My wife has a difficult job that consumes a lot of her time. To lighten her workload a little, I’ve begun doing most of the grocery shopping, and some of the meal preparation. I haven’t been having too much trouble planning meals, putting together a massive grocery list, wheeling a wobbly shopping cart through hordes of often inconsiderate shoppers, finding items on my list, and filling my cart. My aggravation, frustration, and slow, but steady decline into temporary insanity, arrives when I reach the checkouts to pay for my groceries.
It’s not common knowledge among most shoppers, but major grocery store chains spend millions of dollars a year to hire specially trained marketing geniuses. Their sole purpose, is to devise brilliant, but insidious ways to cajole, tempt, entice, convince, and ultimately seduce you into buying more products than you want or need. This includes the most expensive items. Why do you think, the first thing you see when you enter a store is fresh, but high-priced fruits and vegetables, expensive nuts and trail mixes, and the most outrageously priced but unbelievably delicious and decadent bakery items? On the other hand, it sometimes takes half an hour, the resources of a skilled tracker, and the sensitive noses of search and rescue dogs to find inexpensive staples like bread, milk, and eggs, at the furthest reaches of the store.
The marketing strategies developed by these food and beverage savants, reach new heights, when it comes to entering the checkouts. You may have noticed that most stores have up to twenty checkout lanes, but usually only two or three are open at any one time. Do you think this is because a few employees called off work? No, it’s a carefully planned, and diabolical means of sucking a few extra dollars out of your wallet or purse. Since I just spent thirty-five minutes waiting in a checkout line at my local supermarket; let me tell you how this works.
Have you ever waited in a checkout line for what seemed like hours, under unbelievably hot and blinding store lights, until you were close to passing out from dehydration? After finally catching a fleeting glimpse of the end of the conveyor belt in the distance, what’s the next thing you see? Yes, a small cooler stocked with high-priced, cold, frosty, and delicious sodas, juices and bottled water. It is also, just mere inches from the side of your cart, as you reach out a dry, chapped and shaking hand towards an oasis of life-giving liquids.
After finishing off a twenty-four-ounce bottle of water with a fancy French name on the label, and dumping six more in your cart, what do you see next? If you guessed, shelves full of delectable candy and breath-freshening gum, you’re one step ahead of me. If you have kids with you, I hope you put blindfolds on them before you got to the checkouts. It’s not a coincidence that shelf after shelf of confectionery delights, are directly opposite the conveyor, and tantalizingly displayed, within easy reach of tiny hands.
As you finally start to load your groceries onto the moving belt, be sure to keep a hand free to snatch up a few exiting magazines, emblazoned with pictures of aliens, soap opera stars, and Hollywood divorce announcements. I know what you’re thinking, and I’ve already noticed it to. At the inner edge of the conveyor, and six inches above it, our items that everybody wants, and can’t resist, but are rarely used. After my groceries were loaded, I had to grab a few packs of AA batteries. I also procured a toe nail clipper, some Super Glue, an air freshener, and a little bottle of that Five Hour, caffeine-infused energy drink.
I guess, I don’t have to tell you that just when you think you’re almost finished, the line comes to a complete stop. That’s because, either an elderly woman is digging in her tiny change purse for pennies, some guy can’t figure out how to use the debit machine, a middle-aged couple are meticulously loading twenty, green, environmentally friendly bags with their purchases, or someone pulled out the dreaded checkbook. What do you do while this is going on, and you’re watching your ice cream rapidly melt? Yes, you grab a few of those delicious Hersey, super-sized chocolate bars, a huge Slim Jim, and a few more packs of batteries.
Has this ever happened to you? While your groceries are slowly moving down the big, black conveyor, have you ever been almost lulled to sleep by those gentle, rhythmic beeps as each item is scanned and bagged? It almost hypnotizes you, doesn’t it? This happened to me last week, except, things came to a complete standstill when the store employee scanned an item five or six times, paused for a moment, then grabbed a phone and said those dreaded words we all hate to hear. “Price check. Price check at thirteen.”
You may have noticed from your own shopping experiences, that price checks are never simple things like loaves of bread or gallons of milk. They’re usually an obscure fruit from Central America, or some type of garbanzo bean, in the ethnic foods section. For me, they’re always some highly embarrassing item, I normally don’t buy. It’s pretty humiliating to hear a voice at 90 decibels say, “Price check at thirteen, for the extra large Depends adult diapers in the super-size container.” Okay, so I have a bladder infection. Besides, I’ve been in this darn line for about an hour, and just drank at least a gallon of water from that cooler.
You may have also noticed that price checks are always performed by a woman named Martha, who’s at least a hundred years old, was recently fitted with a pacemaker, and uses a walker? The next time you’re waiting for Martha to return, you may want to look behind you. Now glance up. No, a little higher. Chances are, you’ll see a giant of a man with his bear-like arms crossed across his massive chest, and a tattoo on his neck that says, “Redrum.” Every time I have a price-check, he or someone like him is usually right behind me in line, with eight bags of chips, and two six-packs of beer. Rarely is it a patient elderly gentleman, or a sweet old woman who looks like everyone’s grandmother.
I almost forgot about grocery baggers. Every grocery store should have a training course for new hires, called bagging 101. Here are the simple rules. Bleach does not go in with pot roast. Hot and cold food must be separated. Dog food is for dogs not people – please keep it separate. Leaking bottles of window cleaner, do not go in a bag with the delicious apple pie with the tantalizing aroma, I just pulled out of the bakery case. Finally, if you’re so dumb, you put cans of baked beans on top of bread – you’re fired!
I just got home from the grocery store, and I’m ready to make dinner. Let’s see what I have in these plastic bags. Two smashed loaves of bread, 6 cans of baked beans, 34 Hershey’s candy bars, 16 Reese’s peanut butter cups, a couple interesting magazines, 24 bottles of water, 22 packs of AA batteries, a roast that smells like bleach, multiple packs of gum, two tubs of milk shakes, that were once ice-cream, 4 sticks of gum, Super Glue, a Slim Jim, and an apple pie that doesn’t smell right. I guess I did okay. Wait, here comes my wife. What did you say honey? Did you ask, “What’s for dinner?”……… Darn those checkout lines!