Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meijer and the conceited shoplifter

I have accepted and swallowed--gulp--that my ego has been put in it's Meijer.

okay, keep reading.

perhaps the reason Meijer was so chock full of customers was because it was the last Saturday before Christmas. whatever. the wide-open-west parking lot was still west, but no longer wide open. I finally found a parking space in the "F" comment.

I grabbed two of my Whole Foods reusable grocery bags, pulled on a coat since I had an arctic snow storm trek to endure before I could get inside the 73 degree store, sloshed through leftover gray slush from last night's storm and created a mental stratagem that I would not bring a cart out through this slop: shop light and carry the bags to my car.

I breeze through the first automatic glass door and stumble upon a heretofore never experienced line...inside the airlock. get this, there are no carts to be had and people are standing in line, waiting for someone to give up a cart as they leave the store.

yeah...somehow that scenario just doesn't fit into the paradigm I've adopted through most of my life called, "too impatient to be stupid." I wade through the line of hapless, hopeless, cart-less line waiters (suckers, I chuckle heartlessly to myself), secure in my own muscle power to carry my two or three purchases, I don't need no blankety-blank Meijer cart!

with said reusable grocery bags tucked under my arm, I make my way to the Rice Crispy Treat fixin's aisle, grab the two large boxes of crispies, two large bags of marshmallows (making them for church activity and for home), pile those up on top of each other, smile smugly to myself while again repeating the Yosemite Sam-esque declaration of "not needin' nothin' from noooo-body!"

then I recall that I could use some naan (Indian flat bread and no, I don't mean Native American) and some hummus, and ooooooo, those black seedless grapes look so de-li-ci-oso! grocery stacking tip: grapes don't stack so well.

I stumble over to a pallet of stacked flour, and dump my desired purchases. determined not to give in to Meijer's gauntlet-thrown-down, pathetic attempt to challenge me via a cart fiasco. in the spirit of ingenuity, imagination, pragmatism--what else?--and cleverness, I remove my reusable Whole Foods bag from under my arm and put all my groceries inside the bag!

yay for me! problem solved and I can still fit in a few more groceries! I maneuver through the busy store like, well, like whatever unencumbered metaphor you can come up with on your own. I'm dodging cart collisions, weaving through cart and produce stands, squeezing into meat counter sweet-spots and snatching up items with cat-like reflexes. it's time to check-out, yippee-ki-yay!

now, I like to park in the wide-open-west and use the check-out lanes on the west side of the store, because most Meijer sheep, I mean, customers, park and check-out on the east side of the store. with reusable grocery bag full I head over to the west. I'm smiling, feeling very smart, I even consider waving to the poor fools still waiting for carts, you know trying to do my part to uplift humanity during the holidays.

I see Meijer Tzar staring at me while talking on his Meijer issued cell phone. his stare becomes more intense and his mouth slackens as he looks me up and down (oh yeah, the nearly 40 year old gal's still got it!). I give a slight nod, and a nondescript, closed mouth smile--I'm married, I don't like to encourage such wildly flirtatious behavior from other males--and walk by. I get a little farther on my search for an empty check-out lane, making my way towards the west exit area when Meijer second-in-command-Tzar, on his cell phone, walks by me and gives me the furtive eye! I "reply" with raised eyebrows and a squeamish smile. what? am I ooozing pheromones or something, what is goin' on?!

then, just as I'm nearing the 12 item or less u-scan machines next to the exit, I see Pat (Pat is the name I have given for one of the Meijer House Detectives. Pat is one of those SNL skit personas, not sure if "it" is a male or female), even Pat is giving me "the look!" (cue shivers, I think?) I see "shim" reading a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I stop at the u-scan machine line while a nagging thought surfaces, "why would Pat care about 26 Holiday Gift Ideas under $20?"

At the same time, I see Head Honcho #2 coming towards me, while giving me a more serious glance. I watch as he walks purposefully to the exit and then just non chalantly paces, cell phone to his ear. I notice him give a slight nod to someone over to the left of me. I follow his line of sight and see Pat pull itself away from BHG, and walk over to the exit. that's when the light bulb blinked on over my big, fat, egoistic head: huh. apparently, I'm not the subject of all men's and men-look-alike's desires, I'm a suspected shoplifter! I think at this point I mentally went from sexy-almost-40-year-old to maligned-low-life-crook...with egg on her humiliated, non-sexy face.

ever a bastion of calm and grace I wait my turn for a u-scan, remove all the items from my grocery bag, scan them, re-bag them, purchase them and with head held somewhat high, walk through the line of cart waiters, and smile at the disbanding sheriff's posse, now ignoring me as I exit into the wide-open-west.

I repeat, gulp.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Meijer and the hope for change

okay, so what am I supposed to think when Meijer hangs banners from the ceiling declaring, "customer satisfaction" this, or "here to help you" that, complete with attractive Meijer associates with shiny white teeth? these huge posters with their winning smiles and pressed shirts lulls my needy, friendless-without-Meijer soul into a warm fuzzy world devoid of reality. see? see how I've been set up for the latest pulling-hair-out Meijer experience?

is it me? if it's me, let me know...

