Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Meijer and the chatty-cathy cashier

privacy is a relative term at Meijer, and should be used loosely. it seems to me for all of its hoop-lah and back-patting in adhering to the privacy act, Meijer is inherently un-private. open aisles, open shelves, thousands upon thousands of items that everyone can see you placing boldly(hungry-man 10,000 calorie tv dinner) or timidly(vagisil soothing creme) into your see-through cart. and if that hasn't started to unnerve you wait until you drive into chatty-cathy's check-out lane and begin to unload the pseudo-private cart onto the only other thing for people in line to look at, the conveyer belt.

being second in line at Meijer gives me an antsy feeling. sometimes I will make the most of my antsy energy by organizing the conveyer belt, hoping I can reduce the chance of the grapes being bagged with family-size cans of pork 'n beans. as I've said before, I'm not into reading the insides of the magazines, and I have a strict don't-inventory-the-first-in-line's conveyer belt policy. I'm a privacy respecting citizen. well, privacy is part of the reason, the other part is that I know if I start perusing someone else's conveyer items, I will remember something that I forgot to pick up and will just kick myself that I'm second in line with half my items on the belt and half in the cart. in short, perusing ruins the whole child-like splendor of that second in line moment.

something I've noticed about the chatty-cathies (I've pluralized for you), there's no volume control. these cashiers talk loud enough for their union supervisor to hear their friendly banter with the customer. nothing, and I mean nothing is sacred to the chatty-cathy cashier. your secrets--"ooooo, a pregnancy test!", your fears--"you realize whole milk is poison don't you?" and well, your entire personal life...

a very attractive, mid-twenties woman was in front of me on this particular Meijer experience. chatty-cathy loudly greets her and begins her monologue with the first item off the conveyer belt. it went something like this.

"Ohh, what a smart over-night bag! It's just the perfect size, did you see any other colors?" she doesn't wait for twenty-something to respond. next item, "I just luuuvvvvv, these scented candles, ooooo and what a cute hot-pink bra! I wonder if there are any in my size?"

okay, I'll admit her showcasing the bra made me turn and look, not because of the bra (I wear them every day), but because the woman in front of me is twenty-something, tall and thin and the woman mc-ing this check-out event is nearly a 5'2" michelin tire mascot! but before the strangeness of her dialogue can sink in, she picks up the matching hot-pink thong. "now this is clever! a match set, it will look so cute!" she's chatting on and on like she's evaluating a two year old's swimsuit set!

then it hits me: overnight bag, scented candles, skimpy lingerie... I can't help it, I break my own "don't peruse the conveyer belt" policy. sure enough, next up on deck is a package of trojans and a box of summer's eve! by now I am cringing for the woman in front of me. amazingly chatty-cathy goes into a name-brand versus generic discussion as she picks up the condoms and she gives the douche a good-value-for-the-money award. unbelievable.

as I watch the self-conscious woman bolt to the exit, I hear chatty-cathy blast me with, "ohh pork 'n beans! they go so nicely with, ah! just as I thought, hot dogs!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meijer and the quick sale

just like the typical capitalistic american, I like deals. if there is a way for me to make my grocery dollar stretch, I'll do it. handing over coupons at the end of my Meijer purchasing experience does not make me feel like the miserly, crotchety scrooge, just the opposite--whoever the opposite of scrooge is.

there are a myriad of ways Meijer gets me into their store. buy 1 get 1 free, 4 for $1, buy one get $.50 off per gallon gas (jackpot!), and the mother-lode of all sales, buy 1 get 2 free! a dedicated sales shopper like me gets a tingly-smug sensation when three bags of sub-par wavy Meijer chips sit proudly in the cart.

now having said all that, I feel obliged to put the brakes on all this penny-pinching whimsy before it goes too far. you see, recently I have discovered my proverbial line in the sand that I will not cross for the good deal. if my no-crossing-over "line" in the sand were words, they would spell out, "reduced for quick sale." for me, "reduced for quick sale" is just a marketing scheme to coerce buyers to shell out good money for ptomaine poisoning. but apparently, not all Meijer shoppers are savvy to the wiles of the Meijer marketing machine.

