Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Meijer and the Thanksgiving Day Eve

the funny thing about human nature is that more often than not, it will surprise you. that's a pretty startling realization for someone like me. I mean after 9 years of "living la vida Meijer" and 30 postings of the Meijer Chronicles, I thought I'd seen all the intricate/chaotic prisms human nature had to offer. tonight is my one year anniversary of starting the Meijer Chronicles and it is the eve of Thanksgiving Day. as is my tradition, (tradition gives a better image than "harried mom trying to pull things together at the last minute") I made my Thanksgiving Eve jaunt to Meijer.

there's really no other way to put it, I wasn't prepared for this evening's Meijer experience. oh, I was prepared to encounter the Meijer-induced headache, the crowds, the crazies, etc. what I wasn't prepared for was the Norman Rockwell-esque scenes that I happened upon throughout the store tonight.

I wasn't prepared to see long-grey haired child of the sixties man give in to his granddaughter when she asked for crunchy Jif peanut butter instead of the organic non-Jif peanut butter for tomorrow's peanut butter chocolate pie.

I wasn't prepared for orange juice Meijer associate worker to smile at me when I asked if he knew where bread crumbs were, and then give me the correct aisle.

I wasn't prepared for early 20's girl on her haunches reaching to the back of the bottom shelf, handing off a third bag of rolls to her husband when suddenly, the rolls ran out. she swore while looking at her list, and choking back frustration said, "we need one more bag." I could tell that this one bag was about to do her in--the "perfect day" ruined. what a tender scene to see her husband kneel down next to her, rub her back and reason that, " so and so doesn't eat carbs, and I don't need any rolls either..."

I wasn't prepared to see goth-girl and all her myriads of piercings, tattoos and black fingernails reaching for allspice, poultry seasoning and pumpkin pie filling.

Yep, Rockwell-esque.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Meijer and the police fund

end of june 2006
my almost 11 year old found an i-pod in a discarded shopping cart in the Meijer parking lot. since he is an honest almost 11 year old, he told me about it instead of pocketing it and possessing it on the sly.

yep, he's one of the good guys so it naturally follows that with Meijer's help, he finishes last...

unbelievably the customer service desk was empty of frustrated customers, allowing us to walk straight up to bearded Meijer associate and turn over the i-pod (with the translucent pink covering) to the official Meijer "lost and found." as it turns out, any and all lost valuables discovered at the superstore are relegated to a pull out drawer under the customer service desk. and no, my friends, there is no combination lock, no pad-lock, and certainly no glowing-green hand print recognition pad. curious about the future of said i-pod, I ask the associate what the policy was regarding found objects.

"if the owner doesn't claim this in 30 days, it will be yours." I gave the associate my husband's card with our home phone on the back and walked away.

beginning of october 2006
looking at my shopping list, I realize I need to purchase some stamps at the customer service desk. while I'm waiting in line behind the lady trying to return the outdoor turkey fryer--"yes it's greasy because I used it once and I had to season it, and then I discovered that it didn't work right, so I want my money back"--I recalled that the status of the found i-pod was still a mystery to me. after I secured my stamps, I offered a quick explanation and description of the translucent pink cover, the associate pulls open the drawer and pulls out the i-pod. stunned and a little excited I cry out, "that's it!" now it was her turn to be stunned. she stood there with the i-pod held up a little high and pulled away from me, like I was a large dog climbing her body for the desired scooby snack. she turned to her right and then her left, searching for a Meijer associate backup.

seeing that there is some concern/confusion on her part, I explain that last June, blah, blah, blah, and that the guy said after 30 days, blah, blah, blah. there, I thought that should clear things up, I've just regurgitated their policy back to them--end of concern/confusion.

she makes a mad dash to the black phone.

after a conversation of "uh-huhs," head nodding and searching through a battered spiral wide-ruled notebook, she hangs up the phone, places the i-pod back in the drawer and says, "you can't have it" and looks over my shoulder and nods to the next customer to step up to the desk. before guy trying to return an opened bag of tidy-whities can plead his case I ask, "did I misunderstand your policy? I thought if it was unclaimed after 30 days, we could have it." obviously, after her phone "conversation" this associate feels very secure about her new found power, shaking her head she states lock-jawed, "yeah, you misunderstood, after 30 days it goes to the police." she now pulls the opened bag of undies from guy behind me and asks for his receipt.

I'm pretty sure this means I've been dismissed, or should I say dissed?

I walk away from the desk, a little befuddled. there's a remnant of logic trying to swim through the swell of information/attitude that associate has just deluged me with. logic hits the surface of my sea-foamed brain just as I pass the greeter, "ah-ha!" I blurt out, while startling the greeter. I turn and ask to talk to the store manager, supervisor, tzar--whatever the title.

head honcho shows up and gets the whole story, and I add that the i-pod has been in the lost and found for three months now. he begins his reply with a slight wave of his hand across his body, just like Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars I, (no joke) as he says, "I understand the situation, but I can't give you the i-pod." you have no idea how close I was to saying, "I'm Toydarian, foolish Jedi mind tricks won't work on me," but decided the tzar probably had no sense of humor. instead I replied, "I understand this policy, after 30 days...or 60... or 90..." I add mischieveously, "you turn the object in to the police, can I go to the police and make a claim as the finder of the object?"