I've just finished scanning my 12 items, just a quick run into Meijer. I've pressed all the right buttons on the screen to declare that yes, I need cash back--ten dolares, please. just as I select the $10 minuscule rectangle, I recall that I need two 5 dollar bills, one to pay son and the other to pay daughter for contracted yard work. the inner workings of the u-scan machine whirls with cash counting noises as I begin all my lucky rituals (knocking on wood, crossing fingers, doing a $5 rain dance), hoping against hope for my change to shoot out in the form of two $5 bills. after a tense 4 seconds of staring at the machine's cash exit, out pops a single $10 bill.

son of a nutcracker! (love the movie Elf don't you?)

as I roll my eyes and lock my jaw in annoyance, I snatch the money and head toward Meijer's u-scan lackey. I start out with pathetic friendly approach--soft voice, tinge of whininess--"hi, the machine gave me a ten dollar bill, I need two fives." apparently, this u-scan lackey confused "pathetic friendly" with "aggressive hostile." her hands shot up next to her head like I just growled "stick 'em up!" she walks backwards away from me mumbling, "I just came here to help, I don't know nothin'!"

nope, I'm not exaggerating. no literary embellishment; that's what she said. verbatim. as my hapless "victim" backs away from me, it hits me: I have to go to the customer service desk! nooooooo!!!

"what's the big deal," you ask?! it's Saturday my friend, and my quick run into Meijer is about to become an epic journey through the bowels of the customer service underworld! I turn in slow motion toward the customer service area, praying that the line is short and hoping that the Friday night Fondue-ers are not in line with their Saturday morning defiled merchandise return, or that the crazed LOTTO potential winners aren't still trying to decide what numbers to play, or that someone isn't struggling over which seasonal book of stamps to buy: "overtly Christmas" or universal "Happy Holidays." that's the big deal!

after all the above and more take their turns, I step up to the counter, obviously a customer looking for some service. instead of "pathetic friendly," (didn't work out so well last time) I try "upbeat easygoing." with a slight smile, "morning, just need to change this ten into two fives." extend hand with money in a casual, relaxed manner.

again with the "stick 'em up" pose! "I can't do that!" she gasps as she backs away from the counter. completely confused, I inspect the money and pleadingly say, "this came out of your u-scan machine. I just need to change this ten, I need two fives!" Suzy wets-her-pants-a lot, staring at the money in my hand like it's the ebola virus in paper form whispers, "we've been told not to open our registers just to make change." I give the what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here look, to no avail.

she starts to be helpful by saying, "if you buy something..." I just look confused at her while my brain screams, "I just bought over $40 worth of groceries, I need to change this money, not spend it!" I glance over at the other "customer service" associate (hoping someone will cave) and see her drawer open. I jump at the chance, pointing like a tattling child I blurt out, "her drawer is open, get the two fives from her!" Suzy perplexed-into-non-action-a lot turns her head, stares at the open drawer, waits till the drawer closes and says, "sorry, can't help you." my exasperation turns ugly and I get loud. "are you kidding me?! I JUST WANT CHANGE!!" yes, I know my contextual usage was incorrect, but at that point I was beyond caring about proper Queen's English. oh, acoustical note: it's amazing how well an echo can carry in a warehouse-like store.

Meijer associate ignores my tantrum and signals next person in line to take my spot. sympathetic person in line waves me over, "try the bank over by produce, maybe they are open." totally dejected, yet still harboring ill feelings to all red-shirted people, I wait in line at the rented-space-in-Meijer bank for the only cashier to stop eating her lunch, unlock the half-door/gate thingy, walk through, lock the half-door/gate thingy, straighten her name tag, look at the line and ask "may I help someone?" like she can't understand why there are so many people watching her every move.

Hope for Change, Hope for Change. if only I could craft a whole grassroots driven campaign against the minds at Meijer based solely on that phrase... hmmm, maybe in 2012.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Meijer and the 2008 black friday update

first, let me say that unlike past years, this year I just wasn't feeling the black friday love. my normal awake at 3:30am because I'm so excited about the deals, slipped into 5:30 am. I stumbled into the car, armed with my prioritized list and found myself near the Wal-Mart parking lot. that's right, near. I could only get near the parking lot since the entire 15 acres of parking lot was filled! being half an hour late to the bf party put me at a distinct disadvantage. the cashier lane lines were so long and packed so tight, I couldn't even get passed them to get to the toy department. I turned around and left, my mood becoming more Scrooge like at an alarming rate.

had better luck at Target, Old Navy and Michael's and at 7am with my outlook shifting from "bah humbug" to "Happy Holidays," I decided to make a stop at the heretofore dreaded Meijer. with what I had already experienced at Wal-Mart and Target, I was bracing for the worst...

the first thing I noticed as I walked into Meijer was how quiet it was--too quiet; eerily quiet, ghost town quiet, deathly quiet, library quiet, graveyard quiet, calm before the storm quiet, lecture on "why Latin is a dead language" quiet. (side note: you ever notice how repeating a word over and over can make it sound strange? I just realized the same applies to typing a word over and over--quiet suddenly looks strange.)

