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Buying or selling? Get the right advice

Acton Supermarket to close

By Maiy Azize 23 October 2007 28

by Toby Halligan

The ANU Union Board has gotten into hot water over the past week after deciding to refuse a lease renewal for the Acton Supermarket without giving public reasons or announcing what would replace it.

Reports from inside the Board room suggest that a Sanity and clothes shop were among the mooted replacements. Suggestions of another supermarket were unpopular with ANU Union General Manager, Rod Thomas, who has long lamented the competition the Supermarket offers to the mostly Union owned outlets in the refectory. By disposing of the Supermarket the Union will exert much greater control over drinks pricing on campus but the impact on students has led to an unprecedented backlash against the student representatives on the Board.

At present the Supermarket offers the best prices on campus for a variety of goods. It has products that are sold no where else, especially food for those with allergies to wheat and other widely used products. It also serves to concentrate business AT the ANU, has now students will be forced to walk for 10 minutes to the City West IGA to get their food and drink.

The Board has behaved, the Union Board AGM was scheduled for the 23rd of October at 12pm, only to be moved, to avoid the Supermarket backlash, to the 26th of November (when most students are off campus or on holidays) ONLY to move it back again to the 23rd after an even bigger backlash at the shifted meeting. With an intransigent board, hostile general manager all we have right now is public support and the knowledge that this decision was clearly not made with regard to the needs and lifestyles of the ANU’s students.

This is one of the few cases where letters and the expression of dissent may have an impact on changing the decision. Any help people on the Riot Act can offer would be awesome, especially through letters to the Vice Chancellor of the ANU, Ian Chubb (email: vc@anu.edu.au). We’re trying to pressure the students of the Board through petitions, no confidence motions and letters but the VC may be the our last port of call if we can’t get any love out of the Board members!

Please, help us keep our Supermarket!


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Acton Supermarket to close
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danny 10:45 am 05 Nov 07

never mind me, I found the letter in an earlier comment above.

danny 10:43 am 05 Nov 07

Any news on how this turned out?

Maiy Azize 10:06 pm 23 Oct 07

One more thing in response to bd84 – some Union outlets are being run at a deficit. The Union is a not-for-profit entity, it is run to benefit members. Any surplus is reinvested into the Union.

Maiy Azize 10:02 pm 23 Oct 07

In response to the above, the Board says the new supermarket will be run out of unused space in the newsagency.

I know it’s bad netiquette to keep commenting on my own post, but to also repond to Sammy above, the Board can’t categorically guarantee that they wont raise prices, because future Boards (the make up changes each year) cannot be bound to any agreement made by the current directors. The next Board can do whatever it likes onced it has monopoly. The best insurance in this instance is competition.

bd84 8:57 pm 23 Oct 07

If the prices at the union outlets were subsidised before the VSU then i’m mickey mouse. The food was crap (no doubt it still is) – with the exception of the fish and chips place near the bar, unless they overcooked the food- and the prices were the same, if not more expensive, as any other food court.

Reading the letter they appear to blame the VSU for the situation. Is it that they still expect the people who never use their services to subsidise their running? I think the answer is more in the rubbish they sell there. If they sold something decent and what students wanted more people would use the places.

Anyway why are they trying to run the union to turn huge profits? I would certainly think that its purpose is a service not-for-profit entity, and that small losses or profits should not matter unless they begin accumulating.

Anyway returning to the supermarket, i would think it would be one of the most profitable businesses in the refectory, it was always packed between lectures, i think the union are saying we want the profits cause we need them and we don’t want you to have them, more than anything else.

Plus I do not see how they can still provide a supermarket with more products, if it’s not in the same location.. there is no more space to make it any bigger, unless they’re planning to take over other tenancies too. The statement that you will still be able to get supplies at other union businesses in the mean time leaves me sceptical too. But i’ll guess the students will have fun buying milk for $5 and toiletries from the asian bistro lol

el ......VNBerlinaV8 8:24 pm 23 Oct 07

Yep. The union still needs to pay wages after all.

boomacat 8:09 pm 23 Oct 07

The prices in Union outlets pre VSU were apparently subsidised, but all the food there cost just the same as outlets in private centres, in other words it was like going to the food court in a westfield shopping town.

That hasn’t changed since VSU came in (obviously).

pierce 5:25 pm 23 Oct 07

Ah the joys of VSU – I guess you get what you pay for.

tj_017 4:28 pm 23 Oct 07

The University House supermarket will be shutting due to renovations.

To stereo henry – good for you if you don’t mind packing lunch or walking to the I.G.A, it’s fine if you don’t care, but jeering at others for caring makes you seem like a wanker. The livilhoods of the owners are being destroyed, prices will go up, competition on campus will go down, a supportive, successful store is being replaced by a Union monopoly, ALL without proper consultation and attempts by the Board to avoid being held accountable to students. An AGM held today condemned the Board’s decisions and a vote of no-confidence was passed in the Board, suggesting that you might not care henry but many do.

