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 Kroger...now 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.