I grab one of the dozens of carts from the corral and make my way to the electronics corner. no compelling urge to hurry, no worries about angry backlashes for accidentally bumping into a fellow bf-er. electronics is empty save one english-is-my-second-language Indian and one Meijer associate trying to communicate through loud-speak, "I SAID WE WILL NOT MATCH COMPETITOR'S PRICES ON BLACK FRIDAY!" (I know. he's not deaf. volume won't make him suddenly understand) and vehement ad pointing. I casually saunter up to the untouched bin of jump drives--1 item per customer limit--and fling one into my empty cart. whoop-de-do!

I pass a Meijer associate guarding/standing near a stack of flat screen tv's for $250. I pause and look at the stack. while I read the box details, I notice the associate raise her eyebrows in hopeful anticipation, ready and willing to fling a tv into my cart if I so desired. as it was, I did not desire. I looked at her, shrugged my shoulders and moved on. visibly crushed, associate tries a new sales tactic by rearranging the tv boxes into a stack more feng shui appealing.

my black friday purchases at Meijer consisted of one jump drive for $4.99, 3 pillows for $10, 3 pack of tape for $1.50, 1 bag of 50 count bows for $2.00, Goody hairbands for 50% off, and a 3 roll pack of wrapping paper for 50% off. that was it. I'll say it again, without the sarcastic exclamation point and emphatic italic font: whoop-de-do.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Meijer and the Casablanca ending

per my 23July2008 post, I mentioned we had built a house. we bought our original cottage (that sounds nicer that it was) in spring of 1999. it was a 1000 sq./ft home, built in 1947, sitting on just under an acre of property. when my husband and I first toured the, ahem--house, we thought the same thing, love the land/location, HATE the house.

well, we lived in that one bathroom (absolute disaster when the clay sewer line fell apart), leaky roof, musty crawl space, anciently wired (Ben Franklin technology), literal holes in the wall, oven in the summer, freezer in the winter, place for 7 years. our solace during those years were the 20+ mature shade trees, our very own "on goldfish pond," and planning/researching the best options for building...some day.

a bit hard to imagine how Meijer fits into this post, isn't it?

november 2006:
it's 8:45 am, my builder has just told me the sections of our home would arrive later that afternoon, but they still didn't have a big enough empty lot to "store" the sections of our home overnight.

see, all those years of planning and research led us to the modular home. no, not a mobile home, but a modular home. a modular home is built in sections (5 in our case), built indoors, wrapped, and all sections are delivered to the building site. just a few of the benefits are: no building materials damaged/delayed by weather, amazingly short construction period (from the day we signed the loan documents to the day we moved in was 5 months!), at arrival/assembly the home is 85% complete (reducing number of sub-contractors to deal with) and it is a very energy efficient home.

6 stressful hours later, my builder called. "we've found a lot to store the sections, we'll see you at 8am tomorrow to set your house!" soooo relieved, I head to Meijer to buy all of the food for our "assembling the house party" we are hosting for our neighbors, friends and home building workers. that particular Meijer jaunt was the stuff of legends. I flew through the gi-normous store, buzzed through the check-out lane, dodged cars in the parking lot like a vintage game of frogger, stuffed my car with noisy, plastic-thin bags of groceries and pointed my honda towards the nearest exit, Meijer's wide-open-west parking lot. giddy up!

sccrrreeeech! (supposed to be the literary equivalent of the sound my brakes made when I spasmodically double-footed the brake pedal. I'm clarifying because the "ch" sound at the end of the word just doesn't quite ring true with the actual sound of my brakes--and as you know, I'm all about literary integrity. tee hee!)

a deluge of amazement, shock, difficult to breathe-ness, (and that slight quiver/cold feeling I get when all my blood inexplicably attempts to squeeze into my pinky toe) broke out over my already frazzled nervous system. this is what caused my Treasure Island-like apoplexy...

of all the parking lots in all the towns in all the world, my house parks at Meijer.

who knows, maybe there's still time for a beautiful friendship...maybe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meijer and the Thanksgiving Eve perspective

since this is the Thanksgiving Day eve post, I'll admit that I'm thankful for a Meijer type store. for all my playful teasing, and often scathing criticism of Meijer, the superstore is finally living up to it's super-ness (disclaimer: aesthetically speaking).

now that the proverbial "swelling" from the Marsha makeover has subsided, it's clear that frumpy Jan has been given the heave ho. get this! obese cashier sporting the not-supposed-to-be-a-belly-button shirt has lost 145 pounds! snaps to him, snap, snap, snap...

