Walking the Aisles

I love grocery shopping. Maybe it’s the foraging for new and interesting things to cook and eat that I find appealing. Or maybe it’s that I can spend 150 bucks and feel really good about it. Probably both.

I don’t usually make a list, because if I’m only looking for things on my list, I might miss something new and interesting. A list is good if you’re in a hurry, but I like to take my time. I’ve starting going grocery shopping early Sunday mornings because I have lots of time then and also because there’s almost no one else in the store then.

A lot of people hate grocery shopping.

There’s a great business opportunity for those of us who like it. There are already grocery shopping services, but the market is wide open —  from the basic service where the customer goes online and makes their grocery list and the service just picks the stuff up and delivers; to the full-service service where they create weekly meal plans, do the grocery shopping, do all the preparatory work for the meals, (chopping veggies, dicing meats, peeling spuds, etc.) and then drop everything off in handy little boxes with instructions on how to prepare the dishes.

Anyway, I can’t say I blame people for not wanting to do their own grocery shopping. The stores certainly go out of their way to make the experience as unpleasant as possible.

But I like grocery shopping so much that I can overlook the snarky teenaged cashiers because I reckon they’d rather be anywhere than at work at 7:00 am on a Sunday. And I can deal with the grocery aisles being interrupted by half a dozen aisles of housewares, furniture, electronics and clothing. Because sometimes when you’ve just stocked up on those bags of coffee they had on sale and you realize you don’t have a cappuccino maker, it’s handy that you can pick one up right there in your grocery store. Or maybe you want to get the extra Airmiles for buying 20 bags of dog food and you don’t yet have a dog. Or you’ve been thinking about getting a new sofa anyway and there’s still room in your cart.[1]

And I can deal with people blocking the aisles while they chat about the verities of life. And while I do get irritated standing in a 20-person queue when there are only 2 cash registers open, I get around that now by shopping at odd hours. And I can even happily deal with them charging 5 cents for grocery bags.[2]

What I absolutely cannot deal with, however, is when grocery stores renege on the one small, simple thing I ask of them and that is that they actually stock GROCERIES.

Oh, I know they’re too busy trying to be all things to all people and I don’t expect much.[3] But when I’ve planned on making lasagna for lunch and they have no lasagna pasta, I get really pissed off. Of course asking one of the young, gangly stockboys gets you either the dismissive, “If it’s not on the shelf we don’t have any.” Or, he might actually walk over to the empty shelf, look at it and then say, “Naw, I don’t think we have any.”

If you ask a manager, he will offer to call another store “because they might have some”. I want to tell him, “No thank you. I’m quite sure there are other grocery stores all over the place that have something as basic as lasagna pasta, but I’ve actually been foolish enough to choose this grocery store to shop in today. I will endeavor not to make the same mistake in the future.”

I can never manage anything quite that concise, though, so I usually just mumble something about how convenient that would be and change my lunch menu.

Seriously, on any given grocery shopping excursion I end up leaving without at least 30% of the stuff I need because the items are “out-of-stock” or “back-ordered” or whatever. It’s a freakin’ GROCERY store, why the hell can’t they plan ahead well enough to keep GROCERIES on their shelves?  Have I ever walked into Chapters and been told they’re all out of non-fiction today?

I think not.

[1] And that’s not even impossible given the size of the grocery carts in some stores. You need a boom and hoist to get down there to retrieve your groceries sometimes.
 [2] Even though I’m not at all convinced that stores are doing this for the benefit of mother earth, I’ve been bringing my own bags for a long time anyway. Although I have read that the cotton bags are actually more environmentally unfriendly than the plastic bags because they’re made overseas, which means cotton has to be shipped over, the bags have to be shipped back and then they’re not recyclable in this country whereas the plastic bags are made here and recycled here.
[3] Yes, I have some unusual grocery needs, but I’m happy to go to natural food stores or other specialty shops for things like that. I only go to grocery stores for staples anyway.