Look… Over There… it’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s Super Metro!
On the 12th of February, Calbayog City changed forever. The highly anticipated opening of the Gaisano Super Metro Hypermarket, the 15th hypermarket store of the Metro Retail Stores Group, opened its doors after much excitement and fanfare. Celebrations began with a Sarakiki Hadang ritual by performers from the City Arts and Culture Office of the local government (CACO). Then it was the Drum Corps from Christ the King College performing an exhibition accompanied by the college’s majorette and minorettes. Then speeches by Gaisano executives followed by remarks by Calbayog City mayor, Ronald Aquino, paved the way to the ribbon cutting ceremony. The doors officially opened at 11:00 am and crowds poured in from all over Samar. It was so crowded at times, one escalator got so overworked it malfunctioned on the second day (probably due to excess weight, I’m not sure) and was shut down completely until a technician could be called in (note: this is the first escalator ever experienced in Samar Province so techicians have to be imported also). Some people seemed like they have never seen such a contraption and I personally witnessed a couple of women who fell over backwards about 8 feet up the escalator, literally bowling everyone down below them. Some suffered minor injuries. While it might have been fun to watch, it wasn’t funny to see people actually get hurt. Ushers assigned to assist folks just couldn’t keep up with the crowds. Lines to the check-outs were scary….sometimes extending nearly all the way down the same extending isles towards the back of the store. Some friends mentioned that they waited over an hour to checkout. Me, I was not about to stand in line just to buy a few items and asked the wife if we could come back the following day, hoping to find shorter lines. Nope, different day, same long lines! We did manage to pick up a few items and found a short line that lasted only 20 minutes. There was much confusion at the front of the store and employees seemed clueless. There was absolutely no organization on the floor, carts were everywhere and nobody was assigned to collect them. Checkers were doing the bagging because of a shortage of baggers. There was no organization in the parking lot either and vehicles were parked everywhere. Buy the time we left at around 3pm that first day, the store looked like it experienced its first ever typhoon, and it was far from over. What a mess it was. I’m sure some employees got some early overtime pay putting things back together that first night.
It’s Not Walmart!
The store is large (two floors) with the entire ground floor dedicated to grocery and related items while the upper floor is a department store which sells a little of everything from clothing and shoes, to electronics, housewares, hardware, and sporting goods. My wife commented that while she missed her Walmart, this store will do. It is really enjoyable to finally shop in air-conditioned comfort, with spacious isles and room to spread your elbows. There will be no more trips to Tacloban for shopping, unless a trip to Citi Hardware calls. While the store does have two short isles dedicated to foreign and imported foods, the selection is not that good and some items were extremely expensive, like some off the wall brand of spaghetti sauces for P499 a jar (about $10.71 USD). I don’t see that product going anywhere anytime soon. I’m sure over time, the store will know what does and doesn’t sell and will make all the adjustments necessary to achieve their goals. One thing is for certain – just about everything in the store is priced below all competitors in town, with the exception of most meats, fish, fruits, and produce, which are priced higher than you can find at the local market. They do carry the harder to find vegetables like bell peppers, celery, broccoli and cauliflower. During my second visit, I stood there and watched the poor celery wilting and had to suggest to the produce clerk that they should take the celery off the shelf and place it in the produce cooler, in place of the more hardy oranges which really don’t need refrigeration. The broccoli and cauliflower eventually also made the transfer from the shelf to the cooler, without my recommendation. I’m almost certain some lucky employee took my advice, went to his supervisor, and suggested this move. Good for him! Hope he gets a raise!
We are glad the store is finally open, and between the Mrs. and me, in the course of about 5 trips now, we have located all our favorites… and then some. The entire back wall is wine and liquor and is well stocked – also priced well below the competition. Teri picked up some Australian beef tenderloin the second day, and cooked it for supper that night. It was so tender, she went back the following day and bought the rest, took it home and put it right into the freezer.
About 12 days have passed since the store opened and the huge opening sale is in the history books. The crowds are… well not really crowds any longer. Now a sense of normalcy rules! I will be anxious to see how effective the store’s supply logistics are handled the first time the island’s supply routes are cut off due to rough weather. I’m sure like all other stores on this island, we will see periods of product drought and surplus. Only time will tell. Until then, you might find me in the hardware department upstairs checking on “Japan Quality” stuff!
Next Calbayog City milestone will be the Gaisano Grand Mall downtown. It just might be a while yet!
Want to know more about Gaisano Super Metro Retailing, visit their website.