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metropolis should aid growers and shippers in comprehending the needs of the market. The following is a graphic description of fruit-selling in Chicago:*
"The distribution of the supplies furnished by the fruit-grower, whether direct or through the agency of others, has gradually become a complex and complete system. Perhaps I ought not to use the term 'complex,' as each step is well defined and, after all, simple, but I think but few fruitgrowers have any idea of how complete it is, and to what distances fruit is exported, -the only limit being the cost and ability of the consumer to pay prices commensurate with the expenses and risks.
"Practically all receipts are taken from the depots or docks to the various places of business as early as practicable after the arrival of the train or steamer. To make the matter clearer, let us illustrate by using letters in place of names. A, a shipper, consigns to B, his correspondent, a shipment of fruit. On arrival, B has his spring wagons in waiting, and takes it to his place of business on South Water street. There, with other lots of fruit of different grades, qualities and conditions, it is examined and offered for sale. The largest, finest, and every-way-select lots are taken by the retail grocers whose patronage is among the 'upper ten,’ to whom money is no object, apparently. The grade must be of the very best, quality superior and condition perfect. Less than 5 per cent of the total
*Mr. Barnett, of Barnett Bros., before Mich. Hort. Soc., Dec., 1896, as reported in the Horticultural Gazette, Allegan, Mich., for Dec. 19, 1896.
The Chicago Market.
receipts meets the conditions exacted, so that the amount that can be disposed of to this class of buyers is limited, and their requirements are also about in the same proportion.
"The next grade is of really good quality and good condition, so that it can be handled with a reasonable degree of safety, and good for, say, twenty-four hours' transit to other points, or to be handled safely by the average retail grocer who supplies the well-to-do classes. The competition for this class of fruit is the greatest, and often a sale turns on the condition only, the shipper often turning from a good line of fruit and accepting something not so desirable in quality, to secure that which will reach his customers in good condition. It is very much better to have a medium grade of quality in good condition than a fancy line of fruit as to flavor, size, etc., worthless on account of decay. That fruit which lacks the carrying qualities desired by the shipper is just right for the retail dealer, and, as a rule, will class good to choice.
"There are then left the inferior grades, both as to quality and condition. For these, buyers are found among the grocery keepers in the poorer sections of the city,-among the foreign populations. They are good judges of fruit, and buy to meet the wants of their customers. With them, also, there are the peddlers, a numerous class and an influential one, whose trade is necessary in handling large receipts. These latter also use the refuse, the 'off condition of all grades, and the poorest qualities
that arrive, or that become in poor condition after arrival, as well as a respectable portion of the better grades, for they sometimes carry a very good quality.
"Let us trace these different classes a little further, bearing in mind carefully that there is no arbitrary grading, the perishable qualities of fruit at times making the 'fancy' of 5 A. M. the 'peddler's stock' at 5 P. M. Let us suppose C is a retail dealer having the best patronage. He selects what he needs (carefully paying no more than he can help-which remark also applies to all), has it set aside, and sends his wagon for it as soon as he has completed his purchases. Arriving at his store, the fruit is temptingly displayed to catch the eye, and from his stock he fills his orders, taken often without the price being named in advance, quality being the chief requirement, sends to his customer, and charges it up to his account. The transaction is completed-all but collecting the bill. Many pay; many do not, and during the last thirty years, of all I have known, in the strictly fancy trade, less than a dozen have earned a competence. But little net profit remains with them.
"The retail dealer, D, who supplies the middle classes, with a fair proportion of the well-to-do, loads his purchase into his wagon, and at once goes home to be ready for dinner, placing a moderate advance on his purchase price as his selling figure. He sells for cash if he can, or to his 'book' customers at practically the same figure. He delivers to his customer's home, if desired, but the bulk of
Description of a Market.
it is taken at the time of purchase, and he clears out his stock as closely as possible. The advance charged by the retailer for his labor of selecting, selling, delivering, and collecting his accounts may be roughly estimated at 2 cents per box on small fruits, and 2 cents per basket on peaches and 5 cents per peck on apples. This must cover the loss by decay, sampling, etc., inevitable to the retail trade. At times, when fruit is scarce, the profit charged will be larger, and when abundant, less. Sometimes a 'run' is made, and a single dealer will buy one hundred to three hundred baskets and sell at cost, but I consider this as advertising.
"E, the peddler or huckster, buys everything left. It may be 'fancy,' or or 'good,' 'out of condition,' 'scrubs,' 'trash'-anything is grist for his mill. With equipments, worth ten dollars for horse, wagon, and harness of the Greek beginner, up through the various grades to the splendid two-horse team and $200 wagon (carrying supplies of all kinds and manned by three active, enterprising men) of the successful huckster, the 2,500 members of that great division of distributors are powerful factors. Taking their purchases into their wagons, they at once start for their routes and cry their wares. There can be no fixed margin. They get what they can, take a margin, or sell at cost; live on the refuse, and probably have only a dollar per day on which to support a family. While their transactions on the whole are enormous, their profits are very small, and with long hours, penetrating every street and lane of the
city, they earn what they get. There is not a lane, street, nor avenue of the city where their voice is not heard, not a block but is visited by their ramshackled old wagon, their apology for a horse with his harness or straps and strings. Not a house is passed unnoticed; they are everywhere, and sell the fruit at a margin so close that, as I have said, their profits are exceedingly small. I honor them, for they are engaged in an honest calling; I respect them, for they bring to the very poor, in the poorest sections of the city, a taste, at least, of the richest and best offering of the country to the city, and we use them freely in our business and treat them, rough, uncouth, ragged and ignorant though they may be, as men.
"There remains F, the shipper, whose aid is valuable in the disposition of the receipts from day to day. His selections have been made on the basis of his orders in hand or in prospect. He has carefully studied the country that can be reached from this city, and by a course of correspondence or personal interview has built up a clientage that orders from him in such quantities as may be sold profitably. The entire northwest has been carefully studied, and from central Illinois to middle Missouri, western Iowa, central Minnesota, and all of Wisconsin, orders have been solicited and some have been received. Weekly quotations are sent, some houses sending two thousand to three thousand at a single issue. These reach every city, town, village, or hamlet within reasonable rail communication, and everything else is