"No," again he shakes his head, "the police claim the object and auction it off for their police fund."

I can't stop myself, "the police get rewarded?! so, my son, the honest boy, the one that found the object, to whom was told by your associate that he could claim the object after 30 days, this same boy gets to learn a lesson on honesty and patience that rewards the police, who neither found the object nor has been patiently waiting?" he nods, and quickly walks away from me--the borderline, about to go-over-the-edge Meijer crazy.

up until this point, I thought I had given up on elementary school playground law. you know, "finders keepers," "possession is nine tenths of the law" and "you can't change the rules in the middle of the game," but right about now, they seem to be the only common sense out there.

my son wasn't devastated, he wasn't bitter. he's taken his honesty lumps and moved on. maybe, just maybe good guys don't finish last.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Meijer and the silence of the crazies

it seems that this Marsha Meijer makeover isn't one of those outpatient, recover over the weekend types. this recovery is a doozy. I think we're on week 6 right now. things are looking tight and pulled together in some areas, while even more areas are still sporting the plastic, ceiling to floor surgical drapery, giving a definite "we'll get to that problem area soon" feeling. the entire store is turned upside down, inside out, topsy-turvy, (any other madcap images?) and willy-nilly. (tee hee, snuck that one in for my Southern friends.) now, for, let's say, an amateur Meijer shopper this might be frustrating and confusing--but for a veteran professional such as myself, this Meijer muddle is a blessing in disguise.

sure, even as a professional shopper I wish the new hot pink faux lambswool back-support cushion inventory stacked in the aisles would get shelved and I could do without the worry of watching supposed-to-be-refrigerated-food sweating on a palette in aisle 14, but these negatives aside, there are a few perks.

staying true to my capitalist roots, the first perk is money, cha-ching! Meijer management is everywhere discounting meat, produce, cheese and nearly all other essentials. I like to call them the "pardon our dust" discounts. this little perk is keeping my family filled with the USDA suggested requirements of fruits, vegetables, dairy, New York strip steak and baby back ribs. then, as if that isn't wonderful in and of itself, when I check out--feeling smug about my obvious steak dinner with all the trimmings--I get a coupon telling me that my loyalty to this Meijer makeover will be rewarded to the tune of $5 off my next grocery bill.

wooo hooo!

are ya' green with envy yet? not quite? read on my hard to impress friend, read on...

to me, (a veteran of the Meijer grocery experience) the most important perk of all is the silence of the crazies. let that sink in for a minute--no crazies for the past 6 weeks! admittedly, I do not have the scientific data to support my theory, but I believe the Meijer makeover chaos has compromised the crazies' infrastructure, they haven't been able to adapt yet!

the guy who sniffs corn on the cob like it's a fine Cuban cigar is silently staring at the newly located Brach's bulk candy, probably wondering where he is going to get his next cob fix. the typically cantankerous pharmacy patrons are now quietly standing behind the remains of the red-taped privacy line, (ignoring the tiny, handwritten sign informing them of the new pharmacy location) hoping the great Pharmacist of Oz will throw back the plastic drapes and reveal a staff with a heart and a brain. even the frenetic mini-Bonaparte brats are at a loss as to when and where to throw a candy tantrum. nearly everyone else is wandering the superstore craning their necks, brows furrowed in concentration/frustration, and mouthing the words "where is...?"

basically, what all this means for a worn out Meijer veteran like me is that I can now indulge in a quiet shopping experience--even the tunes of yesteryear are squelched. despite all the physical disarray at Meijer, I'm sure (if I had the faintest idea how) I could silently slip into a yoga meditative state.

ohm. makeover. ohm.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Meijer and the Marsha makeover

beauty is only skin deep.

remember that little gem--oh, and the grass is always greener on the yadda, yadda--those little pearls will be important for this entire posting. umm, you better add be careful what you wish for.

as you know, I've experienced the Marsha sisterstore. I was wowed, awed and nearly tongue-tied when I happened upon the Marsha Meijer oasis a few towns away from my own crazy, uncooth Jan superstore. yes, the cobalt blue, freshly-pressed, cotton button-downs have haunted me as I waited in line transfixed by the obese Jan associate's fuzzy navel bulging from an overstretched, faded Jan associate "uniform."

imagine my little heart's delight when the railroad containers of construction equipment suddenly appeared in the west parking lot! the hopes, dreams, and so on, of my inner soul were finally coming to pass--Jan was getting an extreme Marsha makeover!

the makeover has been dramatic--black and yellow construction tape cordoning off bare, delapidated shelving. entire sections of the store have been moved, a kind of tummy tuck if you will. last season's cat-sick beige linoleum tiles have been ripped from the floor and tossed aside in a devil-may-care fashion. entirely new general merchandise sections have been added (obviously implants), that will undoubtedly add to the perkiness of the entire store. well, once the swelling has gone down and the bruising has faded. so, on the whole I have been delighted with the prospects of a Marsha store to hang in. my coolness status is going to ratchet up now that I'm in a Marsha zip code.

