On a Grocery-Store Experience

There’s nothing like a trip to the grocery store to witness the diverse nature of our society; variety of shapes and sizes, varying socio-economic circumstances, varying dress, different behaviors, and countless of other human traits.

While entering the parking lot I see a car cutting across the lot. As we approach one another, I slowed down to prevent being broadsided if I turned down the wrong row, and then noticed the driver is also talking on their phone.

As I start turning into a prime parking spot, a loose shopping cart was also there. Of course it’s very close to the cart corral.

I move the cart to the corral, only to notice that other two carts were just outside the corral. How hard can this be? Maybe the prior shoppers lacked the ability to push their cart into the stall.

As I’m walking toward the store, a lady exits her car talking on her phone, and continues as she walks toward the store. Since she’s still babbling while I’m in the produce department, I quickly get my items and change my shopping route.

In the serenity of my next aisle I encounter a deliberate shopper – the one standing beside their cart and in front of the items while blocking the entire aisle. Since I’m the patient type, I determined what I could get in that area without taking my cart.

Able to move on, I rounded the corner toward the next aisle and saw the lady still on the phone. I come to a screeching halt, and off to another aisle.

Fortunately, an aisle with a clear path; unfortunately, an aisle with nothing I needed. Knowing my needs are in the next aisle, I turn the corner to be confronted by a two-shopper blockade holding a social court. No problem, off the next aisle where a shopper studying a kitchen gadget label is pondering her decision. This time I politely say, “Excuse me”

Time to go back an aisle – Oh no … she’s still talking! Since she lacked Secret Service Agents, she can’t be that important, so I got my items, and pass her (while mentally mumbling to myself).

In the next aisle I encountered a leisurely shopper slowly strolling aimlessly down the center of the aisle; meaning I can’t pass on either side. Since I needed items here, fell in line behind the parade’s Grand Marshall.

After two more stops I move toward checkout. While passing the express, self-check lanes I noticed the clueless shopper who thought the sign said, “Express Checkout for Shoppers 12 and Over.” The good news is that it wasn’t the lady with the cell phone.

Finally, I’m out of there; bags in the car; cart in the corral; and driving down the row, but not home free because as I drove in front of the store, I waited on the person slowly crossing at a diagonal because they don’t know the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line!

Yes, this all this happened on the same day. Yes, we encounter situations like this everyday. Yes, I too can (sometimes) be the cause. Today though, I wish I had some of Bill Engvall’s signs to distribute. So I leave this post with three thoughts and a very short closing.

Principle 1: Life isn’t about us as individuals.

Principle 2: The little things we do in life don’t take that much extra time and effort. Smiles, greetings, a multitude of niceties, and even putting shopping carts in parking lot corrals, go a long way. Many years ago, a friend of mine would say, “It doesn’t cost much more to be first class.”

Principle 3: Be aware of your environment, because every decision we make as individuals impact others – even those little things.

With not that much effort, these principles not only would improve our life, but just as important, they would better the life of others – and that’s what life is about.

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30 thoughts on “On a Grocery-Store Experience

  1. Good point Frank. I HATE when people don’t return the carts, especially when they leave it a few steps from the corral. Or when people wait a few minutes to park in a spot that’s ten steps closer. Many of these same people own gym memberships. Makes no sense.

    • We, as a people, seem to love to make life harder than it should be. Amazingly, this did all happen on the same trip!

      Thanks Mr. Legend for stopping by … I just had to get away from politics for a few days.

  2. In a former life, I was a shopping cart abandoner. My conversion came when I observed a woman, surely in her late 80s or 90s pushing her empty cart to a respectable distance to a cart corral.
    Since I have been self employed for nearly 35 years, I have become accustomed to delivering a severe ass-chewing to myself when it is called for. So feeling the need, I told my self, ” … self, you should be ashamed of yourself. If that woman can return her cart to the corral, so can you, you imbecile.” The admonishment “took.”
    I have finally decided that when I go shopping, I am deliberately exposing myself to the general populace. If the bell curve applies, most people I will encounter are solid citizens. 10-15% will represent the dregs of society and 10-15% are trying to emulate Mother Theresa. I’m presuming this curve of normal distribution is close. Therefore, with these expectations, I can ward off the barbarians by remembering “non illigitimus carborundum and consider any positive encounters to be benefits.
    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Wow Joe … who would have ever thought this post would turn into true confessions. ha ha … well done.