a few months ago I stumbled upon the truly ugly side of human nature in the produce section. minding my own business, I wander through the produce area knowing my final destination is the adjacent wall where all the cheese is displayed. lost in thought of baby carrots, bamboo shoots (how do you use those? raw? cooked?) I notice a small representation of the world mulling about in a group.

a bit of background info for you: Michigan is the US melting pot. we are a mix of chinese, japanese, indian, arabic, polish, russian, and german. in fact, when the polish president visited pres. Bush a few years ago, they took a trip to Michigan for him to meet with the other poland. true! and I'm very sure that if pres. Kalam of India visited Michigan and developed a hankerin' for aloo gobi and mint naan, he wouldn't go hungry.

so, here I am staring at what seems to be a quiet UN meeting near the green peppers. and that's when it happened, the towering, squeaky-wheeled, multi-shelved, reduced for quick sale produce cart gets wheeled out. showing remarkable fore-thought, Meijer sends out a very large statured man to push out the goods (or bads if you feel like me). he comes out face stern, giving the intimidating eye to the crowd, he knows not to show fear. like a knee-jerk response my UN council starts jockeying for positions. as if watching a train wreck, I am unable to divert my eyes. "let's get ready to rummm-bllllllle!" reverberates in my head.

hands flying, seven or eight languages spewing curses, shelves toppling, Meijer-sacrificial-lamb-guy shouting, "let me through, let me through." cart swaying, women in lovely silk saris snatching nearly putrid cilantro, ahhhh the horrorrr!

"forget the cheese," I think to myself as I whisk my cart away from the melee. somehow the green bananas that I snubbed earlier look pretty good.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Meijer and the Privacy Act

thus far I have signed about 43 million of these "privacy act" forms. doctors, pediatricians, ob-gyn, ear/nose/throat specialist, allergist, bank, credit union, credit card, brokerage firms, insurance(s), and of course, Meijer.

"a grocery store?" you ask in a shocked-italicized tone?


you see, because I am at Meijer every week I take advantage of the pharmacy section of the gi-normous store. I'm suddenly realizing that there are sections of Meijer that I haven't yet ventured to. the section dedicated to plant's crockery comes to mind. as does the assemble-yourself outdoor/indoor furniture section. come to think of it, I really don't hang around the camoflauge area too much (I'm more of a kelly-green gal, olive-green makes me look sallow).

so, Meijer pharmacy requires me to sign a privacy act form. I think the long and the short of these forms basically say that I'm allowed some privacy. okay, so in order to comply with the privacy act, Meijer has made some changes to the pharmacy area of the store. there are now "velvet rope" barriers (only they aren't velvet, they are nylon retractable things) that stand about 2.5 feet away from the counter with signs indicating that to insure privacy, I am not to approach the counter until I am called over. personally, I see a whole deli counter scenario coming on, but as I've said before, I'm a protocol obeying customer. if congress has declared an act about privacy, I'll play nicely.

as a matter of fact, I'm all for privacy, I'm a private person! for example, when I see friends/neighbors at Meijer, I never scan the contents of their cart. Sweet-little-mother-of-two neighbor that lives around the corner could have four cases of Absolut with a side of flavored condoms in her navy-blue metal cart and I wouldn't know it.

so all I'm asking is this, if I play by the privacy rules is it wrong for me to expect other Meijer patrons to do the same? the correct answer is...

one of my youngsters got an ear infection (I believe the pediatrician called it a raging infection). soon enough I find myself standing the required 2.5 feet behind the nylon retractable thing, waiting to catch the eye of a licensed pharmacist or the almost-licensed-lackey. after the appropriate Meijer make-the-customer-wait-time of 3 to 7 minutes, I'm waved over to the counter.

the lab coat attired lackey brings me my amoxicillin, and tells me it's indeed amoxicillin and how to dispense the med. suddenly, out of nowhere to my right I hear, "the name's dillon, I need to pick up my prescriptions." instantly the long arm of the law comes down on the poor fool. the lab coat lackey, whom I have obviously underestimated, half-shouts, "sir, you have not been called to the counter, go back behind the barrier! You are violating the privacy act!" perhaps because the lackey looked like he was approaching 16 and mr. dillon looked like he chewed up and spat out 16 year olds in WWI and WWII, he didn't even bat an eye. "I don't give a rat's a-- about this woman's amoxicillin, I don't care that she gives it twice a day and I don't give a sh-- if she has to refrigerate it!"

so here I am evaluating the score. i'm pretty sure that it's the privacy act that was bested by a Meijer crazy, not necessarily me...tough one to call.

