Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

Groceries in transit

Groceries in Transit” by qmnonic via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0

Going to the grocery store is like going to the airport. You know it’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to challenge you mentally, emotionally and physically.

-The mental challenge: This pack of toilet paper has a million cubic metric inches squared of paper and it’s triple ply with a really cute koala bear. Ooh, but this one is 50 gallons when unrolled and swirled into a 6-foot pyramid. But it’s only double ply. Let me take out the magical calculator I bought at Diagon Alley and do the math here. Screw it. Of course I’m buying the one with the cute koala bear.

Koala toilet paper

Because he looks so super snuggly! (“Lovely koala with Cushelle toilet paper” – SCA by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

-The physical challenge: The other shoppers are there to test your agility. They place their carts, bodies, children, anything they can to stop your forward motion and prevent you from obtaining that pack of gummy worms that you need so badly.

T Rex tomatoes

I guess I should just be happy they’re aren’t  dinosaurs lurking in my store’s produce department. (“T-Rex sighted in the Grocery Store” by katerha via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

-The emotional challenge: The checkout line is intended to wear down what remains of your patience.

Of course only one register is open. And there are three people in front of you.

1st person in line – Seriously? You’re going to pay in all pennies?

2nd person in line – Say what? You’re going to buy twenty tubes of toothpaste using twenty separate transactions?

3rd person in line – Of course you have fifteen things in your cart that all need a price check. And now you’ve waited until the clerk tells you your total to start filling out your check. Really? You can’t write the date and sign the check until you know the total??

But what annoys me the most???? The shopping carts. I’ve been working on a very scientific study about shopping carts and how they’re conspiring against me. I’ll have the results for you one day. Right now I have to go to the grocery store. I was so confused by the toilet paper pricing last week, I forgot to buy some. Wish me luck!

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50 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

  1. Marcy says:

    My ‘magic’ calculator is my husband. I have been in Costco and had him figuring out the best deal and noticed a crowd of other women around us waiting for the verdict. I don’t know what your shopping cart thing is but I always say to my husband why is it that the Costco shopping carts that really take a beating never have that ‘wonky’ wheel, but every single cart old and new that I take at Kings Soopers ALWAYS has a wonky wheel!

      • Marcy says:

        I don’t know although I have seen people shove the poor things up onto the curb to keep them from rolling, that of course is much better than actually taking the few steps required to put it in the cart return. Maybe Kings shoppers are lazier than Costco shoppers, for some reason, I have never seen a Costco basket put anywhere other than the proper cart return.

  2. gpeynon says:

    I feel your pain, I truly do. My pet peeve is the shopper who realises at the very end of their transaction they forgot that really important whatever-it-is, and so the cashier has to call the gofer, who then casually strolls off to very ends of the store in order to pick up this whatever-it-is. All the while my ice-cream is sat there defrosting; teasingly within a few inches of the cashier, but motionless nonetheless.. By the time all is done and this person finally has all they needed, I am watching the person at the opposite checkout (the one who I neatly sidestepped to get in this smaller queue) pay up and leave, with their ice-cream intact. Grrrrrrr.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Oh, the line competition! I think this is part of my angst with the slow checkout people. I hate, hate, hate when the line next to mine is cruising at warp speed and I’m practically moving backward. I think I could do a whole post about this…

      Yeah, the gofer is never in that much of a hurry. Neither is the “special override clerk” who has to be called to turn their magic key in the register to make it work again after something was rung up wrong.

  3. April says:

    I love to add to my club of grocery shopping haters. Maybe I should make this statement a bit more pleasantly structured, by removing the word hate….like, I love adding people to my club of those who have a distaste for grocery shopping. Naw…hate is the best word, and fancy writing isn’t the true me.

    Was the toothpaste patron an extreme couponer? I call them Coupon Queens, and I’m always behind one. The store can be relatively quiet, with one register open. Even though I try to race to the check stand, trying to avoid all the displays placed in a maze, in order to beat the person with multiple carts in tow, I rarely succeed.

