Thursday, May 15, 2008

Grocery Store Tales

The local Harris Teeter is the center of my social world. Where else can you see so many interesting people in one place doing something so ordinary as shopping for food? Of course, the local HT is a bit more of social place than most HTs because of the large deli/hot bar area and adjoining Starbucks.

Grocery store shopping like any other activity requires some acquired amount of expertise. When the newest HT opened, for example, nobody was sure where to find anything. You'd read the headers at the end of the aisles and guess that was where the item you wanted might be found. The new HT also has the oddest design for the produce section, which, depending on which door you come in, you might miss entirely. Nowadays, of course, we know the store like the back of our hands and have come to resent the obligatory "did you find everything you were looking for?" I know the employees are required to ask it but, really, can't I have it encoded into my VIC card not to ask me? (Which would also be a great idea for the annoying self check-out: encode a "don't talk to me" message so the perky voice would stay silent after she asked me to scan my VIC card.) <>

Anyway, my point about all this is that I am a fairly sophisticated grocery store shopper and usually don't make the kind of mistake I made yesterday. I stopped in for a couple of things and ended up buying shallots in addition to the easy-to-scan items. I'm fairly certain that I would have been able to find the right code for shallots...eventually, but at the time I was walking by the check-out lanes, two adjacent lanes looked like they were both in the "pay and bag" stage of the transaction. I got in one lane and then decided that the next lane would be faster. Obviously forgetting the old maxim: Whichever line you pick will be the slower line.

If I had looked more carefully at the woman in the lane I eventually chose I would have known immediately that I had chosen poorly, because she was obviously a chatter/dawdler (but going back was no longer an option because some other shopper had taken advantage of my error.)

I'm not sure what happened between the woman and the checker before I got in that line but something was up. All her stuff had been checked but none of it was in a bag. I saw, with some chagrin that she was getting ready to WRITE A CHECK! God, do people still write checks in this day and age? I also caught a fragment of her conversation with the checker that involved cash back. Needless to say, the checker went through all the rigamarole they do with checks and finally put it in the register without giving her the cash back. Normally this would not have been a big problem but she appeared to have written the check for some even amount that required the checker to make change--which, now that the register was closed--he would have to figure out himself. Any critic of today's math education will tell you that a frightening number of people CAN'T MAKE CHANGE, and this befuddled checker was in that group.

I watched sadly as not one but two other customers in the lane I had abandoned checked out and were long gone before my checker (with the somewhat unhelpful help from the check-writing lady) finally figured it out. I finally got to hand him my VIC card, totally exasperated and when he asked me if I had found everything, I just said "I sure picked the wrong lane". He apologized and I wanted to tell him it wasn't all his fault that some of it was mine for picking his lane but I wasn't feeling all that generous and left him believing that I was one of those hateful customers he probably gets every day.

Next time I'll be more vigilent...I hope.


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