Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hell That Is My Safeway

I go to the market several times a week. And several times a week, I waste a few more of my precious hours on earth, grinding my teeth and forcing a smile like a Valium-addled 1950's housewife.

Problem one? The customers. I am surrounded by the sort of people who have never bought groceries before. They dicker over prices, they run back for "just one more item" right as they are being rung up, they fail to notice when their purchase is complete and gawp at the cashier. Note: in our capitalistic society money is exchanged for goods and services.

Moreover, every line has the Complainer. This person sighs loudly, shifts, nestles their way into your personal space, and whines their way through the entire grocery purchase procedure. The Complainer often fails to realize that their actions are having the opposite effect of what they intended: instead of speeding things up, time slows to a slurping crawl.

Problem two? The cashiers. Now, I believe all honest work has dignity. And anyone who can wear a smock and stand on their feet all day is worthy of my respect. But heavens.

Thursday, I was stuck with a Food Molester. This woman, who was clearly new to the grocery game, felt she had to manhandle every item in my basket. I spent my walk home imagining a sort of vegetative group therapy, in which the produce section wept over its collective deflowering. The cilantro accused the cashier of date rape, the tomatoes got a sultry spanking, and the green onions will never be the same.

Sunday, however, was a topper. Wow. I ran in for some flour, saw a short "Express" line, and was ready to go. However, just as I was about to be rung up, a uniformed Safeway employee butted in front of me. "Oh, I was here before," she said, breezily and to the opposite of all evidence and logic. She then spent ten minutes arguing with her fellow cashier over the prices of various products. (I would think someone who worked there would already know this stuff.) I had lemon bars to speed-produce, my boss' party to attend, and a boyfriend waiting patiently in the parking lot.

"Look, I'm sorry, but I'm in a terrible rush, can we speed this up somehow?"

Answer: a synchronized pop of gum, two sets of rolled eyes, and the sarcastic slowness of four hands doing a Happy Hands Club wave of helplessness.

My options are pretty limited. I could stop eating entirely. That's the cheapest route, for sure. I could go to a different grocer, except for that whole thing where I don't have a car. I could order groceries for delivery. Or, I could complain about it on my blog, ask for your stories, and feel just a bit better.

I think I'll take the last option. In the comments, tell me your most painful tale of grocery woe.

PS - As some of you know where I live, please avoid giving out the name of my neighborhood. Stalking is not very awesome. Also, if a flood of would-be stalkers comes to my Safeway, the lines will be that much longer. Thanks.


Malnurtured Snay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malnurtured Snay said...

I swear I skipped to comments before the end or I wouldn't have posted my original comment. I'll just say, Giant is the best. Sorry, don't hate!

Jamie said...

Whole Foods. Silver Spring. Where all tales of yuppie insolence begin.

The scene: Me, trying to eat something healthier than a cheesesteak, checking out with my grossly overpriced salad.

At lunchtime, even the express lanes are clogged with tofu-eaters, but I spied a short line at the other end. I made a dash for it and secured my place, second in line, behind what appeared to be a woman and her 8 year old son finishing their transaction. Victory would be mine!

Then, literally as I was taking out my wallet in anticipation of paying for my salad (instead of fumbling for 3 minutes AFTER the cashier has finished ringing me up, like most people on earth who never seem to understand that you can actually do something on your own while the cashier is working), my whole world collapsed.

A woman with a FULL CART dashes over and cuts in front of me with a quick, "excuse me, I was here." Whhhaaaaa??? There was nobody there. I retorted that there was clearly nobody here but the person in front of me. She said, "oh no, this is my son."

The over-made-up, obnoxious woman had literally done the line-double-team WITH A FULL CART, and using her 8 year old son as the 2nd line decoy. When she saw that the person in front of me was finishing, she jumped lines to rejoin her son.

I cursed at her, doing my best to ensure that at the very least I taught the kid some new words on the day that she screwed a stranger out of ten minutes of his life. She wouldn't budge, despite my having only a salad. So finally I went to another line. Since ALL the other lines were now shorter than my own that was an easy decision. I saw her again in the parking lot and give her one parting gesture.

Shannon said...

Snay, no problem. And your guess was way off anyhow.

