ATLANTA–Kroger Company representatives called a press conference to unveil their new marketing plan to re-brand the worst store in this world or any other.
The lighting? Silent-Hill-Flickering-Fluorescent.
The smell? Slaughterhouse Kill Floor.
The setting? The balmy foothills of Pig Mountain, the sweaty jewel in the crown of the often maligned “Murder Kroger” on Ponce de Leon Avenue.
I am the only one who showed.
I arrived 15 minutes early and stood alone in the “press box”, which was four grocery carts pushed into a square. This created an illusion of safety with a subtle undertone of claustrophobic terror. I had nothing to do but look deep into the semi-refrigerated heart of Pig Mountain.
A shrinkwrapped bulwark of miscellaneous gore, heaps of pig parts surrounded by empty shelf space to the inexplicable exclusion of other meats, it seemed to writhe before my eyes. Porkflaps, pickled pig hearts, fatrinds, brined snouts all on nightmare display. I found myself crying, and couldn’t say why.
Skip Vorhees, Kroger Company Senior Co-Vice President of Marketing and Snack Foods, materialized from the men’s room and approached the “podium” (a long-thawed palette of frozen vegetables) and began what could loosely be described as a press conference.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming,” he said as though I was not the only person standing there.
“Murder Kroger. What an ugly name. An ugly, undeserved name.”
The Poncey Highland Kroger parking lot was the scene of the infamous 2002 murder that earned the store its nickname.
“We feel that this negative image is not aligned with our corporate values and will be re-branding the store in a new marketing campaign. As of September 27th, you will no longer be shopping at Murder Kroger. You will be shopping at Aggravated Assault Kroger.”
I asked Skip what the fuck he was talking about.
“I mean, it just makes more sense from a marketing perspective,” he said. “We’ve had what, one murder here since 2002? Meanwhile, we’ve had hundreds of documented aggravated assaults on our property. We want to capitalize on that.”
Mr. Vorhees produced market research showing that Kroger customers prefer fearing assault to fearing murder and described Murder Kroger “fans” as a niche market.
“Let’s face it. Shopping at our store, there is virtually zero chance that you’re going to be murdered. You are much, much, much more likely to be punched in the face over a bag of Kettle Chips. That’s what we want people to take away from this.”
I suggested that bringing the store up to at least Victorian Era health code standards might also improve the store’s image, and Skip looked at me with barely contained loathing.
“You think a store this bad just happens, kid?” His eyes were fever-bright and terrifying.
“You think this puddle of sticky pink shit I’m standing in is some kind of accident? We bring in the best set designers money can buy to keep up this image! Who do you think is going to tell stories about the nice clean Kroger where no one ever gets kicked in the neck for asking where to find popcorn? It’s marketing, baby! Yeah!”
Skip Vorhees excused himself, citing that he was going to go strangle a prostitute and punch every single cashier in the ear on the way out.
Once again, I found myself crying.