yep, this atypical wave of gratitude swells over me this time of year, and the times when I see a newbie foreigner walk into the store. it's often a misty-eyed experience for me.

no, that wasn't sarcasm!

a young-ish woman (I'm guessing Chaldean) walks in with what appeared to be her entire adult family; parents, grandparents, aunt/uncle (leave anyone out?) et al. the family clan hesitantly steps through the airlock closest to the produce section. she eagerly gestures for them to stand next to her and in her best Vanna White reveals the massive fruit and veggie department. a few swooned (no lie), grasping the others by the arm. others clapped their hands together in a worshipful manner, and murmured thankful prayers then and there. pseudo-Vanna beamed, obviously so pleased she could be the bearer of good news.

whenever I stand before Meijer's "Great Wall of Bread" fretting over a decision between split top white, buttermilk split top white, sandwich white, potato or italian (not to mention the wheat, wheat/white, and multi-grain varieties), I think of my son's social studies textbook. he was studying Russia's history, specifically the decades of communism. that section of the textbook is illustrated with black and white photos documenting the vast lines of people--not waiting for Elvis tickets--but waiting for bread, any bread.

so, when I complain/criticize Meijer for having an inordinate amount of wax paper but nada in the parchment paper department, or when I stomp my foot in frustration because the aluminum foil roaster pans look like they've been mangled in a cockfight, or when I get upset that all of the 16 pound turkeys (had to look up that plural) are gone and now I have to buy a behemoth turkey, please chalk it up to the petty side of my human nature and childish venting.

nobody is more aware than me that life without Meijer would be less colorful, less humorous and less errand-running efficient. besides, a blog about Costco? yeah, right.

a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Meijer and the black friday

yep, I'm one of those.

come on, is it really so wacko to google freshly leaked black friday ads, create an excel file to compare 10 different store's sales, use about $12 worth of black ink printing out lists, map out a plan A and plan B driving route, synchronize watches and collect cell phone numbers of your fellow bf (black friday) posse, eat a huge Thanksgiving meal, then wake up at 3:30 the next morning to stand in the freeze-your-bum-off Michigan environs?

hmmm, when written out like that it does seem to fall in the weird column. but--it's tradition! (shouted in a Tevye-esque voice)

now, as to the title of this post, I know what you're thinking: if Meijer is the superstore, as chronicled, then why is she black friday-ing (I've verbed for you) 10 different stores?!

admittedly, it does seem hypocritical. as the superstore is an "open 24 hours" store (allowing one to wait inside @ 3:30am), inventory includes toys, electronics, clothes, "furniture," tools, dvd's, music, pet gear, and groceries--a snack while you wait. so why do I avoid Meijer on the day of days?

one word: 2005.

oh...I guess that's three words; two-thousand-five. or is it one number...?

day after thanksgiving, aka, black friday 2005:
how smart am I? it's 4:45am, I'm inside Meijer, snacking on a bag of entenmann's glazed chocolate pop'ems waiting for the 5am "start" of black friday's sales. I've got my cart filled with presents, I'm feeling pretty smug that this one haul makes me 75% done with Christmas shopping! waa-hoozle!

I'm standing in line for just one electronic item, taking in the whole holiday season/spirit oozing all around me. granted, Meijer's signage of season's greetings and my child-like Christmas glow are the only evidence of oozing Christmas spirit, but I'm determined to make up for all the early morning grinches around me. I munch and watch as the aisles become a fire marshal's nightmare, what with my fellow bf-ers (black friday-ers) sporting their puffy parkas, carts spilling over with potential Christmas morn delight, and "choice item" lines snaking through nearly every aisle Meijer has to offer.

after my second (okay, fifth) pop'em, I glance at the time and realize there are only 8 minutes left 'til official Meijer Black Friday Sale begins! that's when I felt it; an ever-so-slight disturbance in the force. you know the feeling, a sense of impending doom, but indefinite and obscure. this "flex" in the force reminded me of the time in college when my friend and I were in an overly-packed elevator. just before we dropped 6 floors to the basement I remember reading the OTIS elevator capacity warning: NOT TO EXCEED 10 PERSONS. I have a vague memory of looking at Scott and saying, "we're over capacity." as if on cue, the elevator doors opened about 8 inches, allowing all 18 boxed-up humans to watch as floors 6 through lobby whizzed by. ahh, the glory days...

but I digress. it wasn't long before the cause of my sixth sense presented itself--plasma! apparently, there was an awesome deal on 21.6" plasma tvs. not needing/wanting a 21.6" plasma tv, I was oblivious to the mortal danger I had sashayed into, all the while humming jingle bells and popping donuts like they were...pop'ems.