      Agree … the grocery is a great place to study people, let alone statistically.

      In terms of carts, we have a store in another section of town that requires a quarter to get a cart … then the quarter is returned when the cart is placed in the corral. A teen who worked there would tell me some carts still don’t get returned …. of course he then would get the quarter per cart … but more were returned than at other stores.

      Thanks Joe!

  3. I am a Department (Seafood) Manager for a Super Market in Florida. The only complaint I have with a few costumers is when they are talking on the cell phone while in the service area and either do not respond to you as you ask them if they need help. or clog up the line so others can not get help thus slowing down the whole operation.. It was worst when I managed a Burger King and people would talk and talk in the Drive Thru lane. When I get elected Dictator i will have a some type of devise that will send 50,000 volts of electricity through a persons body when they talk on a cell phone in a service area.
    Of course many service workers need to be executed also with the Don’t Care about the Costumer attitude they show.

    • Larry …. Cell phones have brought about a whole new set of behavioral standards …. thus problems too. I’m with you on this one! Thanks for the thoughts.

  4. Yes Frank That store is probably Aldi’s and that is a OK idea, But I have heard from some of my Custumers they never carry cash so they do not go there, and besides those European owned stores have a very small selection with pre-cut Meat. (That meat is Gassed with CO2 and has a 2 to 3 week shelf life) Not good at all IMHO.

  5. Great stuff, and that was a tough day to test one’s patience. I’m very much the patient type, but Lester is correct about those shopping carts.

    Like Larry, I was a department manager at one time in grocery, too.

    I’m one of those guys that stays in shape all the time, and I find ironic like Lester how some of those same people can’t put shopping carts back where they belong. If you got time to roll a cart across the store to get items, you got time to take five more seconds out of your life to put them back when they’re a rack is just a few feet away!

    Those ones where you see workers gathering shopping carts when a customer deliberately leaves their cart by the car annoys me. That worker has to go back to get that person’s cart because he doesn’t want to make it easier on the worker. People are busy, which I don’t disagree with. But common decency is what is often missed especially when it’s not going to make you too awful late to wherever you have to go just to take an extra few seconds to put your cart back. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

    Nice post Frank!

    • David … wow …. seems the carts in the parking lot continues to bring responses. And nobody brought up what I call the “SUV shopping carts” … the long ones including a race car for the kid to sit in that requires the parent to navigate turning to the next aisle as a truck driver turning a 16-wheeler. Of course I didn’t bring that one up because I didn’t encounter one on that particular day.

      Great stuff David!

  6. I’m laughing at some of these because I have experienced them myself. I hate it when people don’t return their dang carts. I get so mad sometimes, when I’m trying to park and see a cart blocking the way, that I push the cart away with the front of my car. Not hard enough to damage my car, but enough to feel better.

  7. Funny post Frank! As I only shop for myself, I don’t use a shopping cart. And since I don’t drive, I rarely pay attention to the parking lot. (When I did drive it was a source of great stress! Eliminating a car from my life has done wonders to lower stress in many areas.)

    But just for fun…I’ll play devil’s advocate here. At which point is the shop no longer responsible for their carts and maintaining their parking lots? Have they convinced us that doing this work for them is ‘doing the right thing’? My family owned a small grocery store when I was growing up…and no customers pushed their own groceries out to the lot, and certainly not little old ladies! We provided jobs to high school students to do this, and to return the cart to the store. Supermarkets have managed to convince us that we’re bad guys for leaving a shopping cart where we last needed it. I do understand cutting expenses by eliminating jobs and requiring your customers to do the work for you…I’m just waiting for these savings to be reflected by the lowering of prices in the shops….I’m not seeing it.

    • Alex,
      Thanks again for following the link into my archives. Heck, I had to re-read it to remind myself to be able to comment!

      I know supermarkets are not asking customers to bring the cart back to the store, but it does bug me when I can’t pull into a parking spot because a stray cart is in the way – especially when a cart-collection area isn’t too far.

      Carts are a story too – but I won’t go into the evolution of the larger shopping cart and the narrowing of aisles.

