Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Cost of Membership

We have been busy perusing the 10 Q form that BJ's filed with the SEC and we discovered that the company plans to increase its membership fee for 2006 from $40 to $45. Clearly the store didn't do this with all of the poor folks from the South Bronx in mind. In addition, the membership fee for Rewards Members, those who can access the real good bargains, was increased to an out-of-reach (for poor people at least) $80.

This of course is in addition to the fact that BJ's does not accept food stamps or WIC and reinforces the fact that the company is effectively redlining the neighborhood in the heart of "Asthma Alley" that is being asked to accept tens of thousands of additional mall-driven car and truck trips every week.

All of which is germane to the column written in today's NY Daily News by Errol Louis. Louis, writing on poverty and hunger in NYC, points out that 1.1 million New Yorker use food stamps but an additional 760,000 who are eligible do not because of all of the bureaucratic roadblocks that are put in their way.

As Errol underscores, the easing of these impediments would go along way towards putting "a dent in New York's hunger problem." At the same time, if the hundreds of thousands of eligible New Yorkers were enrolled "more than $650 million in federal funds would be flowing into the city, to be spent at grocery stores and supermarkets."

But not of course at BJ's. It should be unacceptable, at a time when we're trying to increase food stamp access, to promote the siting of a huge club store in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest in the entire city. This is also a store that will put those nearby supermarkets that do accept food stamps and WIC at risk. All to enrich a billionaire developer. How apropos!