Reviled supermarket baron and aspiring television star Galen Weston Jr., best known for his work in commercials advertising brands created by his daddy, grand-daddy and great-grand-daddy, is trending in Canada once again — and not because he’s been cast as the new Spiderman.
No, the 50-year-old, fourth-generation Loblaw Companies Ltd. heir — now president and chairman of Canada’s largest food retailer — has caught the ire of Twitter users by… doing nothing at all. At least not directly. Not since Tuesday night, when the image that people are angry at him over was published.
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“I beg your pardon,” tweeted CTV Queen’s Park reporter Siobhan Morris, an award-winning journalist based in Toronto, on Tuesday evening with a photo showing a pack of boneless, skinless chicken breast priced at $26.87 per kilogram at Loblaws.
For comparison’s sake, blogTO paid just a fraction of that price per kilo in November as part of an experiment conducted between Longo’s, No Frills and Loblaws (the meat was roughly $10 per kilo at Longo’s, $8 at No Frills and $7.75 at Loblaws at the time).
Morris’ tweet has now been viewed more than 1.7 million times in less than 24 hours, attracting nearly 10,000 likes, thousands of retweets and thousands of salty comments.
— Brett Hunt (@brettaidenhunt) January 4, 2023
“Price gouging much Loblaws? Perhaps it’s not a good idea to allow one company to own the majority of grocery stores in Canada?” wrote one Twitter user in response to the photo, which appears to have been snapped at a Loblaws store near the Junction Triangle.
“Someone quick, find out if billionaire Galen Weston Jr., whose net worth is $8.7 BILLON, will take a payment plan or layaway plan from my kids and I to buy this pack of chicken?” wrote another.
“Permit me to join the throngs calling for Galen Weston’s head,” joked another Twitter user still. “Although undoubtedly it would be served at $35/lb.”
Every time there’s a new headline about inflation or food prices or corporate greed, “Galen Weston” or “Loblaw” starts trending. But then I go to YouTube or turn on the radio and there he is, telling me to spend my PC points or how great the new meatballs are
— Josh Kolm (@JoshKolm) January 4, 2023
The fact that a chicken pic would send the name of a wealthy Canadian oligarch trending (again) may be confusing to those who are unaware of the fact that grocery costs have skyrocketed across the country over the past year, driving food bank usage to an all-time high while grocery giants pull in record profits and blame “inflation” for higher prices.
It’s a whole thing, I promise, but despite the magnitude of its impacts, it’s far from the only thing people hate Weston for.
From refusing to pay his workers a living wage, profiteering during a global pandemic and conspiring with other grocery barons to intentionally fix the price of bread for 15 years, Canadians had reason to dislike Weston and his ilk long before inflation became a household term.
It wasn’t until a series of recent gaffes, however, that hatred toward the bespectacled President’s Choice spokesman hit a fever pitch high enough to spark trending algorithms.
— ＠PierreIsLying2U＠infosec․exchange (@PierreIsLying2U) January 4, 2023
I mean, I’m not a PR professional (and never will be), but it seems like bad optics for a company that owns Loblaws, Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, T&T, No Frills, Joe Fresh and so much more to ask its consumers for PC Optimum point donations to help struggling food banks.
It’s almost as bad as emailing consumers to tell them that you’ve frozen prices on your incredibly successful company’s cheapest-priced items, after already raising the prices on said items, in a self-congratulatory message panning Canada’s food crisis as something you haven’t had a hand in causing.
“Maddeningly, much of this is out of our control,” are the specific words used in a letter signed by Weston himself sent to PC Optimum members in October, pledging to “help make a meaningful difference to your grocery budget at a time when you may need it most.”
Three months later, that temporary price freeze has done little if nothing to alleviate the burden borne by Canadian consumers who’ve seen their grocery bills go up by more than 10% on average in only 12 months.
Like the thieves they are, @loblawco can’t even stick to a simple price freeze.
— Haruun Ali (@HaruunYEG) January 4, 2023
For many non-billionaires, seeing a price tag of nearly $40 on a pack of five chicken breasts at Loblaws has been as infuriating as it is shocking — even if those breasts happen to be the fanciest organic, hormone-free products of their kind.
Well apparently he is charging more for chicken breasts …
Loblaws vs Walmart.. pic.twitter.com/e3das5dob1
— Cheryl #FreedomIsABadWord 🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@cheryl1492) January 4, 2023
“This is completely unacceptable! Almost $40 for 5 pieces of chicken. There is no way Loblaws can justify this?” wrote Member of Parliament for Don Valley East and Parliamentary Black Caucus Co-Chair Michael Coteau of the situation on Wednesday.
“Galen Weston is an oligarch that has monopolized life necessities. His little sweater vest act in their ads doesn’t change that,” said activist and educator Julie S. Lalonde similarly.
“Galen Weston is the kind of dude who should have to hear people yell SHAME! at him every time he leaves his house. He should be booed at every opportunity. He should definitely not be in the pocket of our Premier but that’s what we’ve all decided is allowed to happen.”
Galen Weston has strong “haven’t even read the Wikipedia page about the French Revolution” energy
— Hi it’s Matt Collins (@mitchberghini) January 4, 2023
This latest round of Weston-aimed rage may not have been sparked by something the captain of industry said, but it does speak to how frustrated Canadians are becoming by the lack of equality between those in poverty, those who are ultra-wealthy, and the dwindling population of people who fall between both classes.
“The average warehouse worker at Loblaws makes $20.18/hr. The average cashier makes $14.90/hr,” wrote one Twitter user of the chicken scandal on Wednesday.
“To put that in perspective, thats [roughly] 1.75 and 2.5 hours of JUST ONE WORKER’S labour to buy 1.4kg of chicken. One hour of labour is less that one kg of fucking chicken. Eat the rich, not chicken.”