Shop Wrong


Nowadays folks are usually required to take one of those psychological tests in order to procure employment. I think they are designed to gauge how an employee will interact with co-workers, managers, and customers. What they do not test for, however, is common sense and general craziness. Someone ought to design one of those tests. They should be given to customers as they walk into the store as well… you know, something along the lines of: ”Ding. Ding. Ding. You’re a loony bird who cannot think from A to B without first stopping at Z. So, you’ll have to come back on Thursday.” They could give out one of those snappy wristbands to indicate your shopping day. Also, this would be a helpful management tool in that all the insane employees could be scheduled on Thursdays. This way, the rest of us would know to stay away. If they got a camera crew in on Thursdays they might be able to turn it into must watch reality television. I think they would have a real moneymaker on their hands!

I like to suggest solutions to problems rather than just complaining about them. I think this could work. All great inventions/ideas come from necessity/experience, right? This is no different. This idea came to me during a recent trip to my local Supermarket.

It was my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. I needed to get her some balloons and a cake. I also needed a few ingredients for that night’s special dinner. So I headed out to the, oh let’s just call it the Shop-Wrong. I had allotted what I thought would be plenty of time to accomplish those tasks; I figured twenty minutes tops. I would like to note that it was an unseasonably warm day for the East coast in the middle of March and I was in a good mood. I was looking forward to dinner, cake, and to surprising her with the new iPhone that she really wanted, but that we had repeatedly told her was out of the question. So, off I went to gather what was necessary to put the cherry on the cake, so to speak, for her Sweet 16.

The floral counter is the first thing one comes upon in this particular establishment. So, I went up to the counter and waited to be attended to. I selected my balloons and grabbed a bouquet of baby roses for the table. After about five minutes of waiting I asked an employee from the next department, which happened to be Produce, if someone was working in Floral. I explained that I wanted three balloons. His response was that I would have to go to customer service to obtain this information. So, off I went to what this store optimistically calls the “Courtesy Counter”. There were two employees behind the counter, one of whom was dealing with a customer who seemed to have an issue arising from an 8 cent discrepancy of some sort; the other was just gazing into the distance. So, I asked the dreamer if she could help me. To which she responded, “Well, that depends on what you need.” And I was thinking well, isn’t that always the case? Does she think I came here to ask her if I could get a lift to the airport next Tuesday? Or what type of shoe she thought might accommodate the troublesome bunion on my right foot? Seriously. But, instead, I opted for asking her how I might get my hands on some balloons I had my eye on over in Floral, explaining that I had already waited there for five minutes for an employee to appear. Her excuse for why I was not helped over in Floral? “Oh, that’s because Annie is off today.” Well, that explains everything, I thought. As it did not seem reasonable that the Floral department would be shut down simply because Annie had other plans I asked her what usually happened when Annie was not there? Did they plan for that contingency or was Annie some kind of slave in the Floral department? Did she have a bedroll, a toothbrush, and a coffeemaker stashed behind the hydrangeas? She told me that she could page someone from another department to help me, but advised me that I had “better run because”, apparently, “if you’re not there when they get there they’ll just leave and you’ll have to have them paged all over again”. The floral department was about fifty yards away. Allowing for the shopping cart and the fact that I am in my forties I asked for a thirty-second head start. As I was making my mad dash for Floral I heard her on the intercom paging “someone to floral from Produce, please”. I wonder if you can figure out what came next?

You guessed it. The guy that I had originally spoken to from Produce who had sent me to the Courtesy Counter came behind the counter. He looked at me as if he had never seen me before in his life and said, “What can I do for you?” I decided to NOT be annoyed (actually I was kind of amused, in that it reminded me of something out of a “Newhart” episode) and I gave him the balloon numbers that I wanted him to fill with helium. That’s how it works. The balloons are arranged behind the counter and they are numbered. You simply choose the balloon that corresponds to the number, open the package, fill it with helium, and tie a ribbon on it. As he was filling the balloons I realized that I was getting a “Get Well Soon” balloon instead of the “Sweet 16” balloon that I had asked for. I told him that he was filling the wrong balloon. He told me that I had asked for number 32. I had not. I had asked for number 33. He had even written it down. I even showed him where he had written it down. He continued to fill balloon number 32. Okay. Fine. He did not want to waste the balloon. He would leave it for another customer. Finally all three of my balloons were filled and he handed them to me in what can only be described as a bunch. Already the ribbons were tangling. And, I realized, the Get Well Soon balloon was also in the bunch. I explained that my daughter, to my knowledge, was not ill and therefore I had no need of that balloon. So, he grabbed it out, popped it and threw it in the garbage. I felt like saying, “if you were going to do that then why did you waste time continuing to fill it, sealing it, and tying a ribbon on it in the first place?” But I held my tongue because I was about to ask him for the little clippy thing that generally gets placed on the ribbons in a balloon bouquet so that they don’t tangle, which they were already doing. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about. So, I asked if he could keep them in the back or behind the counter for me, as I still had to make my way through the store to get the other items I needed. That was a negative. In hindsight I should have left them with the daydreamer at the Courtesy Counter, but at that point I had already blown twenty minutes screwing around with the stupid balloons.

Now I have to go to the opposite end of the store to get mozzarella cheese and chicken. I have the flowers in the front basket and I am trying not to lose any of my precious balloons, which are now, by the way, a fully tangled mess and a half. He put weights on them so that they would not float away, but the weights are weighing them down so much that I keep running over them with the cart. Oh, My God!