Meijer crazies= 2.0 traci= 2.5 congress= 0

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Meijer and the Thanksgiving Day

first, I want to take this opportunity of wishing all upon this earth a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I love this holiday, ab-so-lute-ly love it! this is one of the two things I look forward to every year. so, I'm always astonished at myself when this most cherished, beloved and anticipated event sneaks up on me!

no joke, last night at 9pm I suddenly realized that I had to prepare the turkey for the smoker in the morning. 9pm! and while I am hastily pulling out the 18.74 lbs. of defrosted turkey it hits me...I have to go to Meijer! aaaggghhhh! my mental list starts to overwhelm me, aluminum foil, mesquite chips for the smoker, grapes (I had a craving), garnish to display around the turkey, lava rocks--again, the smoker, baby wipes, etc. the kicker is this, we had a snow storm last night and the roads looked treacherous. I knew my grocery jaunt to Meijer would have to be put off till morning.

so, much to my surprise, my husband tells me he is going to make the trek to Meijer for me! he purchased all the necessary items and even reported back to me the following: Jessica got pregnant to save her marriage with Nick. missing-in-Aruba-Natalie has called home from Aruba, turns out she's been with the van der Sloot's the whole time, and on this busy Thanksgiving morning there were 8 out of 32 check-out lanes open!

now that would have been a sight, 8 check-out lanes open at the same time, it truly is a day of thanks-giving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Meijer and the little act of kindness

I feel horrible. I see now it was a thoughtless, no--dangerous thing for me to do.

picture it, I'm walking through the meat section of Meijer which is the perimeter of the wine/beer area. I'm searching for the sale on ball park turkey franks and seeing if there are any deals on the oscar meyer lunchables, with the drink pouch and candy dessert. no luck on the latter. I consider asking a Meijer "meat associate" if there is a limit on the hot dogs, but only see the "liquor associate" unloading boxes in the aisle next to me.

I turn back to my cart and start pushing toward the frozen food section when I see her. a very lovely, tall-willowy elderly woman walking toward me. she is the epitome of class, style exudes from her. I wistfully hope that when I reach that age, I too will look as confident and lovely.

she sees me admiring her, I quickly smile and let my eyes flash my admiration of her style. she walks a bit closer to me also smiling when suddenly her smile turns to surprise then panic. the next thing I see are the bottom of her lovely designer loafers (no old-lady comfortable shoes for her).

I watch in horror as she falls, first hitting her backside then her head! a muffled scream of "oh my gosh!" bursts from me as I rush to help her. as I'm lifting and repeatedly asking her if she's okay, I realize that mr. "liquor associate" hasn't even turned to look at the scene, much less offer his much stronger arm.

the poor lovely woman is muttering, "it's slippery, my dear be careful it's very slippery." upon hearing this, mr. Meijer man turns and says, "the "caution slippery when wet sign" is up right there," like this somehow absolved him of showing any concern for the poor woman.

the woman is upright now, she sees the yellow tent-like sign with a graphic of a person in mid-fall. very softly I hear her say, "I didn't even notice, I was looking at her smil...," she cut-off and repeated, "it's very splippery, I didn't even notice." I helped her collect the bits and pieces that fell out of her purse, silently cursing my guilty role in her fiasco. what's the old saying? "no good deed goes unpunished?"

I'm seriously considering not smiling in public again. perhaps that is the true act of kindness.