quick bf background for you: every year around 4:59 and 45 seconds, there's a group of people that jump out of their cars and run into a store, thinking they can by-pass the suckers that have waited in line for hours. some make it in with just angry howls and non-Christmas-like four letter words ringing in their ears. as I witnessed on bf 2005, others wished four letter words were the cause of their ears ringing.

the beginning of the line for the plasma merchandise was directly in front of the stack of "limited quantity, only 1 per customer" boxed tvs. the associates were stacking the boxes right until 4:59:50, when some yahoo (the Gulliver's Travels kind, not the internet company kind) came up, ignoring the stunned line-waiters, and pulled off one of the coveted goods. and so did his buddy.

well, as you can imagine, the long-arm of the Meijer Law came to the rescue in the form of two way-too-slender-to-handle-even-fourth-graders associates who were immediately shoved aside by the much larger, more tattooed and more prison scarred than said Meijer associates. right about then, the force went from "disturbed" to blatantly psychotic.

human shrieks and screams, followed up with dogpiles of fist-fights are unnerving enough, but when box-cutters flash in the glow of incandescent lighting, that's when I beat a path to the exit. I'm trying to grab my phone from my layers of winter wear when I realize some cooler head is way ahead of me. uniformed police officers run by, hands on holsters. I look up at the myriad of tinted, half-domed cameras dangling from the ceiling, understanding that Meijer's crack in-house SWAT team was on the job.

the "incident" didn't make news. not sure if these "black friday shoppers gone wild" stories are passe to news producers, or if after the messy, frighteningly gruesome fact, the indefatigable Christmas Spirit prevailed.

happy bf-ing!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meijer and the fuel facade

see, when my local "Meijer-Jan Brady" store got her "Meijer-Marsha Makeover," they forgot to remedy Jan's gas problem--the gas station, that is.

my previous visits to the Meijer gas station proved that Jan was showing her age. the gas price sign's plastic numbers weren't translucent and crisp, more on the opaque and yellowing side. and to add insult to injury, upside down 5's were being used to try and pass off as 2's. I know...sad.

on and outdoor sign (advertising specials inside the gas station's mini-mart), I even saw two lower case o's trying to fool me into believing they were zeroes. they looked like shocked eyeballs wondering when their pupils would return.

Jan's gas voice was a bit nerve racking too. you see, most gasoline consumers under the age of, let's say 68 years of age, choose to pay for gas at the pump, side stepping the mini-mart. well, I'm not sure if the minds at Meijer like this idea so much. it really ruins their twinkie, hot dog, doritos, beef jerky, and diet coke sales. I've learned to ignore handwritten scrawls scotch taped to the gas pump stating that I have to go inside to get my receipt, or signs that say debit card payers have to go inside, and even dire warnings written in blood red that say DON'T IGNORE THIS SIGN! yep, color me savvy.

so, when it was obvious that the signs were being ignored, Jan found her angry voice. angry voice bellows over the loud speakers attached to the tip-top of the extra-high gas pump carports, which then reverberate off all the steel frames and cement, making it impossible to tell which poor sucker has evoked the wrath of frumpy, gassy Jan. so, while angry voice screeches incomprehensible gibberish, each customer assumes angry voice is telling someone else to enter the mini-heart-attack-mart.

but no more! as I drove toward Meijer I was immediately awed by the transformation. a brand new electric, billboard-ish, signage informed me (in red, light-bright-type lightbulbs, featuring perfectly square cornered numbers) that regular gas was $1.999 and premium was $2.199!

by the way, what's with all the 9's? is gasoline sprinting to the finish line and needs the extra thousandth of a point to insure its win? sheeeshhh.

I pulled in to fancy pants' station, and admired the sign. filled with giddy hope for a brand new gas experience, (maybe the gas will smell different? tee hee) I opened my car door and immediately my ears were accosted with reverberating, loudspeaker static, angry voice.

after taking note that no one even flinched, much less walked in to the mini-triple-by-pass-mart, I felt a little pang of pity for Jan. for after all, it's true what they say; gassy beauty is only skin deep.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meijer and the petting zoo

so, it's been about 5 years since I've been to the Detroit zoo. to assume I'm a card carrying PETA activist wouldn't be accurate, but you shouldn't chalk it up to blatant laziness either.

I was one of the concerned humans that helped force the zoo to relocate the poor equatorial-climate-Asian elephants that were living in Detroit's colder-than-a-witch's-teat "elephant yard." I use the word yard loosely...also, the word living.

no, I've discovered there is another option to trekking down to 9 mile to watch sleepy "wildlife" muddle through their monotonous habitat or worse yet, sling poo at naive observers. yep, somewhere between the South African Kruger wildlife reserve's 2 million hectares and Petco's 1 cubic foot adopt-a-cat crate, lies a happy medium: Meijer--the superstore.

