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.