The Board has been unaccountable for a long time and it really seems time that their decisions reflected student interests!

hk0reduck 1:34 pm 23 Oct 07

I’m gonna miss the crazy-eyed owner 🙁

Mr Evil 12:16 pm 23 Oct 07

Thanks for the correction re Degree, pseudonym. I haven’t been into Degree very often because it seems to be overcrowded, so I wasn’t aware it was in private hands.

pseudonym 11:53 am 23 Oct 07

@Mr Evil:

FYI: Degree is an independent operator, not a union outlet (hence not included in that silly discount card scheme). Like the Purple Pickle.

At least they have a semblance of quality to go with the prices unlike Pajenkas.

In theory the Asian Bistro is now private too, but I’m not aware of any changes from their prior modus operandi.

Given that the Unions primary justification is on financial grounds, it can’t help matters that the Supermarket has been able to consistently undercut the union outlets on pricing for cold drinks, chocolate (etc.) bars, chips and berry + fruit tubs (albeit with a lesser volume of fruit). It seems to me like a purely monopolistic move from an organization who’s only actions to arrest a falling budget have been to reduce quality & inflate prices. Personally, it’s yet another reason I’ll be boycotting union outlets in the future.

Mr Evil 11:38 am 23 Oct 07

“Range may be increased to include alcohol”

I believe John has previously tried to sell alcohol at the Supermarket, but has been knocked back by the Union because it would compete with the ANU Bar!!!!

Sammy 11:29 am 23 Oct 07

Points of interest from aforementioned letter:

* The ANU Union will continue to provide supermarket services

* This service will provide everything that the current supermarket provides

* Prices will not increase

* Hours of operation will increase, with limited services on weekends (not currently provided)

* Range may be increased to include alcohol, fresh vegetables and fresh meat. A limited range of meat is currently available.

Sammy 11:26 am 23 Oct 07

The ANU Union board have (yesterday) released an open letter on this topic. It is available for download here.

danny 11:06 am 23 Oct 07

Yep I’d have to agree that the issue here is bigger than the supermarket. When I first went to ANU the refectory was a big self-serve sandwich/salad bar that subsidised costs making it affordable for students to grab a quick (and healthy) lunch. The union was all about serving its members.

Since then I’ve seen it gradually turn into a profit focussed monopoly (disguised by multiple outlets) with outrageous prices. As if the students didn’t have enough to worry about with the insane price of housing in this town.

I honestly feel sorry for the students of tomorrow. But in the end it is up to the students to stand up for themselves. In years gone by student action would have been much more vocal and would have included many more participants… it appears apathy or perhaps a feeling of ‘what can I do’ appears to be creeping into each successive generation.

Maiy Azize 10:57 am 23 Oct 07

In response to the first two comments, the supermarket you’re describing is the Acton Supermarket. It’s the only supermarket on campus at the moment.

I didn’t write this article, I submitted it on behalf of someone else, so I’d like to make a couple of other quick points

The market is supposed to thrive on demand and competition, and as consumers (and impoverished students) we’ve been pretty clearly expressing our preference for the Acton Supermarket throughout the years whenever we buy something there, hence its success.

If the Union really wants to compete, it should lower its prices in response to demand on campus. That would be the fairest way for the Union to win over consumers and promote a competitive marketplace on campus.

We all love the supermarket, but if we think long term for a minute, it is not in the interests of students to see a Union monopoly at the ANU.

Mr Evil 10:50 am 23 Oct 07

Stereo Henry, it’s not the fact the supermarket may close that is so bad, it’s the way the jerks in the Union have gone about it that rankles me.

ns 10:49 am 23 Oct 07

Rod Thomas has been hostile to the Supermarket for years. He’s never cared about student services and interests, and while that might be okay anywhere else, it’s not okay at the ANU Union which is partly funded by students and it supposed to serve student interests. I was at ANU 5 years ago and the Refectory prices were outrageous.

The problem is that Rod Thomas and the non-student Board members have the advantage of age and continuity and run rings around the student representatives (including the Chair). Practically every Board student representative I know used to tell me that John (the guy who owns the Supermarket) was the problem and not them or Rod Thomas. I always pointed out that the only thing that mattered was that the Supermarket offered choice and low prices and was better at serving student interests than the Refectory.

danny 10:45 am 23 Oct 07

That supermarket has the best range of caffinated/all-nighter beverages in Canberra. They were probably the first in Canberra to stock red-eye, redbull (in its can form, not the Thai medecine bottle form), etc. when they came out and they also keep a great range of mid-lecture snacks.

If this place shuts down the students will have to resort to shady transactions down at the uni bar in order to remain awake during classes.

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