Archive for January, 2010

A Supermarket Education or “What I’ve Learned From Grocery Clerks”

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I probably spend the equivalent of two full days a month in grocery stores. To me, coupons are a legitimate form of currency and there is a certain kind of obsessive, competitive drive to my grocery shopping. I don’t care if my husband is out of coffee (I don’t drink the nasty stuff), if Folger’s isn’t on sale for $4.99 and I don’t have a coupon for an additional $1 off that can be doubled, hot tea or hot chocolate is just fine and dandy for breakfast until it does go on sale. Of course, I must add that this never happens since we have, at any given time, a full sixth month supply – all purchased on sale with coupons!

I learned about stocked pantries and grocery deals from my dad, who was the grocery shopper extraordinaire in our home. My father used to take us girls with him (there were four of us) on Saturdays to go grocery shopping. I always supposed it was because he wanted our input into which cereals and candies we would prefer he purchased. Right. Today, I realize that he was just a glutton for punishment and that my mother was blessed. Ladies and Gents. Take lessons. My father was the original liberated man.

Dad taught me that one need not limit one’s focus to one store for all grocery needs. He searched ads from all of the local establishments, compared prices and made lists. He had a tight budget and lots of mouths. But I do remember buggies full to the brim and running over. My dad also taught me, by example, to get to know the checkers, managers and service people so that a shopping experience was not only pleasant and fun, but also if any problems arose they would be dealt with quickly and cordially. One might say that I inherited the family “bargain” gene on the DNA strand of competitive shopping. The game is, “find it cheap” and the rule is…well…there are no rules except “free is best”.

Now, as the grocery shopper in my own family, I have come to realize that I continue to learn many unique truths on each excursion. The following are some of the things that I have learned. They are real. The names and dates have been omitted to protect the innocent:

1. The older you are and the younger the clerk the greater the chance that you will be called “honey” or “dear” or “sweetheart”. Live with it.


2. If there is a bathtub in the store, hooked up as a decorative fountain, there is the possibility that people from other countries may assume that it is available for real baths for their small child, and that said child may bolt from said parent, running stark naked through the store, eventually attaching to your leg for cover. (Yep, really happened)


3. Salmon comes in cans that are wider at the top and narrower at the bottom to accommodate the salmons’ little tails and big heads. (no joke – I really was informed of this by a young checkout clerk)


4. If lemons are four for $1 and you buy three lemons, if your checkout clerk is under 30, you will cause him no end of mathematical grief.


5. On a trip to Georgia, at a famous specialty grocery store – which shall go unnamed – I was enlightened by a fresh-faced, ponytailed, young man of the following: If Oklahoma is north of Texas (“It is, isn’t it?”), the reason that no famous specialty grocery store – which shall go unnamed – can be found in either state is because the trucks cannot make it over the mountains of Texas and Oklahoma. No kidding? “Oklahoma -where the wind comes whipping down the PLAIN“?

The most important things that I have learned during grocery shopping outings, however, is patience and peace. No longer do I stress in long lines. No longer do I frown at a surly checkout clerk. No longer do I tap my foot impatiently at the person in the express lane with 50 items, or the newcomer at the self-checkout who can’t figure out how to enter the Fuji apples. I have learned that a long line means time to pray for each person in that line, a surly clerk is the opportunity to offer a smile and a kind word, and a shopper operating slowly at the self-checkout is an opportunity to extend a helping hand.

Yes, grocery store shopping has taught me that life is never too short for humor, kindness and a smile. Here’s hoping that your shopping experience is a pleasant one. And I promise that salmon are quite a bit bigger than those little, pink cans.