yeah, or so I thought. let's review what "Confucious say" at top of posting, or was that Aesop? Plato, Aristotle? whomever, the point is that those historic, italicized cliches up there have caused a major set-back in my Jan to Marsha makeover fantasy. during this makeover I have come to the painful realization that under the cool, mod, groovy Marsha exterior, is the whiny, petty, frumpy soul of Jan. the employees are the same chatty, rude, union-righted employees. the deli counter still propigates the back-turned silent treatment, the pharmacy still enacts the 3-7 minute rule and Meijer crazies still skitter around looking for "fruit2O, you know that healthy water." my fantasy has quickly turned into some horror scenario where an unholy, frankenstein-esque creature has been created called (duhn, duhn, duuuhhhnnn)--the Marshan!!!

be careful when you wish for the greener grass on the other side because after all, beauty is only skin deep.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Meijer and the rabid shopper

it's pretty safe to say I'm not into sensationalism. yep, pretty say. I'm not into urban legends, not into e-mails demanding boycotts and I don't propigate the earth spinning out of control theory. nope, just a low-key, even-keeled kinda gal. can you feel the "but" moment about to happen? oh yeah, it's out there...

but, several months ago, here and there, I started getting unsolicited advice from my fellow Meijer grocery customers that began to gnaw at me. typically, I like to ignore grocery store banter, but the "what if" game started to take hold of my common sense. for instance, what if the granola-ish lady who nearly climbs into the dairy refrigerator searching for a container of cottage cheese with a "best if used by" date at least two weeks away, is right? and just down a few cooler doors, what if the elderly woman rifling through large, extra large and jumbo eggs looking for the perfect dozen without any "stress marks," is justified? and for that matter, what if the asian man poking the red meat to see if it bounces back, has a point?

gradually, I have become the shopper cleaning the tops of canned goods--gotta check the seals and make sure there is no vermin residue. I'm searching bags of bread checking for vermin gnaw marks (actually that one wasn't advice but experience--cue shivers). I wash cantaloupe in the timed produce spray in case any e coli bacteria is on the rind and then gets transferred to my hands. if you see a woman triple bagging a chicken (well first she's making sure the skin is white not yellow, darn that incandescent lighting!), stop and say hello to me.

without them realizing it, children of Meijer customers have influenced my purchases. after hearing a child screech "there's flies inside the donut display!" I now buy our saturday sleep-over-party-donuts in manufactured sealed containers. the mucas-crusted, coughing, just tall enough child spewing his two weeks worth of virus all over the taster table has forever made me shun such free-love germ fests.

see that's how it happened, that's how I became a rabid shopper. it starts with the little conversations offering advice and/or whisperings of dire warnings. it's fair to say that this evolution has been a life changing experience. you see, before the sensational stories and experiences I was zoomin' through the superstore, tossing a pound of butter into the cart without checking the date, grabbing pre-cut carrots without scrutinizing the "slimy" factor, and loading up on gallons of milk like there's no tomorrow. but not anymore. those carefree days are over. now I'm spending an hour even and hour and a half at the blankety-blank store!

am I justified with all this rabid behavior? I thought so, until I read an article about a medical journal publishing the effects of living a life that is too germ free. it seems that the rise in allergies, resistance to antibiotics and general malaise could all be linked to--you guessed it--the rabid shopper.

free mini-cup of Meijer fruit cocktail anyone?

Meijer and the love pump

despite the title this post isn't x-rated. (cheeky monkeys! tee hee hee!)

my attitude at the Meijer gas station is the same as the superstore: get in, get out. however, my reasons differ; at the superstore I'm trying to get a painful chore, aka, grocery shopping, over with as soon as conceivably possible, sort of like ripping off a band-aid. I rip through the gas station more out of a basic belief in common courtesy, I am fully aware that people are waiting for my space and do my best to oblige. so, with this mindset, it never occurred to me that other people may have other motives for pulling into the self-serve station.

I've started pumping $2.46/gallon worth of gasoline into my odyssey. my brain is triggering my stomach to heave as I calculate my possible gas total. suddenly, my shock induced dry heaves are halted by a woman's voice just behind me, "excuse me, how do you do this?" I turn and see a woman waving her credit card trying to get the attention of the man on the other side of my pump. the man looks over at her, "you have to put your card in that slot, then pull it out." he says. "could you show me?" whimpers she. "sure" he walks over. "also, how do I get the gas in?" she asks in a "I'm-just-a-damsel-in-distress-that-needs-a-big-strong-man" coo.

