When orange juice gets too expensive at the 27th Street Albertsons store, Dave Henry hops in his car and shops at the competition.
Ive been disturbed at the prices in Albertsons, Henry said Tuesday. Im on a fixed income, but Im lucky to have a car.
But many downtown residents dont have vehicles, so theyre forced to pay higher prices at the downtown Albertsons store, Henry said.
Henry and about 30 other members of Montana Peoples Action picketed the downtown Albertsons Tuesday while releasing a pricing study that claims the store at 611 N. 27th St. charges consistently higher prices than three other Albertsons stores in Billings.
Albertsons has a corporate policy of not allowing local store managers to comment on pricing policy, and they referred inquiries to company headquarters in Boise, Idaho.
Jeanette Duwe, an Albertsons spokeswoman there, said she couldnt comment on the study because she hadnt seen it yet.
We are uncertain about the validity of their survey methodology, so well be looking at it, Duwe said. She said officials planned to meet with members of Montana Peoples Action to discuss the study and the companys pricing policy.
Duwe said Albertsons strives to price its products competitively while also providing good customer service and clean stores.
Stores carry merchandise that is designed to meet the needs of the neighborhood. We are competitive in the market, she said.
MPAs pricing study, conducted from January through March, suggests people visiting the downtown Albertsons pay $1.91 for a can of store-brand orange juice, while the same can of juice was $1.35 at the Heights Albertsons store.
A can of Albertsons apple juice was $1.82 downtown and just $1.30 at the Heights store, the study says.
People in this neighborhood are getting taken advantage of, said Kendall Wolcott, state vice chairman of Montana Peoples Action, a coalition representing people with low and moderate incomes.
During the study, the MPA compared prices at four of the six Billings Albertsons stores: downtown Billings; the underpass store at 511 Central Ave.; the Heights store at 670 Main; and the store at 1212 Grand Ave. They recorded prices of 85 common grocery items on 12 days during January, February and March.
The MPAs study concludes shoppers at the downtown Albertsons would pay $407 more per year for the same groceries compared to shoppers at the Heights and Grand Avenue stores.
The MPA study also compared the annual median income of different Billings neighborhoods. People living near the downtown Albertsons had the lowest median income. Thirty percent of the people living near the downtown Albertsons live in poverty, according to the MPA study.Tom Howard can be reached at 657-1261 or at email@example.com