What's in a Name?

Let's hear it for the unfriendliest stores in town

The Worm was napping in the avocados at the Ladue Schnucks, dreaming about that luscious glamour-puss Jerry Berger, when he was roused from his reverie by Felix McFluegelhorn, mild-mannered produce manager.

Seems McFluegelhorn was just busting with news that required the Worm's attention: The fabled Schnucks name is soon to be a thing of the past.

Nope, the St. Louis chain's not changing hands or throwing in the towel.

Details

The Worm digs deep, and it's not just dirt he's shoveling. Contact the Worm at worm@riverfronttimes.com.

Instead, in a last-ditch effort to stave off that price-choppin' Axis of Evil known as Wal-Mart, Schnucks will change the name of its stores to Schmucks.

It's a pull-out-all-the-stops, Apocalypse Now, huddle-in-the-bunker-and-fire-away strategic shift for the ages.

As part of the new marketing and anti-terrorism strategy, the new Schmucks stores will feature clerks hurling canned vegetables at customers and cashiers pocketing customers' change.

Courtesy clerks will be replaced by surly meat-department clerks and the choice of "paper or plastic" gets relegated to the dustbin of history.

In addition, food stamps and coupons will no longer be accepted, and motorized carts once reserved for the elderly will now be available only to scholarship athletes and supermodels.

McFluegelhorn is not a fan of the new strategy.

"Shoot, bro, I like my customers," he says. "And now I'm supposed to be an out-and-out dickhead? That's not why I chose grocery as a career."

When pressed, Schnucks' head cabbage inspector, Craig Schnuck, fessed up to the plan to rebrand, re-engineer and reposition the chain, using the Yiddish slang term for "penis".

"Say what you want about this approach, but give us points for originality," he says.

"In watching other grocery chains like Albertson's get rolled around the country, I'm convinced that enhanced customer service and specialty items won't do the trick. We need more exclusivity. That's how clubs get hot in Manhattan, and that's how Schmucks is going to catch fire in St. Louis."

To play up the Midwest Moomba approach, Schnuck says, he's contemplating hiring bouncers for each of his stores and making them wear black wifebeaters and mirror shades to work.

As for Wal-Mart, they're decidedly nonplussed.

"Well, shucks, we thought for a second about changing our name, too, but then we sobered up right quick," jokes Edward Trimchopper, a Wal-Mart talking head.

 
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