Jamie - I've been known to post someone in a long line while I run around and get the groceries, but that's just if I'm grabbing a few things and in a rush. No way would I jam a full cart in front of someone like that. Gah!

Lemmonex said...

This Sunday, before death became me, I thought I was on the mend for a few hours. I just wanted to make a humble cranberry coffee cake. They were out of cranberries at WF and tried to convince me it would come out the same. NO IT WON'T. Not the end of the world, but in my state, it felt like it.

Malnurtured Snay said...

Lemmonex - they thought you could make a cranberry coffee cake without cranberries and have it taste the same? Huh?

Brett said...

The last time I went to safeway I asked where the Celestial Seasonings holiday teas were, as they had been in a display last week and were now nowhere to be found in the tea aisle. Mentally challenged Safeway worker then led me around the store- we first stopped in the salad dressing section, I shit you not, I had to explain that tea was a drink, you know, that you make with hot water?- then back to the tea aisle, where he determined that no, it was not there. Thanks.

By the way: " The cilantro accused the cashier of date rape, the tomatoes got a sultry spanking, and the green onions will never be the same. " - genius

Shannon said...

Lem - The schnozberries taste like schnozberries! (Really, you can respond to any comment with a Willy Wonka reference)

Brett - You can always spank my tomatoes.

FoggyDew said...

Seeing as how I shop at a HT that requires a car to patronize it, my biggest pet peeve is folks who refuse to take two minutes to return their carts to the lobby. Instead they perch them on the medians or in the very limited parking spaces.

I have to say, the employees at my neighborhood HT are pretty decent when it comes right down to it. Perhaps I need to be more picky.

Marissa said...

I have nothing good to add, but wanted to note I am thrilled you used the word "dicker."

Shannon said...

Foggy - I think suburban markets tend to be less obnoxious, as their patrons have cars and can simply go somewhere else. Urban grocers know they've got you over a barrel.

Marissa - Always pleased to dicker you. Er, that came out wrong.

Patty Duke said...

Scene: Starburst Safeway in the hood.

Time: Christmas week

Situation: I have just finished doing my Christmas shopping. I had a very full cart. A man enters the line about the same time as me. He only has a carton of milk, so I let him in front of me. A few minutes later, a woman with a full cart comes up and speaks to him. He then motions the woman in front of him I tell them both that the line begans BEHIND me. He says she is with him. Now I know this is not true, because she spoke to hime as if she hadn't seen him in awhile. As if that wasn't bad enough, a second woman comes up with a shopping cart and he lets HER in front, saying she is also with him. Of course I start ranting and raving about this as do the customer behind me. And what does the cashier do? NOTHING. She acts as though everything is normal. The only other recourse I thought I had was to insult the man. So, I inform the customer behind me, rather loudly, that obviously the man was a bum and that these two women were taking care of him. He proceeded to ball up his fist and say that he was going to ignore me before did somthing silly. At this point I decided that I shoud shut up. Really it doesn't take that long for two women with full carts in front of me to be rung up.

KassyK said...

Ugh. Its not grocery related but every CVS in the DC Area makes me want to punch someone in the face.

Its like people do not understand the concept of a line unless the area is ROPED OFF.

I have had a billion people trot in front of me while I am on line because they are too stupid to see that there IS a line.

I usually being the asshole I am, pull out my cell, call my mom and begin to loudly bitch about how stupid everyone in the store is...describing the dumbass in detail.

I also call people out and pull the "I was here. You are cutting the line. There is a line. Did you not see me in the line? Get behind the LINE."

. I love love LOOOOOVE to do that.

The CVS clerks love it when I do that too.

LiLu said...

As a faithful attendee of a Giant in SHAW, let me express my empathy. I feel ya, sister.

P.S. "Gawp"?! It's like gape... awkwardly... slack mouthed... all in one! Love it.

Gilahi said...

Speaking of CVS... well KassyK was... Why do they go to the trouble of putting 6 cash registers at the front of every store? When there's a line snaking all the way around the strip mall to the Starbuck's, they never have more than two cashiers working.

Shannon said...

Patty - Oh, my. I've never seen a cashier intervene in that sort of situation, though.

Kass - I thought about getting a job as a CVS clerk, just for the blog material.