    I will end up behind the only other person in the store, with two full carts, and a handful of coupons. (I’m exaggerating–kind of). Then when they are finished with their tally, they fish around in their purse for the checkbook and begin to write the check, paying very close attention to check writing perfection, worthy of framing. Before removing themselves so that the checker can move on, the Coupon Queen checks their receipt, and quibbles with the checker about neglecting one of the coupons, which creates a treasure hunt for the checker to prove that it expired, or that they purchased the wrong size to be able to use the coupon,

    Why I seriously hate it, is the guilt I have to deal with, while inhaling the bad goodies I couldn’t resist. The stuff that comes from the candy aisle and the freezer section. I punish myself for neglecting to shop the perimeter where the healthy stuff is usually kept.

    I have no self-respect.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Yes! She was an extreme couponer. They wouldn’t let her ring it up all as one transaction. It was painful, but I tried to be patient and tell myself that I am lucky that I don’t have to resort to such shenanigans to buy a tube of toothpaste.

      Oh and the quibbling with the cashier… I was behind a lady who actually started bartering on the price of her fruit, saying she would only pay such and such amount. It was weird, but I think they finally gave it to her at the lower price just to get rid of her.

      And yes, you can add me to the list of haters. I seriously hate it and I know I should just be happy that I don’t have to hunt and gather my own food, but I can’t help myself. I’m supposed to be going right now and I can’t tear myself away from the computer. Argh.

  4. Logan Windram says:

    I am not a big fan of any grocery store, and I have made a well verbalized case why their “Valued Customer” swipe card makes me crazy… But I have to give it to King Soopers, they post the cost per unit on every price tag. Manufacturers play games with cubic feet versus cubic yards, two ply extra hefty versus three ply…. But King Sooper brings it all crashing down with a consistent cost per unit. It lets you leave Koalas and fuzzy metrics aside and evaluate real value. Take that Charmin. Oh, and did you know spraying the the produce in the store makes it spoil faster? Tisk, Tisk, indeed.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Yes, the Petsmart valued customer card that also works at King Soopers. I know, but they send me coupons I can actually use.

      And yes, they usually post a consistent price per unit, but sometimes they get sneaky with sales items and it’s by ounces versus mls or whatever. And let’s not pretend you don’t love having koalas on your toilet paper.

    • Marcy says:

      Logan, one good thing about those loyalty cards is that I have been contacted three times about recalls involving salmonella, two from pet food at Costco and one from ice cream at Kings. I got a phone call telling me to bring the ice cream back for full refund. Good thing I had not eaten any yet. So, the good outweighs the bad, I think it does, anyway.

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite things. I’m not sure when that happened; it wasn’t always that way. But now it’s like pulling teeth to get me to go there. Luckily, my husband doesn’t mind it, so he’ll often go. Maybe it’s the endless choices now. You can’t even buy shampoo without having to sort through endless varieties of the same brand. Argghh.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Oh, you are so lucky. My husband never goes (but I work part time and that was part of the deal – see that’s how much he hates going, me working less hours a week was a fair trade for not having to go to the store).

      Yes, the endless choices. Sometimes it’s easy for me: I just go with whatever is cheapest, but with things like toilet paper I don’t want the cheap stuff, so how do I decide? Based on the mascot? How squishy it is? Whether it has a flower pattern? Ugh. I probably shouldn’t have written this post right before I’m supposed to go shopping…

      • Marcy says:

        For some reason, my husband enjoys food shopping at Costco (maybe the free samples), but hates it at the regular grocery store.

        • jennifer Windram says:

          Maybe because there is more space. I hate how the aisles in some stores are so cramped. And then they put up a display right in the middle so only one cart can squeeze by.

