch about inflation. The stores are just taking advantage of this trend

  10. “Me or my wife” is totally incorrect (you are using the objective form as the subject,)” I or my wife” is better, but best would be “my wife or I.”

  11. Why would you even bother to buy your food in a kosher supermarket when you can always buy all the food you need in Walmart? Or just any non kosher supermarket? Today you can even buy kosher cheese and empire chicken in many non jewish stores.

  12. Try these options:

    1. Bring food from home.
    2. Load the cart and check pricing at checkout. Have them put back the more expensive items you don’t want.
    3. Find another location for vacation.
    4. Avoid long vacations which is a NY invention. Most Americans don’t relocate for the summer.

    5. This is, yet another, NY created problem. There is life outside NY… you can even get a decent house for less than $500K and get your kids into a school without selling your kidneys.

  13. It is almost all the stores. Mountain Food which has more reasonable prices does mark their products. My husband tries to bring up everything I will need for the week and anything that I need to buy, I get from Mountain Food.

  14. Really doubt that anyone is trying to fool or cheat
    important to realize there is not enough manpower
    very hard to get staff
    people are working very long hours and are exhausted
    like mentioned by others
    rent paid all year for a 9 week season.
    work from after pesach until after succos for the nine weeks that people are upstate
    most people do not make enough from the summer business to support their families all year.
    they need to work all year too. summer helps to supplement
    like mentioned by others
    bungalows, camps, sunday activities, transportation to and from upstate etc are thousands of dollars
    how much more in total is really spent on the groceries ? a few hundred ? a thousand ? what percent more above your other expenses ?

  15. @Holy Moe @Rocky

    I am in both the Esrogim business as well as the Matzah business.
    A few points
    1) Many of us are in both businesses, if you are a big player it is a year round job (preparations for Sukkos start after Shavuos, preparations for Pesach start after Sukkos)
    2) You need to realize that there are many more costs involved in these businesses (especially Arba Minim) aside from the COGS, you often need to rent space, hire a few workers, shipping, refrigeration, advertising, etc.
    3) Both of these businesses are VERY HIGH RISK, increasingly competitive, seasonal (the minute the season is over your leftover inventory is worthless, not to mention the crazy hours during the busiest time of the year. (I probably slept an average of 2hrs a night during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah)
    4) In the end of the day, after all the dust settles the profit is hopefully nice but not outrageous (and certainly not guarantied)

    To those saying it’s not right that someone should work for a few weeks and expect to make Parnassah for a year:
    1) In most cases it is not a years income
    2) Do you expect people with regular careers to stop working for a month to provide these critical services to our community? That’s impossible! These businesses are essential to our communities and require people who don’t have a regular linear income stream to operate them
    3) Let’s say you are right (arguendo) is that really a problem or are you jealous?

    Regarding the stores the OP (he/she) is complaining about, they should list prices or at least have a price lookup machine, but you should expect the prices to be much higher than in the city and you should do your best to support them.

  16. I’m curious why they don’t have scanners. My family has been fortunate to spend 18 days in Yerushalayim, Israel and we did it the thrift way – rented an apartment and we’re shopping local. אושר עד and שערי רווחה, two stores in close proximity, both have hand-held scanners. As you shop you scan and bag your stuff – so everything is even bagged! In fact אושר עד has you put your entire wagon on a scale at self checkout and if the computerized scale weight matches the net weight of all your items, walla, you self checkout and walk out. It’s so convenient.
    (P.S. You scan your wagon at entry time and that weight obviously gets deducted!)

  17. Hey rebyossl
    I am assuming that you’re being facetious about switching the complaining to Bungalow’s. Because all the same points that you make about the grocery stores apply to owning a bungalow colony also. I used to have a close relative who owned an old-fashioned colony. And adding to the list that you already started…
    1) after pesach: since hiring year-round help was unaffordable the first question is what was stolen and needs to be replaced
    2) what was damaged by falling trees and the weather. It was typical to find roof damage and partial ceiling collapses. Or pipes bursting due to the cold.
    3) increasing price costs associated with building materials and labor (if you can even find someone willing to do part time plumbing , building ) etc
    Anyone who has done any building since Covid knows that materials have gone up by at least 2-3x

    Articles like this are just plain foolish. You have no clue as to the fixed costs, time and effort being put in vs net profit.
    The reality is that the store owner is doing you a favor by offering you the conveniences of home on your vacation. If you don’t like the convenience, shlep everything from home.

  18. You are making very valid points. Rather than get yourself all worked up about this, do the smart thing and purchase most of your goods back in Brooklyn. That is what I do. If enough people heed this advice, then you would have implemented a boycott of the Catskill stores. Regardless of how it turns out, you must look out for yourself first. Purchase your large dollar food items in Brooklyn. Hatzlacha.

  19. Most stores do have scanners around the stores so you can check out the prices if need be. I know that is a pain in the neck since the scanners are not near everything, but it is an option before going to the register when comparing items for example.

  20. I agree.

    It’s one thing to set prices however you want, as it’s a free market. But to not mark anything (or mark many things incorrectly, as many supermarkets do) is deceptive.

  21. Re. The comment from; 125 st

    Your quote from the posted story contains 4 words only.
    2 of them are wrong!! Totally misquoted.

    Here’s what Sara said:
    “And when I or my husband have to go grocery shopping….”

  22. I suppose staying home is not an option, huh? Is anyone going to tell me that it’s hotter in NYC than here in the Sonoran Desert? And through it all, we survive and thrive. Once you eliminate all your reasons for kvetching, the Oy, Vey! letters to YWN will cease.

  23. I think comments miss the point: it is not about high prices or state law. It is a halocho to have correct weights and not to do geniva daas. The store owner’s obligation is to make sure that the buyer is aware of what he is buying – contents, quality, price.

    You don’t need to mark up every item, just make sure there is a price listed, or a price scanner available. And you don’t need to hire goyim to do that. It is a mitzva, do it yourself or ask your kid. Good chinuch if you want to have the next generation of stores there.