my discovery of Meijer's unofficial zoo "bonus" occurred to me a few months ago. let's start with the obvious--goldfish. my Meijer sells all the guppy and goldfish varieties your little heart pines for, but my Meijer has something that I'm pretty sure your grocery store doesn't have--the fish guy. this associate lets my pre-schooler throw a pinch of food in the tank, corner a fish with the net and let him touch the "ones that like to float on the top!" my son politely declines--by shaking his head vigorously and hiding his hands in his pockets.

after that macabre stop, we usually wander over to the next spectacle on the Meijer wildlife tour--lobster tank. Meijer's maniacally laughing fish monger/butcher shuffles over to the lobster tank at our approach, snatches the lobster rake and shouts out, "choose your victim!" once again, my son is cajoled/coerced into touching the rubberbanded crustacean, while it impotently thrashes its threatening intentions. again, horrified human declines.

my little animal lover becomes confused (possibly scarred for life?) when hairy, Armenian guy offers to let him "pet" his furry panther tattoo on his forearm. and I know I've been scarred when I had to reach to the back of the shelf for a Meijer 8 pack of hot dog buns only to have one of Meijer's wildlife scurry across my hand. imagine my embarrassment when I realized that screaming "a mouse ran across my hand!" followed up with a fit of shivers/convulsions wasn't the correct petting zoo response.

Meijer--doing its part in the fight for wildlife conservation.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Meijer and the darwin effect

a little Meijer evolution history for you...if you'll recall, Meijer deleted the "bagger" personnel from it's workforce. cashiers now get the opportunity to scan your groceries and bag them. then, Meijer opened the "12 items or less u-scan," in effect deleting several cashiers. and now, Meijer has evolved to the "no limit u-scan," eliminating even more human-like cashiers.

the accountants at Meijer have decided that reducing cashiers (I'm extrapolating here, but just go with it) means reducing costs. the trouble is, more-than-12-items-customers don't want to work with machines, which means very long lines at the human-ish cashiers and emptiness down at automation alley.

I thought my experience with the well-oiled machine put me off the no limit u-scans for life, but thanks to the minds at Meijer, I've had to purge old habits and acquire new ones--I'm being forced into evolution!

or am I?

so there I am, short on time but long on Meijer lines. I've got at least 40 items in my cart and my 4 year old asks me, "when are we going home?!" no lines at the no limit u-scan area. I take a deep breath screech to a stop next to the conveyor belt and start scanning. my items are careening down the roller section. the dogpile of pitted olives, honeycrisp apples and 4% milkfat cottage cheese triggers an all-too-familiar stress migraine. I rush over with my eco-friendly grocery bags (from Whole Foods by the way, tee hee!) and try to get a start on bagging before I scan the next 37 items.

I stuff in the apples, olives, cottage cheese, then I reach for the kosher hot dogs (not jewish, just love 'em), the refrigerated pickle spears, 1/3 less fat cream cheese and that's when it hit me...I didn't scan these items! I look to my left to see my 4 year old searching for the "stripes" (youngster speak for UPC code), scan the package of sushi nori and plop it onto the automated conveyor belt.

a slight shiver of scientific euphoria ripples through my nervous system. I have passed my beat-Meijer-at-all-costs DNA to my son! he has adapted and adopted the necessary skills to survive all life-squelching curveballs thrown at him by my nemesis! images of my grocery scanning wunderkind and all his glorious, technicolor-animated DNA helices featured on the Discovery Channel, flash across my mind.

as I'm standing there stunned/proud, my peripheral vision catches the expression on the face of one of the few surviving Meijer cashiers.

the realization of her species' impending extinction causes a hideous, twisted smile to crack across her face. she croaks, "isn't--that--precious? he--knows--how--to--scan!" followed by a high pitched cackle, I mean, nervous laugh. I fully expected her to swoop down and chew-up my little cherub cashier. suddenly, cerebral Discovery Channel images are replaced with Animal Planet atrocities. specifically, the scene where the new, conquering alpha lion eats the young of the old, maimed alpha lion!

with survival mode in full swing, an adrenaline rush enables us to check-out in record time; preserving my offspring's ability to out-smart Meijer, and hopefully, pass this genetic information on and on and on.

consider me and mine, darwinism at its best.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Meijer and the superstore addiction

I'm sure by now you've caught on to my sanity destructive relationship with Meijer.

to sum up, this connection I have with Meijer seems to follow a cheesy "daytime drama" where the powerless coke (not the cola variety) addict clings to her abusive, life-power sucking boyfriend that keeps giving her coke so he can just kick her around and take money from her.

maybe not quite like that--well, yeah, maybe, kinda', sorta like that--but without all of the "heroin chic" imagery. you see the deep, ugly, twisted root of my Meijer-use problem is the undeniable fact that Meijer is the superstore!

perhaps to a Meijer-free citizen, my "superstore" argument smacks alot like a junkie in denial trying to blame the drug for all her problems, and thus, refusing to take responsibility. the whole "walks like a duck, quacks like a duck--quack, quack, quack" adage is dancing through your brain.

but please, I beg of you, hear me out before you host an intervention or worse, throw me into Kroger rehab.