Meijer and the union-style service

maybe where you live the grocery stores aren't unionized. lucky you. it has been my experience that when a service industry goes union, it stops being a service industry.

besides the deli counter, the only other place my shopping experience comes to a screeching halt is the check-out counter. on this particular day, I had crammed way too many errands in before I had to go pick up the kids from school. Meijer was last on my list, I sped through the usual barriers, had no run-ins with distractions (Meijer crazies), and was on to look for the shortest check-out line.

personally, I think it is cruel and unusual punishment for a grocery store to have 32 check-out bays and only schedule four people to work them at a time. with that said, you can imagine looking for a short line wasn't in the stars. still, I review my options and go for the line that has the fewest people with the least amount of items.

now, because I frequent this store often, I usually like to get in a line with a capable check-out person. they know their produce, they know where the bar codes are to scan, they know that my $12.95 per pound steak is actually on sale for $5.45 per pound. unfortunately for me, I hit Meijer that day on what I like to call, "Meijer's sink-or-swim day," aka, new cashier's first day.

it was a coin toss. do I stand in line with the older cashier waving her hands like the keypad was a hot iron poker, or do I go for the younger, hipper guy looking chilled out. what the heck, let's go for the dude.

I'll admit it. when I'm in line for awhile I read the magazine covers, but only the covers! once at church, this really uptight, zealot guy explained to me that if you pick up one of the magazines and read/skim through it while standing in line, but then put it back, you are actually stealing. "think about it," I recall him saying with earnest, "they're selling words. if you read their words and don't pay for them, you're stealing!" I like to think that I don't pick up a magazine while standing in line because I couldn't care less if Jessica and Nick are partying separately or because I couldn't care less if a woman lost 127 pounds eating chocolate. but, you know...whatever.

so, as all of these honesty vs. dishonesty issues are rolling through my mind, I suddenly realize that my line hasn't moved. I remember when I first rolled into the dude's bay I glanced at the time 2:46pm, now it was 2:56pm. I look to the head of the line to see the same woman looking peevish. she's just staring at my dude, with her eyes wide and mouth shut tight. ahead of me is a foreign (I guessed Russian) woman happily unloading her cart while chatting with her toddler, oblivious to any doom.

I look to dude's check-out light. if a cashier is having problems, or is waiting for a manager the bay's number light will be flashing. no flashes. I look at dude. He's leaning back on the metal divider completely zoned out. of course, I can't stand there all day, I've got elementary kids to pick up! I call out, "is there a problem?" dude lethargically looks at me, "frozen." I'm assuming this means some technology is frozen, I continue, "have you called someone?" "nope, just giving it some time to see if it un-freezes." I raise my ire and my eyebrows, "time? I've been standing here for 10 minutes. should I leave your line?" dude shrugs his shoulders, "do what you like." I choke out a half-laugh, "no," I get louder, "I'm asking you if you know how to fix it or should you close this lane?!" dude sits up a bit on his lounge bar, "I don't know what's wrong, I'm just gonna wait." suddenly, I get it, new- guy with a splash of union. I'm betting he missed out on some break and is now taking his god-given right to a 15 minute melt-down.

now the lady at the front of the line is getting angry too. why she didn't ask these very questions I'll never know--maybe she is used to the deli counter protocol. but the best is the Russian lady. during my conversation with dude, she is watching us as if at a tennis match. I can tell she understands just enough and starts a huffing panic as I and all the other people behind me begin to shuffle our carts, effectively fleeing the infuriating scene. you see, her entire cart is emptied onto the lifeless conveyer belt, her options are nil, she is forced to wait out dude's break time.

so here I go, furious that now I am going to be late picking up my kids. I fly by the other three open bays fixing my gaze on bay #1, the fast lane, 15 items or less. I quickly glance at my cart, oh yeah, there's at least 23 items in there. I pull in, no one in front of me, no one behind me. this next union cashier looks at my cart's items as I start throwing things onto her conveyer. "uhhh, you see my sign?" she asks with a degree of smugness that only comes from false power.

mistake. there is no way I am going to let the union get a point on my scoreboard, not when they've already cost me 15 minutes and a half gallon of melted vanilla bean specks! she shrivels while I explain this to her in a menacing low voice.

as I leave the store I am torn as to how to honestly record this. true, I beat Meijer at its attempt to conquer me via the union, however, I'm pretty sure I crossed over to the "Meijer crazy" side when I growled at the fast-lane cashier. I decide on the only decent and fair solution.

Meijer crazies= 1.5 traci= 2.5

Meijer and the grocery-rage customer

before you get the wrong impression of me, let me make one thing clear: I'm not a hateful person. I see the silver linings, I believe in the common courtesies, I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

because I am the above-mentioned, and more, I am a helpful person. I'm a little taller than the average american woman. so, at Meijer, I help the shorter people get the goods from the top shelf. I will lift the 40 pound kitty litter for the 70 year-old cat-hoarder woman. when the "buy 4 cans of corn for $1" display is in the middle of the store and not on the shelf, I will inform the perplexed customers staring at the empty, supposed-to-be-corn shelf. I'm a people helping person.

