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Posts Tagged ‘shopping is stressful’

Is it weird that I envy other shoppers’ relationships with the cashiers at my grocery store? It’s probably a little weird, right? Sometimes I am waiting there with my items on the belt as the person ahead of me pays for her groceries, and I catch little clips of her conversation with the cashier… and some people seem to know so! much! about each other! Like they’re old friends, talking about their aging mothers or their new babies or a college-age child coming home for the weekend.

How does a person get to be that familiar with a person she sees for five minutes once a week? (Or more. My in laws are in town and that plus Extra Birthday Baking I’ve been doing for Carla means that I’ve been to the grocery store A Lot lately.) There are members of the grocery store staff that I recognize – like Dan the fish guy, who gave Carla about 50 samples of fish one Saturday before very kindly telling her that this was the last one, okay?, because he needs to save some for other people (I should have stopped her after sample 1, but it was a food that she liked that didn’t come in a package and end in ­–able, so I kept my mouth shut). Or the super nice lady behind the prepared foods counter, with whom I once in a fit of bravery exchanged names, but whose name I then promptly forgot and have never remembered because she doesn’t wear a name tag and obviously I am not brave enough to ask her again. Or the cashier who is really terrific at fitting every single thing into the exact number of bags I have no matter how much junk I’ve loaded into my cart. Or the guys who load my bags into my car, and who are always super nice to Carla (seriously, they have been so kind to her I have sent positive comments to the store manager). But I barely know their names, let alone any details of their personal lives.

(My grocery store is pretty great. I have only ever had three negative experiences with the staff there. One is with a different, non-Dan fish guy who has NO IDEA how to butcher a fish properly and leaves scales all over the fish he cuts for me. Yuck. And ALSO, probably because he is not a good fish butcher, he made a snide comment about how lucky I was that he was removing the skin from my salmon because most stores charge for that. No one had ever once told me that wasn’t a thing a could ask for at the fish counter! And yes, I DO appreciate that they do it, and do it for free! Blah! Thanks for making me feel guilty about something I have asked for literally hundreds of times!!! This is the most privileged paragraph in history! My Coping Mechanism has been to refuse to buy fish when he is on duty. The other was with a cashier who kept insisting that I could – and should – get Carla a free cookie one afternoon because Carla was crying. Crying because she was not allowed to have the free cookie, the eating of which had been contingent on her good behavior during the shopping trip. “Awww! She wants a cookie!” * heaving sobs * “I know she does, but we’re not getting a cookie today.”  * pitiful sniffles * “You can get one right over there!” * wailing *  “Yes, I know, but we’re not getting a cookie today.” * enormous tears * “But they’re free!” “She can’t have a cookie.” * louder wailing *)

Whatever. Maybe more in-depth relationships with my local grocery store staff will come, after I’ve been shopping there for a few decades. Or maybe my relationship level is perfect as is. I don’t know – it can go too far the other way, I suppose.  There’s a checker at my Target who is WAY too overfriendly. She could be the inspiration for that old Kristen Wiig Target Lady sketch on SNL. She’s always commenting on my purchases and asking me where I got them and what I’m going to do with them. And while I am not averse to the occasional curious question or comment – I mean, if you just bought the exact brand of nail polish I am buying, I would love to hear how it looks out of the bottle – this particular checker comments on Every. Single. Item. The last time I saw her, we had a long conversation about couscous and what to serve it with and she also praised my choice of wrapping paper and then asked me if I like the eye drops I was getting. It’s very tedious and I don’t think the people in line behind me appreciate it too much.

Worse than the running commentary is that she makes these vague upsetting references to her life that I don’t know what to do with. Like she’ll say, “How are you today?” and I’ll say, “Fine! How are you?” And she’ll say, “Well, as good as can be expected, I guess.” And then at the end of our transaction, I’ll say, “Have a great day!” and she’ll respond despondently, “I doubt that I will, but thanks anyway.” And she’s been even more gloomy than that, with broad sweeping comments about how life certainly isn’t fair for everyone is it. And I just don’t have any idea how to respond! Am I supposed to ask, while the line grows behind me, while Carla gets more and more antsy, what’s going on with her? Part of me wants to take her out for coffee and let her vent for an hour. And the other part of me wants to say, “We are not close enough for you to say things like that to me!”  My strategy so far has been to listen to whatever she is saying and nod empathetically and then say, “See you next time!” as I leave. On a human level, I want to be kind to her and help her in any way I can. But on a reality level, I don’t have the bandwidth to be a stranger’s support system. (Are there any little, low-bandwidth kindnesses I can extend to her… without being condescending or overly familiar?)

This whole long build up is all to say that I already have anxiety surrounding my interactions with the staff at my grocery store.

So the other day, I put the divider on the conveyor belt to separate my groceries from the person before me. The cashier was still scanning the items for the person ahead of me. But she smiled at me and said, “Hello!” And I smiled and said hello back. A minute or so later, as I was finishing unloading my cart, she handed the prior shopper her receipt and looked at me and said again, “Hello! How are you? Where’s the little one today?” in this super cheerful way. Everyone at the grocery store loves Carla. And so I smiled at her and said, “I’m good! Carla’s at camp today. How are you?” And reached into my cart for the last bag and in doing so saw the person behind me to whom the cashier was actually speaking.

