Monday, October 8, 2012

Characters at the grocery store

Have you noticed lately that a trip to the grocery store these days can be fraught with peril?

No, not just economic peril (though that is certainly there).  I'm talking about the kind of peril you can only be put in by clueless and/or oblivious people who treat the grocery store as an extension of their personal space, and have no idea what sort of impact they might be having on other shoppers.

This is mainly noticeable on weekends, but I have noticed this sort of thing cropping up during the week, too.  That's why this post is dedicated (in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way) to the following characters I've seen at the store:

1. The Queen Bee of Coupons.  Now, I don't want my frugal mom readers to bristle; there's nothing wrong with coupons, and in these tough economic times when most of us are trying to squeeze out our last bits of savings at the grocery store we're all inclined to want to save $0.20 here and $0.50 here (and that's before we start counting the savings from "buy this, get that free!" offers).  But the Queen Bee of Coupons is a different breed from the average mom who has a handful of coupons to use at the store.

How so?  Well, a couple of Queen Bees I saw once were shopping together to maximize their savings potential.  Each lady had a huge three-ring binder full of coupons; both would stop in each aisle and slowly page through the huge book to see if somewhere on this particular aisle something they could save money on was cleverly shelved just out of eyesight.  Finding such an item led to negotiations (e.g., "I don't need this but you do so I'll trade you my coupon for ten cents off of this item for a coupon for ten cents off of something I need..." etc.)  When the negotiations were complete the duo would proceed to the next aisle and repeat the procedure...

...on a busy weekend day, when the store was just packed.

Another Queen Bee trick is to try to use coupons for things they haven't actually bought. When the poor checker starts to ring the coupons, the coupons will trigger an alert from the computer which indicates the item hasn't been purchased.  But this is when the Queen Bee will start to fight (e.g., "Yes, I did buy that item!  It doesn't say on the coupon that this or that particular item/size/etc. is excluded, and you remember I bought this version...etc.")  After a minute or so of this (with a long and impatient line forming) the checker will often sigh and hit his "override" key on every coupon the Queen Bee has handed him, accepting the coupon whether she has bought the qualifying items or not (usually not).  Proving her wrong would mean reading all the fine print on the dozen or so coupons the Queen Bee hands over plus unbagging all her groceries to show the lack of items...and if there are grocery store checkers actually being paid enough to deal with that, I've never met one.

2. The Cart-full Dodger.  If the Queen Bee has a natural enemy, it is the Cart-full Dodger.  He or she is not in the grocery store to save money; Dodgers just want to get in, grab a week's worth of groceries, and get out again before the green light at the end of the street by the grocery store has time to turn red.  Dodgers are a peril to small children, slow shoppers (Queen Bee or not), elderly patrons, store employees, and pretty much anybody who gets in their way.

The Dodger does not know phrases like "Can I get past you, please?" or "Excuse me!"  His or her stock-in-trade is an extreme eyeroll and a sigh of impatience that stops just short of being an outright snort.  Unlike the rest of us, Dodgers have much, much better things to do with their time then buy groceries, and if you slow them down they'll make sure you know how much you've inconvenienced them.

Dodgers are at their worst in the check-out line, when they can become all but irate and will take out their frustrations on the poor checkout clerks--but they're not as difficult to deal with as the next group...

3. The Line Jumpers.  Now, nobody minds if you are at the end of a line that is moving slowly and you decide to move to the end of another line that is moving more quickly, and that sort of thing.  But the Line Jumpers are those people at the end--or, even more dangerously, in the middle--of long lines who will positively race to a newly opened checkout lane, even if the store clerk is clearly motioning to the person who is next in line (and who has, therefore, waited the longest) while saying "I can help the next person over here!"

To the Line Jumper, beating the person who is really entitled to go next to the newly opened lane is a sport--and, if necessary, a contact sport.  The Line Jumper seems to think that waiting in line to check out is for fools and slow people, and will do anything to avoid getting stuck in line, especially if he ends up behind...

4. The Recycled Bag Maven.  The Mavens are an interesting breed.  Are they strict environmentalists?  Are they just trying to save the $0.05 per bag of groceries the store will credit them for not using paper or plastic?  Are they used to shopping at Aldi (tm) where you bring your own bags--but also bag your own groceries at a separate special counter after you've paid for them?  Whatever the case may be, the Mavens aren't just using recycled shopping bags--they pull into a checkout lane with a cart full of groceries and approximately four dozen bags ranging from the little canvas ones that actually fit groceries well to large tote bags to ragged plastic bags to tiny gift bags.  And that would also be fine--really!--except that the Mavens have very, very specific ideas about which groceries should go into which bags, and will stand in the lane explaining all of that to the harried cashier, and when the bags start to fill up to the point where it is starting to look like the Maven will need one or two paper or plastic bags he or she will start telling the cashier, "No, no.  Move the frozen pizza to that other bag.  No, not the one with the ice cream; the one with the vegetables.  Just shove it in there.  That's fine.  Now put the graham crackers in with the cereal..."