      I recall the days of small grocery stores helping customers to the car. :) … and they are a good job for the young. I also appreciate the stores giving bagging and cart-gathering jobs to the disadvantaged who may not be able to get other jobs.

    • Great points Alex. In fact, businesses are trying to get “customers” to do more and more themselves via technology at the expense of service jobs…and we wonder why unemployment isn’t shooting down despite record corporate profits? A bottom line society isn’t a nice community or service oriented culture is it? The idea of customers or people has evolved to looking at humans as an economic unit of measure and the goal is to extract as much from that human unit as possible…with interest.

      • TinCup,
        Interestingly, (I’ll stick with grocery stores), the self-checkout lanes lower the stores wages (less workers needed) and aim to get the shoppers out the door quicker (after all, we’re constantly in a hurry). So, I see hitting two birds with one stone, but at an initial cost (equipment purchase). I wonder what the payback time is. Oh well … thanks for commenting!

        • On a side note…my parents went to Bowling Green. Every so often they would sing that annoying football song (roll along now…you BG warriors). I lived in Ohio when I was a young boy…loved it there.

          There is no question that Grocery stores save money via self checkout once the “customers” come up to speed on how to check themselves out and bag their own groceries and waddle out with cart loaded for a weeks supply of goods :D

          But my point is that the profit motive combined with technology is a circular reference when it comes to healthy employment numbers. Employees are treated as expenses not assets and as such the goal will always be to cut heads and replace with machines and technology in order to maximize profit.

          Under our current construct, not everyone can pay for or receive quality higher education to become the leader of machines and enterprises. And with a constantly growing population (encouraged in many ways from tax breaks to social norms) needed to enable economy to keep growing we are going to have a growing base of people that don’t have he skill set to contribute.

        • Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zoomba
          Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Ze
          Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zoomba
          Ay Ziggy Zoomba Zoomba Zi
          Roll along, you BG warriors
          Roll along, and win for B-G-S-U.

      • I agree Frank, it is frustrating to not be able to maneuver a parking lot because of the carts, but my question remains…who should that frustration be directed towards?

        As Tincup points out even though we are customers we are not only expected to work, we are also negatively judged by other customers if we don’t do the work. I rarely, rarely, go to fast food restaurants…primarily because the food is horrid, but also because I don’t accept the notion of paying for a meal and then having to do the clean up afterwards. At which point did this become acceptable? And fast food is hardly cheap…for the same I can go to a mom and pop place and have a better meal with no cleaning up expected on my part. Yet mom and pops are dying out while the chains are raking in the bucks.

        • Alex,
          In terms of the parking lot, I point to the customers. For most people, taking the cart to the corral shouldn’t be that must of an issue as long as corrals are adequately placed. Now if I go into the store and not carts are available (thus in the parking lot), that is another matter because that is a store responsibility. But if I take the cart to my car, the store should not be responsible for following me and the other customers around to gather their carts. Oh – and if I can carry all the bags, I will leave the cart in the store.

  8. Thanks for the laughs today. I see you are an observer as am I. This short piece was a joy to read. Unless I am with a Lady or my mother, I treat any shopping experience like a military hostage extraction mission…in and out. Of course some stores are designed to make this impossible. Often I have entered Costco is a good mood only to depart completely deflated by the human race :D

    • TinCup,
      Welcome first-time commenter! As the regular shopper (and have a list), I don’t treat it as a focused mission. (BTW – great description). Meanwhile, as a group, Costco shoppers are oblivious of their surroundings! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  9. In my 8 days of working in a grocery store setting I have been amazed at the amount of people talking on their cell phones while shopping. We’re not talking a quick short and sweet conversation but the kind that last through isles and isles or even calls that started prior to them arriving and continued as they left an hour later. I realize that many of us are busy and I realize some of us may use it as a crutch or better yet to avoid the eager Wine Steward smiling as you walk by :) but REALLY? My phone call conversations are private even if I am just calling home from the grocery store to see if I need to get extra dog food.
    Loving your grocery store rants :)
    Thank you!
    Ernest.

    • Felicia,
      Welcome – and you have traveled back in time for this one. :) I do the grocery shopping as well, and yes, I also enjoy it. I imagine I have my share of oblivious moments for as one of us are immune to those. However, I remind myself to be aware of those around us for as the moment is not about me. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you return. Happy New Year to you.

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