"unbelievable," I mutter. forgive my cynicism but, since this isn't 1931, nor do we live in saudi arabia, and she can obviously read (an assumption, I know, but owning a car and a credit card supports it) how can she possbily not know how to pay for and/or pump gas?

he shows her the ins and outs of the gas pump and adds, "don't tell your husband this." "oh, I'm not married--divorced." she firmly states. "he always took care of these things." with a rogue-ish voice he says, "wow. you look so young to be divorced." she agrees, "yeah, it has been tough..." voice trailing pitifully. upon hearing this banter I stole a better look at the two. bingo! my dangling question answered and transparent Love Boat plot revealed. you see the woman was cute and the man good looking, driving an even more "hunky" car.

get it? good. now, no more interruptions.

after some more meaningful exchanges, I hear, "here's my business card, with my personal cell number. for the next time you need to get gas" he adds cleverly. "thanks," she giggles. I take my receipt, shaking my head in disbelief and earnestly trying to squelch the desire to sing the words to the Love Boat theme song.

pardon me Shakespeare but, frailty, thy name is man!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Meijer and the avacado aficionado

avacados are on sale at Meijer, two for $2. I make my move.

a mid-fifties woman is occupying the "sweet-spot" (the area directly in front of the whole display) so I maneuver my cart and myself to the side of the display and reach in a bit to start searching for two beauties. almost immediately I hear a man's foreign accent ask, "how do you eat those? I try to peel and bite like fruit, no good. not fruit."

in a dramatic huff the avacado aficionado, (disguised as the mid-fifties woman) unleashes her education upon the poor foreign avacado-newbie. "technically, they are a fruit" she begins. she then delves into the intricacies of opening an avacado and removing the large seed inside. this is followed up by a detailed lesson into the health benefits of avacados when newbie questions the fat content. satisfied with that he asks "how to know which one to pick?" she quietly laughs, "that's easy, these have stickers on them telling you they are 'ripe'."

this advice surprises me a bit, because every avacado in the bin is labeled "ripe." basic statistics tells me that the odds of them all being ripe are not in aficionado's favor. besides, during this conversation I have been diligently squeezing ripe-labeled avacados that felt more like major league baseballs. "chalk one up to the Meijer marketing team," I think to myself.

newbie is heartened and manages to ask his most basic question again, "how do you eat?" this brings an excited smile to aficionado's face. "you should slice them very thin and gently lay the slices on toast. I use seven grain--no butter." my eyebrows raise, I've never heard of this recipe and it seems a little out there. I guess I would have chosen something a little more mainstream to introduce a person to avacados. foreign newbie frowns and replies, "I do not use toast." aficionado stops smiling and stammers, "well I guess you could also put them in a salad some tomatoes, onion, green pepper with a little oil and vinegar." clearly this is not her official preference. again, foreign newbie shakes his head, "I do not use lettuce." aficionado shuts down in a fluster of sputters, "well, I--uh,"

for some strange reason (maybe out of frustration for the whole conversation and the desire to hear it end quickly) I feel the need to offer a suggestion, "there's always guacamole and chips!" my "quirky/fun-loving voice" chirps out. they both turn to me, foreign newbie smiling, aficionado looking horrified and at the same moment they each respond: newbie says, "I like chips!" while aficionado declares, "that's the worst thing you could do to an avacado!"

the analytical portion of my mind wonders how guacamole could be the worst thing...except for the lettuce bit, isn't guacamole the same ingredients of the salad she just described? before I can brazenly challenge her strange comment newbie asks me for more information as aficionado shakes her head in horror.

"all you do is smash a very ripe avacado with a fork and mix in some salsa, little lemon juice and a pinch of salt. use some tortilla chips, or (as I sum up his ethnicity) pita chips, baked naan or flatbread and dip into the guacamole. it's easy!" I declare in a kindergarten-ish kind of glow. my whole explanation is laced with aficionado "tsk-ing", sighing out "nooo" along with a worrisome shake of her head. she finally interjects sternly, "avacados should not be smashed." like a naughty child pushing the buttons of an exasperated mother I turn to foreign newbie and offer, "another option is to just put everything in a blender and mix it that way." that mental scene seemed to intensify aficionado's overly delicate sensibilities.

finally finding the ripe avacados that I need for my quacamole feast, I leave the stand with aficionado whispering to newbie, "she's wrong, don't use avacados that way!"

before the comment box is filled with avacado recipes and/or little blue links to the "proper ettiquette of avacado living" allow me to be completely honest, I hate avacados. the only way I can stomach them is smashed into salsa and piled on a chip. if that makes me some sort of avacado brute, then so be it.

viva la guacamole and pass the chips!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Meijer and the five o'clock shadow

I can hardly believe it, nevertheless, it is true. what's that saying? fact is stranger than fiction? it hadn't occured to me until I was actually in the superstore that I realized the bizarre truth. I have never been in Meijer at five o'clock in the evening, and I hope I never will again.

