Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 14 April 1945

The Real Price Policy
of the A and P Stores

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 15, 14 April 1945, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Living near an A&P Super Market seems to the average housewife like being “next door to heaven.” Landlords often make note of the fact that a vacant house or apartment is located near an A&P store in order to attract tenants. There are few large cities in the United States, which do riot have one or more A&P stores.

That the A&P Super Market is such a popular shopping center is not surprising. Here is a large, airy, well-lighted store, with wide aisles, and spacious shelves, which even in this period of food shortages are fairly well-stocked. Before the present restrictions on food purchases and before gasoline was rationed, hundreds of thousands of American working-class families drove long distances to an A&P Super Market in order to, buy their weekly supply of groceries. Even now, workers who are still able to keep their cars running are likely to include a weekly trip to the A&P store in their gas budget.

But The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company is not in business because of its devotion to American workers. The A&P store is no charitable institution!

Huge Food Monopoly

Although the publicity department of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company tries to convince housewife-buyers that groceries are being sold in A&P stores almost at cost, the facts are very different. Even the U.S. Department of Justice, which is slow in such matters, has finally admitted that the A&P is a huge food monopoly, growing larger, wealthier and more powerful year by year.

In a not very widely publicized case, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, 11 of its affiliates and 16 of its officers will be tried by the Justice Department on charges of violating the federal anti-trust laws. The trial will open in Danville, Illinois, on April 16 and may continue for a year because government spokesmen say that they have gathered considerable evidence about the criminal trade practices of the A&P.

Writing in the April 1 issue of PM, Harold Lavine lists some of the charges against the A&P which will be brought out in the trial.

“The Dept. of Justice is convinced,” says Lavine, “that if The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company of New York, and its affiliates keep expanding as they have until now, within 15 years Americans will eat only with the gracious consent of the A&P; they will eat only what the A&P lets them eat; and they will pay what the A&P asks.”

Illegal Monopolist Practices

“Mountains of evidence” to back up this position are promised by the Dept. of Justice. A few interesting pieces of evidence like the following are offered by Lavine.

1. The A&P sometimes sells below cost in some cities in order to drive its competitors out of business — then raises prices all around.

People in Dallas, Texas were able to buy food cheaply in A&P stores a few years back until Myer & Sons, Wyatt Food Stores, Clark & Johnson and Morris Rubin closed their doors. After that, A&P got together with its remaining rivals and “stabilized prices.” From then on the Dallas people did not buy cheaply at the A&P or any other Dallas grocery store.

2. The A&P puts pressure on competitors who undersell them and forces through an increase in prices.

A store in Long Island, N.Y. was selling Green Giant peas at two cans for 23 cents and Del Maiz Niblets at 8 cents a can.

Pressure was put on the Minnesota Valley Products Co., which puts out both of these commodities, to do something about it. Because A&P is one of the largest buyers of the Minnesota Valley Company’s products, the necessary pressure was put on the store in Long Island to raise its prices. The owner of this store, King Kullen, finally had to agree to raise his prices to A&P levels.

3. A&P often buys up a whole year’s output of some growers; deprives its competitors of access to the commodity; then fixes prices.

The A&P has often bought up Brazil’s entire coffee crop six months before the beginning of the year. In the words of the Department of Justice this action resulted in the A&P “cutting off from their competitors and cornering the principal supply of coffee available for importation into the United States during said six-month period and artificially increasing the prices of coffee in the United States.”

The following figures, giving the wholesale market prices for coffee, prove this charge:

Aug. 1940


5½ cents per lb.

Nov. 1940

6.66 cents per lb.

Mar. 1941

10.23 cents per lb.

May 1941

10.60 cents per lb.

July 1941

11.37 cents per lb.

Aug. 1941

13.25 cents per lb.

A multitude of other charges as to “short-changing, shortweighing and marking up prices on store tags” are also being made by the Department of Justice. There is evidence too that the A&P has bought up farmers’ organizations, women’s clubs, etc. to spread the lie that A&P prices are lower than those of their competitors.

Over the years, by these super cut-throat policies, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company has become a gigantic food trust. In 1914 this company operated only 585 stores and had sales of $31,000,000; in 1941, there were 6,400 stores, with sales of $1,378, 666,000.

It is not the “bigness” of the A&P chain that is undesirable. It is the fact that under capitalism this increase in size, with its greater operating efficiency and lower costs, has not meant proportionately lower prices for the consumers nor better wages for the A&P employees. It has simply brought bigger profits to the corporation owners.

If what has happened in other “trust-busting” cases is any indication, the Department of Justice will not really curb the profiteering and price-fixing manipulations of this powerful food trust. At most the A&P may be given some chicken-feed fines which they will then pass on to their customers.

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 7 November 2018