Why Do Grocery Stores In Poor Areas Smell Bad?

Since I moved to Tucson 14 years ago, I’ve noticed something. Grocery stores in poor areas of town smell horrible, a combination of old meat and rotting vegetables, with barely a hint of the normal grocery store bread smell.

Nice grocery stores don’t smell like this. Is it that the produce is older, more “organic”, the meat older, or less is spent on cleaning, a combination of all that, or none of that- different reasons?

The smell is so bad to me at first, when I do go into a store like that, it’s almost overpowering, but of course like anything else, you get used to it with exposure.

Are these ethnic markets? Bodegas? Small independent supermarkets?

I don’t have an answer, but it does bring back memories of my childhood in the 1970s, in what was then a lower-middle class urban neighborhood. I remember small, independent grocery stores (5,000 to 15,000 square feet or so) had a more pungent “organic” smell than regular grocery stores. Even then, chain grocery stores of the era seemed to smell more “producey” throughout than now.

I do miss the old drugstore smell, though.

Ethnic markets, yes, which one would expect, but also chain grocery stores. Like, less than a mile from my house is one Fry’s Food and Drug, and big chain here in AZ, that is in a fairly poor area. It smells, say, a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. However, if you go the other direction up the same street about 2 miles up, there is a much nicer Fry’s in a middle-class neighborhood, that smells 0-1 on the scale. Same store, same policies (you would think), much different smell.

Keep in mind that a lot of grocers smell over-steralized. Like bleach. But smaller markets tend nit to have this ridiculous level of cleaning, and so any old fruit/meat/etc will smell worse.

And all grocers have stuff rotting somewhere in their stores.

Fellow Tucson resident here. Which Fry’s? I go to the ones on 1st and Grand and on Alvernon and Grant. Neither of those smell weird.

But I know what you mean. I’ve smelled that odor too.

I do mean the one at First and Grant. To me, it smells not horrible, but much different than the one at say, First and Roger. We call them, respectively, the ghetto Fry’s and the good Fry’s.

And og forbid you should go to the Food City at First and Ft. Lowell. That is a knock-you-down ohmygod get out of town bad smell.

That’s funny. Maybe you and I have passed each other at Fry’s, both just pushing our carts, not knowing another Doper is RIGHT THERE.

How long have these stores been there? Are they old buildings and the store has been there forever?

I can tell you from my grocery days, old supermarkets are dirty. Not necessarily because of any fault of the employees or management or the company, but that’s just the way they get. When you’ve got a building that’s packed with food and open doorways everywhere, sooner or later it’s going to get mice and insects and shit. It’s inevitable, no matter how clean you try to keep it or how vigilant you are about countermeasures for pests. The older the building, the longer the store has been there, the worse the problem is going to be.

I worked in a relatively new store, been open about a decade and we kept it pretty clean, but there were definitely mice and roaches and shit all over the back room and, presumably, underneath and inside the shelves. Every now and then I would get sent into a store down in the city to help solve their backstock issues, and one particular store that had been there for like 60 years was just the most horribly dirty place ever. I saw the nightstockers all had rubber mallets hanging off of their belts and I asked them why. They took me into the back room to a pile of backstock piled against a wall. “Pull out a box.” So I did, and a dozen little brown mice came rushing out and the guy proceeded to smash as many as he could with the mallet.

I know that’s gross and not something you want to know or think about, but that shit is unavoidable. There’s really nothing the store can do about it save for tearing the place down and building an entirely new store in its place, but eventually they’re just going to come back. That’s why I scrub the shit out of all the produce I buy at the supermarket(I usually try to go to the farmer’s market) and always inspect the things I pull off the shelves.

I know- we should wear t-shirts so we recognize each other!

I’ve never seen a mouse in a grocery store, even when I worked in them many years ago. I’m going to keep my eye out for one now.

Mice are really good at staying out of sight. I only saw them at my store because I was there 12 hours a day.

They’re also just inherently dirty places. Sometimes stock won’t get rotated properly and some shit will be sitting in the back of the shelf for a really long time. Sometimes things get broken and not cleaned up completely, like jars of pickles or olives or pasta sauce or whatever, and what’s gone under the shelf with just fester. When milk jugs get dropped and you’ve got a gallon of milk all over the floor, it’s near impossible to clean all of it up, especially when it seeps underneath the dairy case. Produce not properly rotated will rot at the bottom of the pile. There’s tons of things that can be nasty in a place filled with food.

As to why it’s the “poor” stores that are worse, probably because they have a lower quality of employees who don’t take care of their shit, as per above(no offense to anyone who works in such a place).

This is going to sound elitist as hell, but could any of the smell have to do with the, um, clientele?

By the way, I’m not talking about people who just got off of a hard 18 hour day working to make my life easier and who might be a little ripe. I’m talking about people who always have plenty of money for cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets, but none for Irish Spring.

Go around back of the biggest, cleanest, most upscale grocery, and the dumpster smells REALLY nasty, what with all the outdated produce.

Smaller stores, this pile of crap is nowhere near as far away.

Nah. It’s not like I live on the south side or anything.

Age of the building, older tile that’s become more resistant to cleaning, lower wages+depressing environment=employees who don’t much give a damn if it’s surgical clean or not, more homeless people coming inside to get out of the elements, probably also more druggies coming in with funky odors, and usually because the neighborhoods are more run down and there’s no sense of pride or purpose in keeping it clean.

The same’s true of public libraries in bad areas and even in revitalized downtown areas where there are lots of street traffic from people who come in less for the books than for the air conditioning/heat/restrooms.

I’ve noticed this more as a difference to how old the store is. It’s always worse in older stores. I’ve seen a grocery store move, even in the same community, and the new one will smell better.

So I guess that agrees with what’s already been said.

Could temperature be a factor? Most new grocery stores are absolutely frigid. Older grocery stores keep the AC down a few notches, which may amplify smells.

I think that is the smell, rotting food that is not kept cool enough. Having cleaned out a few refrigerators that were unplugged.

Cleanliness of the refrigerators and freezers is also important. They must be routinely cleaned and disinfected. At one of the food panties I volunteer at the freezers and fridges are routinely cleaned with bleach.

You said panties.:smiley:

Oops. Pantries not panties. :wink:

Why should one expect this? I agree it seems to be more common, but for waht reason?

There’s a Chinese grocery store near here (NE Ann Arbor) that just reeks. Wazzupwidat?