first let me admit that I hate being a Meijer user. I hate the union induced customer-can-take-a-flying-leap treatment I get. I hate the pounding headaches I get from the incessant, forced "friendly banter" from cashier Peppy-Anne. I hate that the store is sooooo humongous that my "run-in" for milk, turns into a National Geographic-worthy trek expedition. I hate that, according to Meijer, it's Halloween right now and in just a few weeks Meijer will force me into a Christmas-stress meltdown!

but on the other hand, I need Meijer. I'm weak, I know, I know...I soooooo know!

if anything is to blame for my Meijer addiction, it's the cost of gasoline. I can't afford to drive all over three towns to aquire my needs at WalMart, Kroger, Costco, Target and Home Depot! and don't even try to sweetly slip in a suggestion about weaning myself off Meijer and on to a Hollywood Market or a Whole Foods! entire monthly grocery budgets have been blown in one visit to those stores--can you say expensive to the point of ridiculous?! how am I supposed to buy a quick snack for my son at Whole Foods cut-up fruit bar for $7.99/lb. when I know at Meijer I can get the same fruit for $4.49/lb and then run to Meijer's hardware section and buy a can of Rust-o-leum eucalyptus green spray paint?

ugh. I despise "giving in" and I loathe Oprah-like empowerment strategies, but perhaps I should spin my addiction as something positive...

I'll be accepting any/all suggestions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Meijer and the 1968 Volvo P1800 coupe

ever feel like the world's cynicism is worming itself into your every fiber, essence, life-force, and/or worm-delicate soul? not trying to bum you out or anything, but lately--lately, I can tell that I've been lacking in the smiley face, love thy neighbor department. maybe my water-bearer stars are not aligned (hate it when Mars stomps into Saturn's house!), or maybe the year of the rat isn't working so well with my monkey mojo.

tee hee, monkey mojo...

last Wednesday night I was in my honda odyssey making a son's-birthday-the-next-day gift run and found myself in the Meijer parking lot; I swear, there are days when I think my car is on Meijer autopilot.

it was a beautiful day that seeped into a beautiful, dusky evening. I got out of my car feeling the slight breeze on my skin, looked up at the clear sky, and began to really take in the beauty the world was offering me that night. my lungs pulled in the summer's evening air, a mix of cut grass, barbecue, and a slight trace of carbon monoxide...well I was in a parking lot! my ears were filled with the cicadas evening buzzing, songbirds chirping their final opus, and the grinding of an ignition from an elderly person who forgot he already turned on his car...again, parking lot.

all the serene sensory input had an effect on me. I was feeling positive about the world, I felt grateful and hopeful that I was debugging my worm-soul infestation. life is good, I emphatically stated in my head. and that's when I saw it: a 1968 Volvo P1800 coupe (yes, I googled it)--with it's lights on.

with my monkey mojo at maximum and Saturn kicking Mars' butt out the front door, I knew I had found my answer to my life-force funk: do a good deed, and prove to your neighbor how much you love he or she! plan A was to open the car door of the classic beauty and anonymously shut off the lights.

"yeah, yeah! anonymous good, taking credit baaaad." whispered my Jiminy Cricket conscience.

I strode over to the classic beauty and quickly realized that the doors were locked, no way to shut off the lights in an anonymous fashion. would have to engage plan B--Meijer, the superstore.

still euphoric from my soul-saving plan, I walk with a spring in my step through the motion-sensored glass doors, humming Pinocchio's "give a little whistle" tune and repeating the volvo's license plate in my head, over and over and over--I'm almost 40 repetition is a must! I see the greeter open her mouth, pat phrase ready to repeat, when I pre-empt her with a child-like gush of: "there's a car in the parking lot with it's lights on!"

"o-kaaay..." says she in a so-what-am-I-supposed-to-do-about-it manner.

"I've memorized the license plate. it's a white volvo coupe with license plate number..."

she calls out over my shoulder to an exiting Meijer customer, "thanks for shopping at Meijer." with that required insincerity accomplished, greeter pays attention to me like a harried mom trying to calm her ADHD child. I don't stop to listen to Meijer associate's union response on how-to-get-out-of-work numero uno (it's not in my job description) answer, I go for the humanity/guilt tactic. "you see, I'm guessing it's a late 196o's volvo and more than likely every second counts before the battery wears out, possibly making the owner stranded."

she sighs.