I guess that's why I am always surprised when I run into people that aren't as altruistic as me. case in point...

not so much now, but about six years ago, the Meijer aisles were very narrow. I would often skip an aisle all together because there was no room for me and my hulking cart. on this particular day I needed to buy some hair color. of course, hair color isn't the type of item that you can reach over and grab on the fly. I have to search for the brand I want, (l'oreal--yes, I believe I'm worth it!) then I have to search for the color, I'm always torn between medium brown and light medium brown (sheesh).

well, I turn the corner to where I know the hair color is located and there before me is a very large woman. now, when I say large I mean six feet tall and about three to four feet wide. LARGE! there is literally, no way I can manuever myself or the cart to look for my hair color. I decide to wait, hoping that the woman's sixth sense will take over and she will know I am behind her waiting to peruse the very section she is looking/screening.

no dice.

I try the cough, nothing. little "excuse me" squeal. nada. so, I go for the pleading, I need help tactic. it goes something like this, "sorry, but do you see the l'oreal hai..." before I could finish my plea to her humanity, this elephantine human wheeled on me, voice box blaring.

"I do not come here to be asked questions! I do not work here, I am not here to help you, I am not here to make your life easy. You move yo-self and your coughs and your questions away from me..."

I know when not to respond. there are some people that you just don't give the withering looks to, you don't roll your eyes at them, and you certainly don't tell them to go to hell.

the noise kept blaring. after the first "I do not..." I quickly turned my cart around, reassuring myself that my grey roots weren't that noticeable.

Meijer crazies= 1 traci= 2

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Meijer and the deli counter crowd

you see, I don't go to Meijer at the same time on the same day of the week. I'm there at all different times, different days of the week. so, I'm always amazed that no matter when I go, there is always a deli counter crowd.

when I grocery shop, I am there to get in and get out. it's almost like a sporting event for me, how fast can I maneuver the obstacles in the aisle? the motorized cart people, the "I'll park my cart in the middle of the aisle" people, the "I'll park my cart on one side of the aisle then position my body on the other side of the aisle and search and search till my heart's content blocking the entire aisle" people.

I'm good at these obstacles, I'm almost brazen you could say. I'm not afraid of moving unattended carts, I have no qualms about squealing cutely, "excuse me!" I can even huff a convincing "honk" when the motorized cart crowd mistakes the forward button for the reverse button. but, my olympiad dreams are dashed when I screech up to the deli counter.

it never fails. there will be five, six, sometimes even seven people waiting at the deli counter each of them obediently holding their take-a-number slip of paper. they hopefully even trustingly look from their paper to the "now serving" sign patiently waiting for their magic number to appear. meanwhile, the Meijer deli staff, perhaps two or three, are diligently shaving the Boar's head or polishing the slicer, backs turned to the silent waiting deli counter crowd. it's like a pathetic lottery, each ticket holder thinking, "maybe today I'll get that Healthy Choice roasted chicken, one pound for $3.99. oooohh, just one pound!"

yep, you guessed it, then I hit the scene. I like to play by the rules, initially. I always go up take my number, peruse the goods behind the curved plasti-glass, then after a moment, I begin. I turn to my right catch the eye of the woman with the next number and ask her in a strong voice, "have you been helped?" this question has a strange effect, some people feel a type of reverence for the deli counter and will whisper a "no", or sometimes just shake their head, almost in shame. other members of the crowd, will be sarcastic, but still quiet, "I wish" is a typical response. after I have determined that the status quo is in effect, I get louder, "we need some help over here!"

suddenly, the deli staff remember that they are indeed at work and start shouting out "now serving numbers" to the wide-eyed, expectant crowd. pleased that I have once again kept the wheels of capitalism turning, I step back and smile when satisfied customers give me a nod and a wink.

Meijer and the elderly's wisdom

a few years ago, my toddler son was sitting in the basket part of the cart. I moved our cart off to the right of the aisle, wanting to read some ingredients--gotta check for MSG! Anyway, my son stood up to see what I had in my hand, when to the surprise of both of us, loud screeching filled our ears.