In my area, five o'clock post meridian is the psycho traffic time and I deliberately choose to stay at home, away from anything even remotely connected to major crossroads. but, just as "mother said there would be days like this," I found myself in Meijer's parking lot relishing the front row space. I held my daughter's hand as we half-jogged across the thoroughfare when I realized there were no cars waiting for us to cross. A strange feeling swept over me and I glanced back to really examine the parking lot. It was nearly empty, well for a superstore. carts were askew between lampposts and cart corrals. empty Starbucks cups were rolling half circles back and forth, and wind-filled Meijer emblazoned grocery bags were tumbling past, seemingly whispering, "ghost town. ghost town."

did you like that bit? I like to call that i-mag-er-ry.

my brain was doing high-fives that all indications pointed to an empty store. I indulged in all the possibilities as I walked through the automatic doors; no deli lines, no crazies, no electric scooters, and maybe, just maybe, no check-out lines! giddiness bubbled up from my toes like a new freshly opened bottle of 7-up. (tickles my nose, tee-hee!)

thus far my Meijer morning, mid-morning, and afternoon greeters all had the same script. forced smile, brief eye contact, appropriate greeting, then extend arm to offer the week's sale ad. however, one look at the five o'clock greeter and all too quickly the 7-up bubbles popped leaving me with an aspartame after-taste. my brows furrowed when the greeter looked up from grooming her nails, gave me a little head nod and said, "hey."

"strange," I thought. but no bother, I've got the whole produce section to myself! my heretofore battles with fruit stand statues (people who peruse all day long in the exact spot I want to be), broccolli hoarders and grape eaters were of no concern to me today. I sidle up to the white flesh peaches (loooove 'em), excited to start pickin' through the offerings. upon closer inspection I realize there are about a dozen peaches and their flesh is more like bruised brown with a ring of fluffy mold. "pass on the peaches," I decide. I push my cart around the entire produce section and see the same scenarios in each area: apples have lost their waxy shine, the bananas' crescent slivers of sunshine look more like bunched forest fire victims, and the plump organic tomatoes on the vine have been, well...violated.

it's the same strangeness throughout the entire store. display tables usually stacked neatly with folded jersey knit shirts are now disheveled, making the shirts look like they put up a pretty good fight. scads of Meijer brand yogurt tipped higgledy-piggledy, audaciously mingling with their Yoplait french cousins--twice removed. a large package of feminine pads are chilling with Meijer brand buffalo wings and the half moon magnifying spectacles are all teetering precariously pointing up, down and sideways. kitty litter in aisle 11 has made some sort of whacked-out zen garden retreat, and a lone lobster sits in a tank littered with thick rubber-bands tapping out s.o.s. on the glass.

well, maybe not s.o.s., but do you see the pattern? like some sort of last surviving person in a body-snatcher movie I make my way to the completely empty check-out area. the male cashier was in a "wakeful sleep," eyes zoned out staring at the blank computer screen in front of him. I load the conveyer up a little loudly, hoping he'll wake up and start checking my items before I have to slap him out of his trance. He suddenly takes a deep breath and starts rubbing his face to wake himself up. "sorry," he says too loudly, "I've been here since 7:00 this morning, working a 10 hour today, I should be going home any minute now." his hands work their way across his jaw line, "hey, I've got a five o'clock shadow!" he cries out "and it's just after five o'clock!" he finds this waaay too funny, but I smile and nod.

as I leave I watch the new shift come out, relieving the bleary-eyed 10 hour shifters. I notice tables are tidied, fruit boxes replaced and greeters loading up on ads. in effect, the whole superstore is getting a much needed shave.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Meijer and the Marsha sister-store

the wave of guilt has crashed upon my shore. when I get in these situations, experience has taught me that the only thing to do is confess. I went grocery shopping at a Meijer sister-store, not my neighborhood Meijer.

it was innocent enough--I had an appointment on the other side of two towns, I had a list, I saw the Meijer, I pulled over. no premeditation, no malicious intent...but what I experienced may possibly impact my grocery commute and my gasoline budget, forever! (cue ominous organ music playing duhnt, duhnt, duhhhh)

this sister superstore was amazing! it opened onto a spacious and clean produce section with an airy open eatery section next door. this store was organized in a logical manner, everything I looked for seemed to jump out at me and scream "here I am, choose me!" the decor was fresh, stylish, with the new Meijer font everywhere, even on store-brand packaging.

after making yet another "I-can't-believe-this," comparison between this store and my now passe Meijer, I felt like a stereotypical, male-teenage tv character who suddenly discovers his girlfriend has a more hipper, cooler older sister and is now waaaay too eager to ditch frumpy immature sister. that's when the immortal complaint of Jan Brady shot through my head; "Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!"

I could feel the loyalty bonds to the Jan sister-store slacken. this was the Marsha sister-store and she was cool. and to add injury to insult to the Jan sister-store--I felt cool to be hangin' out in Marsha's store.

so, there you have it, my true nature. it seems that deep down I'm really just a shallow adolescent boy won over by good lighting and a snappy font. but, before you judge me too harshly put yourself in my shoes. how would you react to a Marsha Meijer associate wearing a cobalt blue, freshly pressed button-down shirt, who actually stopped what they were doing and then gave you the correct location of the item you were looking for?! cobalt blue, people! cobalt blue! the Jan Meijer associates are still sporting their stretched out, washed-out, supposed-to-be-red golf shirts, that barely cover the Jan associate belly! ick, ick, and triple ick!

slowly, in a I-don't-wanna'-leave-Utopia manner, I pushed my cart towards the exit, walking passed the line of check-out lanes. my ten year old pointed out that there were 11 check-out lanes open and all 8 of the u-scans were open and working. "wow, that's 19 lanes that are open mom," he commented. "groovy," I mutter. "groovy and outta' sight!"