I go in for the kill..."oh, doesn't Meijer do this kind of thing? helping it's customers? no?"

she heads for the wall phone and asks for the Meijer customer's attention over the PA, while I whisper the details of the volvo coupe for her to share with the superstore. I thank greeter, feeling great about my good deed, when it occurs to me that whenever I hear the PA system call out, "attention Meijer customers..." I more likely than not, tune out.

volvo owner probably didn't even hear the announcement, reality bites.

feeling more squelched than perky now I head for the toy section. suddenly, I see a stylin'/hip looking guy running towards the exit with a smile of gratitude on his face. we make eye contact, and for some reason, I just know he's the owner of the 1968 volvo P1800 coupe and he's thankful for the anonymous good deed.

since my own Meijer jaunt lasted a total of 2 minutes (didn't have the toy I wanted), I walked to my car and noticed the lights on the volvo had been turned off.

consider me dewormed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Meijer and the well-oiled machine

it's not that I don't like humanity...I mean, obviously, I am human.

it is obvious isn't it?

at any rate, I subscribe to the belief that if something can be automated and un-befouled by a human's lack of sleep, drunkenness, union empowerment, frustration with spouse, lack of brain cells, etc. then DO IT! (caps are harsh, but at times, needful.) everywhere I turn these days there's a big push for the notion that "nothing can replace the human touch."

paah-leeea-zzze! this whole site chronicles the absurd and even craziness of humans and their, well, touch-ness.

don't get me wrong, there are areas of life where having a human to interact with is definitely worth any potential human frailty frustration. for instance, when you have a problem with your bank--that doesn't fall nicely into the phone's automated menu (which has recently changed) categories--yeah, knowing you can press zero at anytime and get a live person is nirvana.

but that example aside, doesn't life actually flow better without a bunch of humans mucking it up?

ahhh, yes. true, true young grasshopper. but never forget, all truths are universally reversed when one steps through the inexplicable, mystical automated doors at Meijer--the superstore.

recently my Meijer has put in more u-scan check-out lanes. no, not the 12 items or less kind, these new u-scans are "no limit" u-scans. think on that a moment--no limit u-scans.

at the risk of looking completely foolish, I'll admit at first I was wowed by this new improvement. visions of swift scan-n-go automated simplicity made my mouth salivate. my toes began to tingle with the vibrations of a well-oiled machine coming to life. Meijer was taking the 21st century by the horns--automating, improving, updating, and every other -ing verb that means progress! be gone warm milk and melted ice cream, be gone human error! Viva la machine! that French revolutionary side effect was soon followed by a puffed up super-ego (again, French influence) that I was going to be infinitely faster than the typical lackadaisical union cashier.

in short, the no limit u-scan set me up for a whopper slice of a humble pie.

first u-scan wake-up call: produce. do you have all the produce codes memorized? me either, and guess what? the remaining Meijer associates do have something that machines do not; a sick sense of humor. apparently, Meijer policy dictates that 1 out of 20 plums have the appropriate produce code sticker on it. yep, I seem to have chosen all non-stickered plums.

next: conveyor belt pile-up. while I'm still inwardly waving my revolutionary fist, pleased with the downfall of humanity at Meijer, and whizzing the upc bar codes across the laser, I happen to glance at the end of the conveyor belt. I watch the purple topped Meijer skim milk--gallon size--travel the multi-roller section of the conveyor belt at the speed of light and topple onto my loaf of butter split-top bread.

finally: bagging minus a bag-human (no sexism here). to my surprise and consternation--more consternation than surprise really--the no limit u-scan has only room for two bags at the end of the conveyor belt. so, try to keep up here, while I'm scanning, my items are bunching up at the bottom of the conveyor belt. even if I were to stop scanning and go bag my items, I would have to put the bags either on the bubonic plague laced linoleum floor (you never know!), or walk them over to my cart that is still full of no limit, non-purchased items! and as I have recently discovered, heaven forbid you should have an over eager u-scan customer after you. They start whizzing their items down the conveyor and suddenly your world is higgeldy-piggeldy! my very meaty steaks are suddenly touching someone else's vegan burgers. "not cool man, not cool." in all fairness to the "minds" behind Meijer, there is a built in arm to put between two customer's merchandise, but I swear you have to have a degree in crane operation, a hard hat, big belly and jeans that show your bum crack to figure out how to use it!

so here I am with three packed bags of groceries on each arm while I try to look up the produce codes, swipe the upc bar codes, desperate to get groceries out of my cart and onto the grocery destroying conveyor belt so I can then put full bags of groceries in my cart and not on the e-coli laced linoleum floor (you still never know!).

now my revolutionary fist-waving is loaded down with the weight of mutilated groceries, I'm begging the computer screen to accept my coupons and near tears when I see the solid green light above my lane number suddenly turn to a pulsing red light.

humble pie accepted and swallowed whole, I ask the Meijer human for help.

obviously, I am human.

Meijer and the well deserved sabbatical

maybe you haven't noticed, but I've been on a sabbatical from "chronicle-ing."

yep, it seems that building a house, and recovering from back surgery puts a big hairy kybosh on actual grocery shopping, much less blithely recording Meijer craziness for posterity.

and by posterity I mean all the future innocents that take their first step through the swish of the Meijer automated glass doors.

so I'm back in the game, ready for the crazies, the hilarity and the irony as I grocery shop in the human nature fish bowl called Meijer, the superstore.