Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Randall's Grocery

Here's a video of some completely unremarkable commercials for Randall's Grocery Stores from 1990. They are unremarkable because they look like every grocery store. Shelves filled with products, fresh fruit and vegetables, toothpaste, whatever you could put on a shopping list in vast array.


What makes Randall's remarkable is that they won the Cold War.

In 1989 Boris Yeltsin, then a member of the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union, came to Texas to visit the Johnson Space Center. I'm sure it was impressive but he would have expected that. What he did not expect, could not have imagined, what was what he saw in a Randall's Grocery in suburban Houston. Overwhelming product selection and quantities available to everyone. He did not believe it at first, thought it was staged. When he understood that this was an average store, that stores like this were everywhere, it was a profound moment.


Boris Yeltsin became the Russian President in 1991 and in 1992 began the reforms that finished the dismantling of the Soviet Union that began under Gorbachev. His vision of what Russia needed to become shaped by an American grocery store. The reports say he was especially impressed by the pudding pops.
“When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people.” --Boris Yeltsin

12 comments:

NITZAKHON said...

Each time my (Kazakhstan-born) wife's relatives have arrived on our shores, one of the things they've been floored by are the grocery stores.

Not just the selection; that's been getting better over there but it's still nowhere near our level. But rather that in a relatively small city, that there are multiple such stores.

And my wife's aunt, who loves soup, first saw the soup aisle with multiple brands and all the different kinds of soups available... WOW.

libertyman said...

He might feel more at home now.

SiGraybeard said...

In the ‘80s, one of my closest friends married a girl from Guatemala. Early in their relationship, he needed something and said he needed to make a quick stop at K-Mart. She didn’t know what that meant, but didn’t object.

They walked in and she was virtually paralyzed in wonder. Frozen in place, unable to move. And then she started crying. After they got married, whenever family came up to Florida, the first place they took people was K-Mart.

And we take it for granted.

drjim said...

Truly a Land of Plenty....

Rick C said...

" for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people"

As well he should, as his predecessors created such misery.

chris said...

In the book MiG Pilot a Soviet pilot flies his jet to freedom and when he was brought to America and was brought to a supermarket to do some shopping. He too was convinced that this was a pretend store that such a place couldn't possibly be real.

Earlier in Russia the KGB political officer that "instructed" the pilots gave a presentation on the wickedness of the US. They showed pictures of Harlem to demonstrate how the black man is held down in America. The MiG pilot looked at the picture and asked, "Who owns all those cars?" (He had been on a waiting list for years for a car in Moscow.) When he was told that the black families owned the cars as the capitalists used the car debt to keep the black man "down" the MiG pilot then knew he was being lied to and needed to escape.

Richard said...

I have a friend who did business in Kamchatka (oil industry). That being Russia, it was sometimes necessary to bribe local officials. But money was useless as there was little to buy. So he got a high-end cooler and filled it with frozen steaks. Worked great.

B said...

When I was engineering flight simulators in the late 80's I had a similar experience. We had some Russian engineers doing an acceptance on a flight simulator.

Took him to a Jewel grocery store for something, I don't remember what, and he was irritated (and amazed) by the fact that we had 21 (he counted) kinds of "Shit Paper" (his words). He claimed it was wasteful to have so many variations. Same same with most foodstuffs. He was amazed at the quality as well as the selection....but still his country "did it better".

But he went back and bought a lot of stuff that he sent home....

As an aside, he HATED our vodka. Brought some in on his second visit, and I learned why he thought our vodka was shit. That man could drink.

gmarv said...

I worked with a guy in 1979 who was from Yugoslavia . He told me of his life there before they managed to get to come to America.
He would tell me different things about his life there.One of the ones that I remember was how he and his wife and two kids lived in a one bedroom apartment with no hope of moving to a larger one.The exception was if his grand mother would just go ahead and die then they could open up her place next to theirs and have a two bedroom place.I can still see the conflict in this mans face in how to process wanting more room to having to hope for his grandmother dieing.

NITZAKHON said...

@gmarv:

I remember when I went to meet my then (virtual) fiancée in Saint Petersburg. Her sublet room, in a small apartment (!), was literally so small you couldn't open the door all the way without hitting the bed.

When she came here, I brought her into the 2BR apartment I had. Her first question "Who else lives here"? She literally couldn't process a living place that big. AND... when we moved into the house we bought, and her relatives visited, all of them were gobsmacked. In every single case, their whole apartment could have fit into our first floor with room to spare. And the fact that we own over an acre, and it's OURS???? Impossible for them to grasp.

Rick C said...

"He was amazed at the quality as well as the selection....but still his country "did it better". "

That's some top-shelf cognitive dissonance right there.

roadgeek said...

That Randall's store in Lufkin didn't make it, which I could have told them would happen had they asked me, which they didn't. Randall's is a store for older white people with a little money; upper middle-class would be the demographic I'm picturing. My wife and I refer to Randall's as the "white peoples store", given the product assortment and the clientele. Nice stores, but you never see any children in there like you do at HEB. Randall's isn't attempting to compete with HEB ; HEB in Austin owns 65% of the grocery market. Competitors have a tough row to hoe against HEB. Randall's seems content to run profitable stores; given their prices they must be very profitable indeed.