LiLu - "Gawp" comes from the Middle English word, "galpen" which means, "to stare stupidly."

Gilahi - Those are the extra slots for the DMV workers...CVS is the DMV farm team.

Hey Pretty said...

I have a special talent for always picking the wrong line to stand in, no matter where I am. Of course this applies to grocery stores so every experience at the Whole Foods/Harris Teeter is basically an interchangable hell for me.

Being that I am also a total hippie, I buy many of my groceries from the Dupont Farmer's market. While I love the concept of local and seasonal, the farmers market is always a clusterf*ck of aging hippies with SUV strollers milling around blindly with no grasp of the concept of logical crowd flow or organized lines. But...the presence of their yoga mats leads me to believe that none of this matters because they're too busy being "enlightened" and what not to care if they're in my way.

Tina said...

I actually slugged a guy in a grocery store once. In my defense he had ran his cart into the bck of my legs at least three times after I had asked him politely to keep it back so it did not hit me. And the doctor had changed my BC which had my hormones all out of whack. Really - because normally would never just haul off and slug strangers. Well at least not strangers that were that large.

Ibid said...

Right. Kansas City, Missouri. 1999. One of the 5 largest Walmarts on the planet (at the time). The grocery section was so disgusting that you didn't want to touch anything. Horrid lighting made things worse. The lettuce I chanced had dead bugs pressed between the leaves and that was some of the better looking produce.

That was the last time I went to that store. Which is probably why I avoided the many hostage situations that some of the employees there told me about. Seriously. Like 3 a year.

Shannon said...

HP - As you know, SUV strollers are a huge peeve of mine. People should have to get operating permits for those things.

Tina - Was it you, or your evil twin?

Ibid - Bugs? Oh, they were a gift-with-purchase. Extra protein.

Tina said...

my evil twin has better sense than to hit a man that could snap our spine like a twig. She would have written down his licence plate and them reported him for reckless driving to one of her officer friends. :)

Shannon said...

Tina - your evil twin is devious and wise.

Scotus said...

I was in line at the grocery store last week, and in addition to food, the woman in front of me was buying this small, ceramic Christmas tree thing, that you could plug in and would light up. Just as she was about to swipe her credit card, she asked the cashier if there was an outlet she could plug the tree into to make sure it worked.

The cashier said she didn't know, and the woman said she didn't want to buy it unless she knew it worked. (Why she had doubts it would, I never found out.) So I was stuck there in line for a few minutes, literally biting my tongue to keep from saying something I'd regret, until a manager came over and explained there were no outlets she could use, and also the concept of a return policy.

Anonymous said...

I am a Social Safeway shopper, where every *entitled* person in DC buys their milk and toilet paper. The cashiers are fine but the customers? I'm seriously going to bludgeon one with a can of creamed corn one day. It's that bad, really. Assholes galore.

I spend the majority of my shopping time saying the following, "Oh, I'm sorry. Excuse me. I forgot - it's your world. Beg your pardon."

Shannon said...

Scotus - they have a 'tester' station at the Goodwill for that very purpose...maybe she thought she was at Goodwill? Buying secondhand milk?

Yeah, it's a reach.

Frecks - "Oh, I'm sorry. Excuse me. I forgot - it's your world. Beg your pardon." Ha! I may have to start using that.

SheinMD said...

I was in the Giant in the Wheaton mall a few months ago (which is a nightmare on a good day, but whatever - it's close to home and sometimes I have to take a hit for the team and go there). I was only buying 3 things, and I get in line with (what I hope was) a stoned cashier. After she rang me up, and was waiting for my debit card to clear instead of bagging my groceries (no biggie, I usually do it myself anyway...but still) she stood there licking the back of her hand with the tip of her tongue, like she was tasting something. It was so odd...I think that's the strangest experience I've had in a grocery store. I just stared at her - even though I didn't mean to - because I couldn't look away. It was almost like a crappy circus sideshow.

Marshall said...

As a northern Virginia Safeway employee, I feel as though I should stick up for my peers--but not really, because all my co-workers are lazy assholes.

For the record, though, Safeway's a pretty awful company these days. Morale is extremely low and I guess most employees just don't care enough to try to hide it.