Then of course I had to endure the shame and humiliation of THAT as she rang up my entire cart of groceries and asked me again — me, this time — how I was, and instead of responding — AGAIN — to her pity question, I kind of shrugged and smiled and said NOTHING.

And then I burst into flames.

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You would think that Target would be a little more lenient, considering that I cannot walk out of it without spending $100. I once spent $75, and felt TRIUMPHANT.

Anyway, I am annoyed. And it is such a LITTLE annoyance that I feel annoyed that I am annoyed. It’s like the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” of annoyances. Does that even make sense? Possibly not; chardonnay.

We had a coupon – FROM Target, which helpfully sends out little booklets of all the things you need and don’t with 25% off here, 15% off there – that was something off bananas. It was something like 20% off bananas. Which already is nothing, because Target bananas are something like $0.18 per. But we eat a lot of bananas around here, and by “we” I mean my daughter and husband because I will not touch a banana with a ten-foot pole. Unless I’m buying one at Target, apparently.

But we had the coupon; we needed bananas. Why not save a few cents, right? The coupon, if I remember correctly, said something like “20% off bananas.”

Wouldn’t you think that means ALL the bananas you choose to buy? If you buy ten bananas, that would be 20% off all ten. This was my assumption.

But no.

The computer – it wasn’t the checker; he rang up all my items and then fed my coupons into the system in a big batch at the end – chose ONE banana – a $0.19 banana – and took $0.04 off that banana. Resulting in a savings of – yes, math fans! — $0.04. Four. Cents.

Okay! So the FULL batch of bananas I purchased was $0.38. Total. For three bananas. I am aware that the math in this post may not be “accurate” per se. But! If the coupon had applied to ALL the bananas, as it should have, we would have saved EIGHT CENTS. That is double the amount we actually saved!

I recognize that I am annoyed by four cents! It is stupid! But it is NONETHELESS ALSO STUPID for Target to have prevented me from saving those four cents!

I think what’s really chapping my lips is that my LAST trip to Target was so awful. It was one of those afternoons where Carla was Losing It and yet I had a bunch of Must Haves on my list (toilet paper, for one; and half-n-half, which may not strike you as a staple but IS). And I was already irritated because Target has stopped carrying my favorite shampoo. And because the layout of the toiletries is so weird that I had to walk sixteen aisles with an older woman who was SCOURING the shampoo and soap aisles for body wash and Could Not Find It because the body wash section is sixteen aisles away. And because, as usual, my Target didn’t have enough cashiers to handle the number of shoppers ready to check out.

At the holidays, my Target was a CHAMP at dealing with this. They know how to do it. They had a point person sending shoppers to the appropriate checkout station. They had billions of checkers ready to check out the shoppers. They were On Top Of It.

But on a normal Wednesday afternoon? They had two checkers and the shoppers were backed up ten to fifteen deep I AM NOT EXAGGERATING and so Carla and I had to wait in a line forever. So by the time we got to the actual checker, Carla was dee oh enn ee DONE and I was right there with her.

Of course, I’d brought a pile of coupons with me, in the ever hopeful quest to spend under $100. And of course, I was super self-conscious of my coupons, because of the ninety people (okay, THAT is an exaggeration; it was maybe five) lined up behind me. And the coupons were being finicky. Like, even though the Target coupons usually say “one Target coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon per customer,” only the one was ringing up per item. And the checker was doing them in the order of the pile, not in order of amount saved. So if I had a manufacturer’s coupon for $1.50 off body wash, plus a $0.75 Target coupon, and she rang up the Target coupon first, I would miss out on the biggest savings. Oh GOURD this is the boringest post ever. I think I corrected her the one time I noticed it, but she could have done it more times because did I mention I was trying to prevent a WILD RACCOON from leaping out of the shopping cart? It’s difficult to keep an eye on the raccoon AND on the register simultaneously. Then there was a Target coupon for $1.00 off “three packs of Trident.” Well, I grabbed the very same three-pack of Trident pictured on the coupon, and the coupon didn’t ring up, and the checker said, “You needed to buy THREE” and threw the Trident that I bought ONLY BECAUSE I HAD THE COUPON into my bag. And I didn’t argue (raccoon).

This is where things went fuzzy. The raccoon went into overdrive on the Flinging Herself From the Cart activity. And the checker had to call someone else over to consult with her on one of my coupons — a coupon, if I am not misremembering, for contact lens solution that was so good it (the coupon) was the sole reason I was buying the contact lens solution, and would NOT buy it if the coupon didn’t work. (It was something like $8 off.) It wasn’t ringing up for some reason, and instead of just saying “SCRAP THE SOLUTION!” I said something that made the checker call for coupon reinforcements.

So there I was, sweaty from preventing my child’s self-inflicted diving-to-the-Target-floor death, and feeling more and more frantic as the line behind me piled up, the other shoppers doing that blank-faced weight-shifting that shows barely-concealed impatience and rage. And the checkers needed to for some reason give me a Target gift card (which seemed reasonable; they always have these promotions where if you buy three of something you get a $5 gift card), but then they were taking it back, and then giving it back, and the whole ordeal was taking SO LONG that I wanted to shove my cart into the rack of US Weeklys as a diversion and get the hell out of there.

And when I got home, my husband reviewed the receipt and found out that the checker had CHARGED ME for the $5 gift card.

So. Target. You are on my list.

Barney Stinson

Photo from EntertainmentWeekly.com

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