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Meijer and the uncommon courtesy

fundamentally, I don't subscribe to bumper sticker philosophy. in the past I've considered bumper stickerophiles to be, well--whiny. admonitions to save this & that, proclamations of political alliances, loser-ish obsessions to a now defunct rock band, toothless warnings about what goes around comes blah-blah...what-everrr (said in a valley-girl, raised-eyebrow, locked-jaw way). but after the past few weeks at Meijer, I'm whistlin' a new tune, baby!

I'm sure you've seen this sticker "mean people suck!" yeah, that's the one, the whini-est,--dare I say--the mother of all whiny bumper stickers? I dare, indeed, I dare! not only do I now subscribe to this philosophy, I'm considering having it sand blasted on all my odyssey's windows, with an uncanny likeness of me sticking out my tongue!

what is going on people?! when someone opens a door for you, the proper response is "thank you," not a sow-like grunt. when you nearly t-bone another cart, the proper response is, "excuse me," or even better, a quick "sorry" with a forgive-me smile, not a "sheeshh" or a huffy eyes rolling to the back of your head gesture. do I really have to teach courtesy 101 and shop for my pitted black olives?

I'm at the express lane unloading my 13 items, while a "man," (later I'll call him something else, but I don't want to give it away right now) is paying cash for his items. I'm loading up the conveyer belt when my peripheral vision sees something fall to the ground right at his feet and my bionic-like hearing tells me it was something like folds of paper. my brain registers all this and the fact that "man" doesn't react. he has no idea he has dropped something. so, being the concerned, motherly, worry-wart that I am, when this "man" starts to walk away, I check to see what he has left behind. to my astonishment I see a folded wad of moolah (that's cash for you non-slangers) with the numeral 100 on the upper and lower corners. I quickly start sputtering, "sir! sir! you've dropped something!" pointing at the cash on the floor like I've discovered texas tea (that's oil for you non-Beverly Hillbillies fans) at the #2 checkout lane. now, what does "jack-ass man" (there. see, if I told you my nomenclature for him before it would have ruined the story for you) mumble off-handedly as he reaches down for his money?

wait for it... wait for it...

"humpf, I would have missed that."

no sound of relief in his voice, no meaningful eye contact, and incomprehensible to me no "thank you!" at the very least I expected a rushed, maybe even an embarrassed mumble, but, no mumble! the cashier and I exchange a look, both our eyebrows raised in a I-can't-believe-what-just-happened look. I heard her say under her breath, "you should've kept your mouth shut."

this has been snow balling people! I've noted this now for some time, and not just at Meijer. I've come to a certain tolerance level, even a lack of common courtesy expectation at Meijer but when the rudeness overflows to we have an epidemic!

maybe you know that at Kroger, to get any of their sale deals you have to present your Kroger card when they scan your items. well, again, I'm number 2 in line when I half-hear the woman in front of me, with a ton of groceries, complain about not knowing the whole Kroger card rule, and of course, she has no Kroger card, but she does have a higher than expected Kroger grocery bill. so, in a "hand it over" attitude, the cashier looks at me and says, "she needs your Kroger card." yeah, just like that. it wasn't a plea to my humanity, there was no obligatory explanation, it wasn't even asked. and little miss damsel-in-distress looks down her nose at me as if to say "yeah, and hurry it up, missy!"

like the village idiot I hand my card over. with my card she saved just over $26 on her bill! now, in the world of coupons and shopping sales, that's a huge savings! so, I'm waiting for the thank you. nothing. at least "jack-ass man" said something in my general direction, it was the wrong thing, but he said something...miss thang didn't say a word to me, she gave a curt nod of her head to the cashier and huffed, "now that sounds about right" when the cashier told her the new total.

we're back to where we started, mean people suck!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Meijer and the athlete phenomena

you know, in one respect customers and Meijer associates are very similar to athletes. stop laughing! no really--I've noticed this on several occassions. next time you are at Meijer (or your better-than-Meijer grocery store of which I am jealous) see if you can spot the similarity. I like to call this similarity the "athlete phenomena."

looks cool in bold italics doesn't it? most things do; indeed...most things do.

athletes, when in the heat of competition, will comment that they don't hear the roar of the crowd. even when the athlete is completely surrounded by "the crowd," they don't hear a peep and often they don't register that the crowd is there. I'm convinced that this phenomena explains why Meijer associates and customers feel so emotionally secure to have private conversations in the middle of aisle 8.

for instance, let's take the associates in Meijer's daytime drama "the bold and the desperate" near canned fruit and orange juice. phrases like "that friend of yours is hot," and "don't want no love triangle," and "make up your mind, or I'm gonna make my move," are loudly tossed from oj section across to canned fruit. followed up with nervous and/or innuendo guffaws.

in the frozen food section one stumbles into the employee version of "survivor." these three guys are always complaining about a certain associate. I often hear them (again, the athlete phenomena is in full force) talking about how they can convince their boss to transfer him to produce. they can't stand this guy and are often talking out loud about what alliances are to be made, taking note of every misstep and how they should, basically, vote him off.