Meanwhile, there's still half a conveyor-belt full of groceries belonging to the Maven waiting to be rung up and packed, but the Maven will not admit defeat; he or she will keep micromanaging the cashier until everybody else in line gives up and moves into a different line or leaves the store without buying anything.

Why did I write this post?  Well, just the other day I was behind a Maven in line at the grocery store.  As the Line-Jumpers fled and the Cart-full Dodger snorted his disgust from three lanes over, I waited for the Maven to finish.  And then she said, "Oh, I have these coupons for you to ring, too.  And even though this one doesn't specifically include this item I bought, I'm sure it was supposed to...and yes, I did buy that other item.  Don't you remember?  We put it in the bag with the purple flowers.  Here, I'll pull it back out..."

And as the cashier started hitting the "override" key, I found myself holding back a Dodger-esque snort and a Line-Jumper resolve to flee to another lane, even if it meant running over the nice family behind me to get there...

9 comments:

scotch meg said...

Oh, dear, dear. My favorite "speech" in the supermarket - seems I use it every week - is to excuse myself when I need to pass someone who is stopped in an aisle. What I say: "There's never a good place to park in here!" It nearly always gets a smile.

Sounds like you needed one on that trip.

Tony said...

Have you noticed that patience is in short supply in our society? I know I have a problem with it. I need more patience, and sometimes the grocery store is an opportunity to practice it.

beadgirl said...

Ha! I guess I'm the Cart-full Dodger (Although I'm pretty sure I preface and end my dodging with "Excuse me" and "Thank you"). But it is not because I have much, much better things to do, it is because I hate shopping. Hate it hate it hate it. And desperately want to get out as fast as possible.

Rebecca in ID said...

Wow! I don't think I've ever really seen anything quite like what you've described! I must live in an extra polite place or something? It seems to me that people are always quite gracious and personable when I'm out shopping.

Bathilda said...

I'll add the "check writer" to that. The ones who still write a check, and wait until the total is given to even start writing the date, and then they shuffle through the checkbook ledger to record the amount, all while there is a line forming. I would also add the "tourist shopper". These are found primarily in stores like Trader Joe's and Costco. They are there not for specific items, but to browse every aisle. Slowly. The tourists tend to travel in pairs holding other shoppers hostage while they oooh and Ahaaa over all the different types of goat cheese.
Then there are the mini shoppers. You know....the mini carts driven by three year olds and their mothers who aren't paying attention to the other shoppers' ankles...

Red Cardigan said...

Ooh, Bathilda, I didn't think of the slow check writers. We don't have the mini-carts in my area--when we were shopping in a different town once when my girls were little I let them use them. Once. I'm still apologizing to anybody who was in the ten-mile radius of that store that day... ;)

beadgirl said...

How about those stupid plastic cars to fit the children attached to normal-sized carts, allowing a shopper to block even more traffic? Thankfully, space is at a premium here in the city, and none of the markets I go to have those.

eulogos said...

I hate to say this, but I was probably the bane of quite a few people's shopping experience back in Baltimore 30 years or so ago, when I had to take 6, or 7, or 8, children to the store with me. Even if they were well behaved, and stayed with me, they took up a whole aisle. And I can't say they were always well behaved. When you are trying to make sure the baby in the seat doesn't flip a dozen eggs onto the floor (yes, happened) and the toddler doesn't get lost/kidnapped/pull everything off the shelves, it is really difficult to keep the three year old and the four year old from playing tag and running into people. And the older kids who were sent to find this item and that item tended to make a contest out of it, behaving in ways which beat the Cart-ful Dodger all hollow.
Thank God I had a friend, an older gentleman who worked nights and slept but little, who would sometimes shop for me or watch my kids while I shopped. Otherwise I would probably have been banned from every grocery store in Baltimore!
My apologies if anyone here was one of the people I inconvenienced while buying my two carts full of groceries.
Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Oh, Susan, as one of nine myself I *always* consider large families to be totally exempt from criticism when they are at the following places: grocery stores, banks, restaurants, churches, airplanes/trains/buses/etc., hotels, dry cleaners or laundromats, clothing stores, shoe stores, book stores, carpet and/or wallpaper stores (spent a lot of time in those as a kid myself) or anywhere else involving mundane errands or travel, *especially* if only one parent is present. :) Provided none of the children is committing a felony or engaged in acts of deliberate gross public indecency (potty-training issues always overlooked!), I think anybody who criticizes large families for Being Large Families In Public is a sour-pussed grinch whose attitude bothers me much more than the family does.