I decide to stop in the pasta sauce aisle on my way to meat and dairy to get the one other thing that I need to make dinner. Of course I cannot get down the aisle because there are pallets full of product completely lining the left side of the aisle (this activity on a Thursday at 12:30 in the afternoon, mind you). The right side of the aisle is very crowded because no one can access the left side of the aisle and, of course, there is a woman who had to be at least ninety years old stopped directly in the middle of the right side of the aisle who seemed to have gone suddenly catatonic. I saw other shoppers behind her trying to turn their carts around and change course. I did not want to get anywhere near that mayhem so I went to Plan B, which was to circle around to meat and dairy and hit this aisle on the way to my last stop, which was the bakery.

Save a short run-in with the wheelchair and scooter brigade, my trip to dairy went without incident. The bakery, however, would prove to be a further experience in character building. Patience is a virtue, having the patience to get through an average day, never mind the kind of day where one is met with astounding stupidity at every turn, is a challenge, to say the least. In any case, I finally get to the point in my now thirty minute shopping trip where I just need to obtain an ice cream cake. This store sells a local brand which I have managed to purchase any number of times in the past without incident. Of course that will not be my experience today, as when I reach the freezer case where the cakes are kept the only cake that is stocked is a $55 ½ sheet cake that will serve 20 people. So, I ask the woman in the bakery department if, perhaps, they might have anything smaller in the back freezer. She rolls her eyes and says that “Yes. There probably are more back there. Joe was supposed to stock them before he left.” I wanted to ask if Joe was with Annie from Floral. I actually imagined Joe and Annie out with their children at the zoo on this unseasonably mild day in the middle of March. But I digress. I asked this clerk if she could possibly go in the back and check the stock for me, as I was really in need of an ice cream cake for my daughter’s birthday. I further explained that we would be significantly fewer than twenty and that I would take any cake that I could reasonably fit in my freezer that was under $40. I made it clear to her that I did not want the “mini” four-inch round cake, as that would not be enough. So, after waiting there for about ten minutes what does she come out with? If you guessed the little “mini” cake then you get a gold star. Luckily I had gotten wise to the thought patterns of the workers here and rather than abandoning my mission asked her if that was the only other cake back there. She told me that there were other cakes back there, but they served eight to ten people. It took a great deal of effort on my part not to literally scream the words, “Okay. Can you get me one of those?” She did. My mission was almost complete.

The only thing standing in my way of checking out was a brief foray into the cake decorating aisle to get some gel with which to write on the cake. Normally I would have asked the folks at the Bakery to do this for me, but today I decided that it would probably be best if I did it myself. The way my shopping trip had gone thus far, I figured that the cake would have “Congratulations, Bertha!” or some other crazy thing written upon it. After obtaining the decorating gel I was at long last on my way to the checkout. I had seven items in my cart (ten if you count each balloon separately) so I proceeded to the Express Checkout. There was one person in front of me that looked just about ready to pay. Awesome!

I put my stuff up on the belt and heard the cashier say to the gentleman in front of me “that will be $27.91”. I realize almost immediately that this will not be a speedy checkout process because, upon hearing the total, he asks her if he can “take a look at the receipt”. Oh. My. God. He is now going over each item on the receipt and matching it up to his purchases, which he is refusing to allow the cashier to bag for him. Oh. My. God. Finally satisfied that he has not been overcharged for his prunes and Metamucil he now proceeds to get out his wallet. I am, at this point, coming to the end of my rope. I am, quite literally, willing the money to jump out of his wallet. He begins taking out the money in $5 increments and laying it down in front of him. He finally gets to $27.00 and seems like he is going to pull out another single to complete his purchase but, instead, he reaches into his pocket and takes out a handful of change. He is now going to count out ninety-one cents. I am not kidding. After what seemed like a day-and-a-half of watching him try to make ninety-one cents with the smallest increments of the change he had in his pocket his transaction was finally finished.

Usually I am polite and I wait until the shopper in front of me has vacated the aisle, but I really needed this miserable trip to come to an end sometime before the dawn of a new millennium, so I asked the cashier to please start ringing me up. Before she could comply, the previous shopper looked at me in disgust, told me that I had ”no manners”, and asked me “what I was in such a hurry about”. I would like to say that I ignored him and went on my merry way, but I did not. All of the frustrations of the day just came spilling out of my mouth. It went something like this: “ Really, sir? Really? It just took you ten minutes to count out twenty-seven dollars and ninety-one cents. Your average five-year-old could have done it faster. And what was that checking every item for accuracy about? That seems a little self-centered and just slightly passive-aggressive if you ask me. “ I guess because I was raising my voice and causing what appeared to be a ruckus, a manager appeared (where was a manager when I needed one at Courtesy? Or in Floral? Or down the sauce aisle? Or in the Bakery?). He asked me what the problem was. I burst out laughing. Once my hysteria subsided I proceeded to tell him how I had spent almost an hour trying to accomplish what should have taken twenty minutes because his employees and my fellow shoppers were idiots. I also noted that Annie and Joe, though I had not had the pleasure of meeting them, were sorely missed. I then begged him to “please, for the love of God” let the cashier ring me up so that I could get the hell out of there. He did not even try to defend his staff members and seemed to be, indeed, very happy to get rid of me. I can’t say as I blame him.

If my plan gets implemented it seems I will be shopping on Thursdays from here on out with the rest of the crazies! Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

3 thoughts on “Shop Wrong

  1. gpcox says:

    It’s a pleasure to meet you. I hope you will enjoy the history on my site and the wonderful people who collect there.

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  2. […] I blogged about one particular grocery store trip. This piece describes a fairly typical outing to the grocery store. Unfortunately, it did not […]

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