the pharmacy/over the counter meds section hosts the "seconds from disaster" drama. irate elderly couples arguing over which flavor Metamucil to buy, arthritic hands grabbing and tugging the "wrong" flavor away. typically, there is a loud, yellow-y/green-ish person burping out gory details to the almost-pharmacist about the last time they had to take emetrol and immodium AD, (ewwww!)

the toy department could support a "super nanny" plot, but there's never a cool-headed objective person over there. from the four year old tearfully screaming/begging her mom for the Disney princess sing-along dvd to Roald Dahl's Veruca Salt over-the-top-bratty-child demanding and insisting their push-over parent buys them their Tuesday gift. sometimes it's the fed-up parent that starts foaming at the mouth in the toy section. this type swears up and down at their toy-desirous child's ingratitude ("didn't I buy that blankety-blank toy for you last week and then you to broke it?") only to toss in yet another pre-destined broken toy.

myself, I have often felt like Patrick Swayze's character in the movie Ghost. when my turn at the check-out lane finally arrives, instead of a greeting, I am often startled with, "girlfriend what did you do with your man this weekend?" before I can mumble out a confused "excuse me?" wondering if I know this person but have somehow forgotten, I hear the Meijer cashier behind me, rattle off Friday night's, Saturday and Sunday's wild-ride events.

so, the next time you walk through the swoosh of the automatic grocery store doors, remember these friendly words of advice--"you're no athlete!"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Meijer and the 21st century cart

sitting in my third grade class, I distinctly remember Miss Diggle's southern drawl detailing what life would be like when we lived on the moon. the filmstrip would tick off picture after picture of large half-bubbles with myriads of hamster-like tubes connecting each bubble. it would all mirror the buck rogers tv show (I secretly hoped minus the irritating Twiki robots). on the moon we could by-pass all food preparation and eat food pellets or at least the conveniently packed pureed stuff. at the time it looked so possible so do-able, I mean the microwave oven had just hit the market--everyone was afraid of the microwaves cooking their brains so they didn't sell very well--but we seemed to be on the right track!

fast forward 30 years: no bubbles, no tubes, no space-age jumpsuits, no Twikis (well that's ok), and no pellet food! each time I go through Meijer's candy, magazine, and balloon festooned cattle corral check-out lane, I wonder what in the world the NASA engineers are doing?! think about it, we still drive cars on four wheels, we still fly ariplanes to get anywhere, and we still have to go through the unbelievable rig-a-ma-roll of grocery shopping! put the groceries on the store shelf, pull the groceries off the shelf and put the groceries in the cart, pull them out of the cart onto the conveyer belt, put them back in the cart in noisy bags, pull them out of the cart and into your car, pull them out of the car and then into your home, pull them out of your noisy bags and onto your shelf. what does a 21st century gal hafta do for some space-age help here?

so what's my point? do I really want to eat pellet food--the easy answer is no. I see the intrinsic value of real food and food traditions. but there are so many other areas of the whole grocery shopping experience that we (when I say "we" I mean the creative, scientific, bill gates-type, collective we) can improve on...

it has happened to me countless of times, at first I thought I was losing my mind. I had walked four steps from my partially filled cart of milk, eggs, baby wipes, etc. to read the labels of some wasabi peas (MSG search), only to return and find my cart sporting a very large case of Michelob. nothing against Michelob, but you see I don't drink--well, I drink, I just don't drink things that have been fermented and cause me to lose the function of my brain. I have turned my back and turned around again to find that I had aged forty years and now needed the use of Depends, Polident, and an assortment of prescription meds.

the most surreal was when I was right next to my cart with my infant son strapped into the seat portion. to me, nothing stakes a cart claim like a live human. suddenly, a lady starts dumping in boxes and boxes of on-sale cake mixes into my cart. "um, this is my cart, I think you've made a mistake," I half-laugh. she looks at me, "no this is my cart and that's my baby," she replies. I'm suddenly thrown into panic mode, wondering if I've just sashayed into the mother of all Meijer crazies. somehow, despite my startled state, I manage to slowly (gotta move slow around these crazies) glide my hands onto the cart's handlebar ready to bulldoze her if necessary. I can feel the critical-mass effect rising in the aisle when out-of-the-blue I hear another baby cry. I look over her shoulder to see her baby and her cart at the other end of the aisle. oh yeah, we had a good nervous laugh out of that one, quickly bolted the aisle and ignored each other when we crossed in other aisles.