"don't you dare cry!" I heard. a very old woman and her comrade shuffled over to our cart, finger a-waggin, "don't you dare cry when you tip out of that cart" she shoved her wrinkled, angry shouting face into my horrified toddler's face, "crack your head open, break your front teeth and go blind from all the blood filling your eyes!"

thunderstruck at what just happened, I was silent for a moment. the old woman and her companion turned to me, both nodding their head at me, like they had just done me a huge favor--worse than that, like I was in cahootz with them! my toddler looked to me not sure if I was in on this nightmare, looking to me for...something!

surrounded by surprised onlookers, I took a deep breathe and using my "outdoor voice" stated, "please stop shouting at my son, turn around and walk away." the old harpie was mortified. the know-it-all grin slid from her face and the companion pulled on her arm, trying to help her lick her wounds.

there is soooo much that I will put up with in life--so much that I am willing to chalk up to old age, underage, human frailty, immaturity, etc. but, I've decided that no one gets to mess with my children's minds and feel smart and smug doing it.

when the she-devils shriveled away whispering how the younger generation doesn't appreciate the years of wisdom, blah,blah,blah, I turned to my son, his fear gone and a look of gratitude that I will never forget.

Meijer crazies= 0 traci=2

Meijer and the do-gooders

my infant son and I are walking down an aisle when suddenly someone leans very close to my ear and says, "I buy those too, gotta watch my waistline." I jerk back a bit to see a 45+ year old woman smiling at me and tapping her belly. I notice that peeking from her nearly zipped jacket is a homemade, felt, lavendar-colored heart-shape with the words "Jesus loves you and me," written in purple glitter glue (why is it that I immediately assume people are insane when I see such trite messages, is it the glitter glue?)

Anyway, I nod as I'm walking away in the opposite direction down the aisle. I realize as I'm turning the corner that she's still talking to me. I ignore her. I turn into the next aisle searching for bread, crackers, lost in thought, when I hear, "he is very cute! So precious." Now, if I said she stated the word "precious" like Gollum in LOTR you would know I was exaggerating, so tone Gollum down a bit, and there you have it. Again, I nod and smile as I'm pushing the cart away from her. I decide not to push my luck and skip the next TWO aisles, surely I'll be safe from her prying eyes and hair-raising Christianity.

I'm lost in my search for TP, not realizing that the once bustling aisle is now empty--I hate the 1-ply! I blame myself for getting so wrapped up in reading the fine print for the elusive 2 ply. Once again, I hear, "He is sooo cute, haven't I seen him somewhere before." Then she arches her eyebrow and says in a loud, knowing way, "Haven't I seen YOU somewhere before?" For some strange reason, I understand her implications--she thinks she's seen me and my son on a milk carton or missing child mailer!

I feel a panic feeling rise up into my throat, suddenly trying to figure out how I'm going to prove that my son is my son and we are not on the run! If necessary do I show the police my stretch marks? Do I recount every minute of the six hours of labor for them? I'm not a photos-of-every-family-member-in-the-wallet kind of person, so I can't even produce a poignant scene of my son and I hugging and laughing.

Back to my stalker, she starts looking around for someone, when I finally decide to end the madness. "I just have one of those faces, I get that a lot." I say with curtness and a pinch of false laughter. And for some reason, I pull out my phone, give her a meaningful glare and start to dial the phone. My bluff of calling someone (who would I call the police?) worked, or perhaps she was a Luddite, afraid of the technology god that the cell phone invokes.

Meijer crazies= 0 traci=1

Meijer aka the Fish Bowl of Human Nature

it seems strange doesn't it? 

that someone would dedicate their entire blogsite to their experiences at a grocery store? 

you see, a good portion of my week is about making grocery lists, driving to the grocery store, walking around the store collecting my various needs and wants, waiting in line to purchase my precious cargo then watching them get mauled in a noisy plastic bag. 

I am at Meijer a lot. 

things seem to come up during the week that warrant yet another trip to the store.

but I digress... this site isn't just about the mundane task of shopping for food. no, it's more about human nature both good and bad, and for some reason why and/or how i get mixed up in it.