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Bitchin' 'bout Bagels

Mark-up at the Market draws ire


Published March 20, 2007 at 7:34 p.m.

Who says letters to the editors can't change the world? Or at least the local co-op. "As a member of the Burlington community," Clara Rosenthal wrote in a recent missive, "I feel it is in my best interest to keep the general public aware of what is going on in their town, as well as my right to kvetch." What has Rosenthal up in arms? Nothing less than a proposed increase in the price of bagel sandwiches at City Market.

Originally priced at $3, "The bagel sandwiches at City Market have always been the best deal," she explains. "Now these same sandwiches are going up to $5.99 . . . the price of a City Market sandwich is no longer sustainable." Besides sending her letter, Rosenthal voiced her complaint to the deli manager at the co-op and posted an online petition that's garnered 27 signatures to date.

By the time Seven Days contacted Neil Delaney, City Market deli manager, he was already backpedaling. "After many discussions with customers, we really examined how we're going to cost out our sandwiches," he explained. "Our biggest outcry was actually from . . . folks who work here."

Still, Delaney says the price couldn't remain where it was. "We were literally giving them away," he explains. "Bagels are a lot more expensive than sliced bread and wraps." Plus, the local rounds, made by The Bagel in the New North End, are really large. The deli staff uses a half-sandwich portion of meat and cheese on each bagel-wich, but the condiments and veggies piled on top are practically full-sized servings. The original plan was to use a full portion of meat and cheese on a bagel "and charge a full sandwich price," Delaney says.

This rationale didn't satisfy protesters. "Who wants more filling on a bagel sandwich that is already hard enough to stuff into your mouth?" asks Rosenthal. So City Market came up with a new scheme: Leave the sandwich at its current size and increase the price by a smaller margin. The cheapest option, a half sandwich on bread or a wrap, will be $3.49, a bagel-wich $4.49, and a full sandwich $5.99.

How did the pricing get so out of whack in the first place? "Everything is more expensive now," says Delaney. That goes for meat and cheese, veggies and premium condiments like pesto and olive tapenade that are made in-house. Delaney points out, "We're starting to see things on invoices like fuel surcharges that we never had to pay before. Plus, we commit to buying local as much as we can." His final thrust: "We pay full health insurance for employees . . . they get paid vacations." 

Spread that on your bagel.

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