I could go on and on, citing confused elderly men at the check-out lane wondering why they would buy dog food and tampax when neither applied to their situation, or the woman chasing another woman calling out, "my cart! you've taken my cart!" or the mutterings of people "I just don't remember putting that in my cart."

why can't Meijer offer a hover cart with identity capabilities that blares a loud siren when an unauthorized person attempts to put items in or walk away with the wrong cart. one that follows the shopper around, gives recipe ideas, keeps a running scan with prices, and then infrareds the information to the check-out computer, and finally, gently slides the groceries into a car. is that too much to ask and/or expect from the Meijer R&D department (is there such a thing?)? the answer is probably "yes" since we are in the 21st century and their carts seem to look and act a lot like the last seven centuries.

so, all you problem solvers out there or even the NASA techno movers and shakers that have been taking a break on the whole moon colony thing--why not use your powers to do good? at the very least, someone please come up with a cart wheel that actually works!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Meijer and the foreign crazies

already the title to this entry doesn't seem "cricket" to me. I'm sure someone out there is screaming, "ugly american!" but really, I'm not. I've studied three languages in high school and college, I lived in Taiwan for a summer, I can say good day, good evening, hello, thank you, please, how much, need doctor and count to ten in about six maybe seven languages. no tooting my own horn here, just establishing that I vehemently shun ugly american-ness.

in fact, if anything, I am more apt to humor the foreign Meijer crazy than I am the native Meijer crazy. for example, if a native Meijer crazy came up to me with two different brands of enemas asking which one "is best to buy?" I would probably point to the pharmacist and his Meijer customer waiting line (seven customers deep) then promptly move on with my shopping. but with the foreign Meijer crazy, I furrow my brow, check the ingredients, do a cost value analysis, then nod my head and point at the winning product, all the while ignoring personal questions like, "you use this? this help you make bowel move?" when German-on-business-guy stunned me and the slack-jaw cashier with $423 worth of Pace picante salsa, Bayer aspirin, meatloaf, chili and taco seasoning packets, cream cheese frosting, various cake mixes and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (cases upon cases of each), I helped him sort out the grapefruit sized wad of cash/euros when newbie cashier went into glazed over mode.

now, I'm not fooling myself into an altruistic dreamworld. I know that grocery shopping doesn't always bring out the good samaritan in me. when I've been in a hurry to flee the superstore and a foreign Meijer crazy crossed my path, I'll admit I have been a homely american but never the ugly one. so, a few weeks ago, my heretofore "pretty american" ambassadorship with the foreign Meijer crazies reached an end when the unknown-to-me-language speaking sisters pulled in front of me at the check-out lane.

true to my policy I didn't detail the items they were taking out of their overflowing cart. I just generally knew that I was screwed and would be waiting in line for a good long while. the sisters were busily organizing the items on the conveyer belt making a few piles along the belt. they were chatting non-stop to each other, pointing at items, rearranging piles. it was obvious to me that not only did they nearly buy out the store, but they were now trying to figure out who was going to pay for what. after about my third sigh and second in-my-head debate over buying the hershey bar calling my name (I had a hunger headache), I felt some nudging at my right elbow and then was brusquely pushed out of the way by crazy sisters' seventy-something, under 4 feet tall mom. astonishingly, she came bearing more gifts in the form of about 20 pounds of red meat under one arm and a boxed hibachi under the other.

now, I don't know if this has happened at your store, but at Meijer, the bag-boy has been replaced by a turntable of plastic bags that the cashier fills, and Meijer customer then puts in their own cart. why the union allowed that I will never know, the now defunct "bag-boys" end up hanging around the union shift boss generally making his/her life miserable with "what do I do now?" inquiries. anyway, crazy foreign sisters are so wrapped up in their discussion of divvying up the loot and who is going to pay for what that cashier has had to fill their cart and still has plastic bags piled up on the turntable. the cashier hands them their receipt, gesturing hopefully with her eyes for them to carry their bags away. no luck. sisters grab the receipt, walk away nearly tearing the receipt from each other's hands; they aren't discussing who is going to pay for what, now they are shouting!

did I mention they walked away without their at-capacity cart and without the mounds of plastic bags still on the turntable? now understand, timid-cashier can't start my groceries until the turntable is cleared, and if the fratricide occuring in a foreign tongue five paces away from us is any indication, that isn't going to happen anytime soon. I watch as receipt is passed from sister to sister, money is ripped from one hand only to be jerked back by another. cashier is gurgling, "uh. um. you need to--" only to be drowned out by what my foreign language experience has taught me to be highly inflammatory and/or negative comments.

after about three full minutes (don't laugh! three minutes of screaming and finger wagging is a lot to endure!) of being pretty american, my patience ran out and suddenly reared it's ugly american head. it occurred to me that in some cultures fighting fire with fire is the only way to be heard.

"hey!" I loudly call out over the screaching, "get your groceries!" both crazies briefly cease their insane behavior and like bratty, insolent teenagers they each pick through the grocery bags piled on the turntable, grabbing what appeared to be the two lightest bags, turn and walk away resuming the very loud yet incomprehensive argument. timid cashier now finds her claws and calls the women back, "you left these bags and your cart!" she shouts. this throws foreign-born Paris & Nicky Hilton into a hissy fit, causing them to stomp their feet and shout at their hobbit-esque elderly mother.

with mouth hanging open in disbelief, I watch mom-of-foreign-crazies slide four bags of groceries on one arm, two on the other arm with hibachi tucked under the lighter loaded arm. she then stiff-arms the cart, bent over at the waist, like one of the seven dwarves pushing a heavy laden load of rubies out of the mine.

it's safe to say my kids had no idea why mom started a passionate discussion about respecting your elders at dinner that night.