  6. fudgeandpoppy says:

    When my husband and I want to have an argument we go to the large Sainsbury’s in the next town. We can be perfectly happy on the walk up to the sliding doors and it’s almost like a change comes over us gradually as we venture further into the building.

    We find ourselves slowly surrounded by the zombie hoard that is the general public. People who seem to have no clue there are other people using the shop at the same time as them, reaching across you without an ‘excuse me please’. Stopping right in the middle of an aisle or rounding the corner of an aisle and looking so surprised to find another human being stood there, wincing after having their foot run over with the trolley.

    The clamour of people around the reduced food section, scavenging around looking for a good deal, pushing aside the trifle that goes out of date that day, hunting for a prime cut of meat that can go in the freezer, but leaving instead with a limp looking flan.

    The couples who cannot be civil to one another when asking simple questions. Wife: “Do we need bread?” Husband: “How do I know if we need any bloody bread?” The screaming children running around, asking for everything under the sun. The parent yelling blue murder at a child who actually looks like they haven’t been naughty at all, but had merely opened their mouth to point out the fact that spaghetti hoops are on offer this week.

    My husband and I usually fall out over questions like “What do you want for tea tonight?” He shrugs and I sigh, wishing that he might one day make a decision. (Sometimes he does.)

    But what I really dislike is getting to the checkout, standing there packing while the checkout employee talks to me about everything I am buying. I don’t mind making polite conversation, I’ve worked in shops before, I know it is nice to be nice. But I don’t fancy having a running narration of my purchases:

    “Oh, tagine sauce? Is it nice? I’ve seen it but never bought it before.” “Yes, it’s nice, that’s why I am buying it.”
    “Spinach, some people like to use it in salads (nose wrinkled up in disgust)” “Yes, I do, it is nice.”
    “Toilet roll? You must like wiping your bum then?” “Well, like is a strong word, but I do need it yes.”
    “Cat food! You got a cat then?” “No, I just like eating cat food.”

    As for calculators, I tend to check things on the shelf tickets that often will tell me how much something costs per 100g or in the case of toilet paper – pence per sheet. But I don’t like it when they do two different terms of measurement comparing one in grams and the other in metric tonnes. Then my brain stops working.

    I feel your pain!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      OMG Alex. This is hysterical. It’s better than the original post! You should seriously think about making this into a post on your blog!

      I love this: “What do you want for tea tonight?” He shrugs and I sigh, wishing that he might one day make a decision. – I feel the same way sometimes 🙂 You would think I’d be delighted every time I hear the words, “You choose,” but every now and then I’m thinking, why do I have to make all the decisions?

      Oh, I’ve had the clerks do the same with me. “What is this?” “Is it any good?” “What do you do with it?” “How do you cook it?” “It looks so weird?” “Does it taste like chicken?” After awhile, I’m like Google it like everyone else does? BTW what the heck is tangine sauce?

      A lot of our stores use different terms of measurement and that’s when I get really confused, especially with the toilet paper. I think they do it on purpose.

      • fudgeandpoppy says:

        0.05 pence per sheet versus £1 per roll or 15 dubloons per hectare of bum wiping material.

        🙂 I may well do a post about it!

        Tagine sauce – a ready made sauce to make a Moroccan style meal (they use pots called Tagines – I have one and have used it all of once.) Sainsburys used to make this really nice sauce with spices and almonds. No idea if they still sell it or not.

        “Oh, personal lubricant… I use this all the time. Terribly dry. How about you?” “Please, dear god, stop talking to me!”

        I hate being the decision maker, I was the decision maker with my ex too. Why aren’t many men capable of saying “I would like to have bangers and mash for tea tonight please oh wife of my dreams!” Just once!

        • fudgeandpoppy says:

          Oh and don’t even get me started on the self service checkouts…. “Please place item in bagging area.” Item is in bagging area, it has been placed there. “Please place item in bagging area.” It is. “Please place item in bagging area.” It f*cking is!!! “Security alert, item not in bagging area. Dirty thief.” Cue the red flashing light and the vapid employee who comes over to turn a key in the till and key in some random number. “Please scan your next item or press finish and pay….Item not recognised. Please wait for assistance.”

          It is a wonder I haven’t gone on a killing spree yet.

          • jennifer Windram says:

            Ha! Logan always makes the self checkout angry. He doesn’t understand that you have to put the item somewhere on the bagging area, even if it’s not in a bag. Then he’ll pick something up after it’s been rung up and the machine scolds him again.

            I do still like the self checkout better – probably because I don’t have to deal with the chatty cashier 🙂

            • fudgeandpoppy says:

              There is the benefit of no chatty cashier, and I’m only just starting to get on a bit better with the self checkouts, but the odd time here and there it all decides to go tits up and I end up practically shouting at it.
              The problem is when you are buying more than what will fit on the weighing scale that is the bagging area, so you can no longer fit anything into it or need to take a bag off in order to start filling another – oooooh no, no we don’t like that.

              • jennifer Windram says:

                No, you can never remove anything front he bagging area – I think it thinks you’re stealing if you do that. Although, you already rung it up, so that doesn’t make sense, does it?

          • fudgeandpoppy says:

            I have to say the shopping experience here is vastly different to being in the US. I remember visits as a child and being a bit surprised at how shop assistants were so friendly and talkative – lots of ‘How are you today?’ and ‘Have a nice day!’ Whereas in the UK we are more used to disinterested shop workers, either pretty blank faced or busy chatting to a friend or co-worker to even look at you. Looking at you weirdly if you are smiling and want to be nice and friendly.

            Not all places are like this, but I’m pretty bad at making eye contact in shops, mainly down to being pretty shy (not me thinking I am above them). But the odds are I will get someone uber chatty and friendly when I am feeling really down or upset or had the worst day known to man.

            • jennifer Windram says:

              We have some of those disinterested folks too. I just go with whatever their mood is – if they seem chatty, I’ll chat. If they want to ignore me, I’m fine with that too 🙂

  7. elainecanham says:

    I like going to the supermarket by myself at quiet times, with no children or husband in tow. This means I don’t have to buy ten packets of biscuits, and ridiculous cereals, and its perfectly all right to talk to myself. And if its very quiet…I can run with my trolley, then lift my feet off the ground and see how far I can surf.

  8. suzjones says:

    Wow! As much as I dislike grocery shopping, we have it a bit better here I think. There are no such things as coupons (unless you are a flybuys card holder and they send you some every three months but hardly anyone uses them) and stores do not accept cheques as payment. You either pay cash or use a card.
    We still have the whole wonky wheel thing but I get around that by getting the GG to push the trolley.
    Virtually painless in comparison really. lol

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Oh, yeah. We have extreme couponers who gather up mounds and mounds of coupons from the newspaper, internet, etc. and then they use multiple coupons when things go on sale so they can get the item for free or nearly free. It never worked for me because the coupons are usually for junk food or other processed things that I usually don’t eat.

      My shopping was easier when the hubby used to join me and he always pushed the cart too. Maybe that’s why I hate it so much now? I have no one to share the misery with.

  9. lindsaycummingswrites says:

    Oh, that darn grocery store. I’ve gotten so lazy that I rarely make an appearance there anymore. Since Trader Joe’s opened, I have only been to the regular store a couple times. I need stuff from the grocery… I just don’t want to go. Having people over Thursday, guess I’d better go:) wish me luck!

  10. jmmcdowell says:

    Oh, comparison pricing! I really hate it when the “per unit” price of Item A is in quarts when the “per unit” price of Item B is in gallons. Even though Items A and B are THE SAME THING, just made by different companies. Argh!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I really feel like it’s a conspiracy. Some stores are nice enough to break it down for you in the same unit of measurement on the price tags. I always buy my toilet paper at those stores 🙂

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