Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Croc Market, Week 2

I thought I should give an update on my coral pink Crocs and how they're faring at the grocery store. Poor widdle Crocs! They're getting all scuffed up!

After about five days on the Crocs, I flipped up the ankle strap and turned 'em into clogs. I do so love clogs. I'm a clog kinda gal, I guess. It wasn't that the ankle strap was bothering me -- but when I moved it, I didn't miss it. The shoes still stay on my feet! These things are amazing.

My feet still hurt at the end of a five-hour shift, and they hurt more at the end of an eight-hour shift, but I no longer have to take Vicoden to alleviate back pain. That's the best benefit of these shoes -- a pain-free back!

Observations from the Grocery Store
- Holiday weekends are NUTS. I mean -- crazy bongo-playing lines everywhere.

- Egg cartons -- the foamy kind -- don't hold the bar code ink very well. And I think the cash register (which is smarter than I am) is confused when you're selling 8000 eggs per hour because it just refuses to take the egg bar code any more, anyway.

- Just when I figure out one mystery (how to input a coupon that doesn't scan the first time), some other mystery becomes the big problem of the week (how to make the credit card scanner accept worn-out credit cards).

- Some co-workers are a ray of sunshine.

- Some co-workers are black holes of misery and pain, with black clouds hanging over their heads.

- Some of the nicest employees are on food stamps because they earn so little at the grocery store that they're below the poverty level. Please keep this in mind when you're shopping. These people are *people*. And they're getting paid diddly-squat to serve you.

- Mesh bags of white onions should be illegal. Onion skins grate against the mesh and fly in all directions. Onion debris is the second-messiest thing in the grocery store, surpassed only by leaky chicken packages. If a fastidious customer is kind and puts the mesh bag in a plastic produce bag, then the cash register doesn't want to read the bar code on the strap of the mesh bag. It's a no-win situation.

- The reason bag boys fill the bags so full isn't to irritate you or to make you feel weak and helpless. It's because they know that a little flimsy plastic grocery bag costs the store 1.5 cents. They're supposed to put at least 8 items in there, but there are a hundred rules about what things can't go with other things. So you bought a 2-pound package of chicken. That goes in a bag by itself. But you have 15 cans of vegetables and soup. The bag boy is going to try to make up the bag-cost difference by putting all the cans in one bag.

- If you are purchasing fresh meat from the meat department, put each package in one of the really thin plastic bags. However. Put each package of meat in a different flimsy bag, and make sure the bar code shows through on the clear side of the bag. If you put three packages of thin-cut pork chops in one bag, the cashier has to remove at least two of those packages and scan them one at a time. If the printing on the bag obscures the bar code, then she has to remove the third package, too. And then she has to cram all three packages of meat back into the bag. It's inefficient in the extreme. And you are going to be mad because it takes so long to get your groceries scanned, but it's definitely not the cashier's fault.

- If you're buying chicken, please put it in one of the clear meat department bags. Chicken leaks everywhere and it contaminates the cash register and the conveyor belt, which means we have to stop scanning everything and disinfect the entire thing OR we have to just make sure no one's groceries touch the scanner, cash register, counter, or belt. And that hurts. Oh, my back, my arms, my hands, my everything.
Exception to the above observation: My friend Krisi who works in a grocery store in New Hampshire says her store's meat department packages the chicken better than my store does. They have far fewer chicken catastrophes there. You may also be lucky enough to live where the chicken doesn't leak. I envy you if that's the case!

Second Biggest lesson learned from a shopper's point of view
If you're at the grocery store at 11:30 pm on the Friday before Easter, there's a good chance there's only one cash register open. The reason there's only one cash register open is because one of the three front-end managers at the store is charged with counting all the tills and ensuring that they "balance out." This is a huge job on any normal Friday. It's massive on a holiday weekend Friday.

So there you are, shopping as you always do on Friday night after your own second shift job, and you want a six-pack of beer for your Saturday afternoon of watching golf and grilling burgers. Perfectly reasonable of you, too, I might add. If I watched golf, I would need beer to alleviate the boredom, myself. Oh, wait, that's just me. Nevermind. We're talking about you, the shopper.

When you leave the refrigerator section with your six-pack of beer, you will discover that the line at the cash register is now eight carts deep. The cashier -- who is not a front-end manager, nor has she even really finished her training -- is up to her eyeballs in voids. These voids are caused by people who got in line at 11:00 with a package of ground beef, two packs of American cheese, and 8 packs of KoolAid. (I am not making that up.) The two gentlemen who chose these items and waited patiently in line are trying to pay for these things with their food stamps cards. However, neither of them has sufficient funds on their food stamps cards to cover this proposed purchase. Now they want to void off the cheese and the KoolAid. This requires the attention of one of three front-end managers, one of whom is wildly trying to make 20 separate stuffed tills balance out, one of whom is balancing the Front Office safe, and the other of whom is having to run from the back cooler to the front, re-stocking eggs, while still sweeping and mopping up around all the closed registers.

In other words, things have gone from "wildly busy" to "completely out of control."

And every single person in line in front of you and your six-pack wants cigarettes.

And the only person bagging groceries is the cashier.

By the time you get to the cash register, it is now 12:07. After midnight. And these cash registers are on a computer that won't let the cashier sell beer after midnight. You will not get your beer, and there's nothing she can do about it.

Lesson learned: If you are ever in this position, and you know that midnight is creeping up, urgently alert the front-end manager who's sweeping and mopping *before* midnight. I'm not saying yell at her, but you must get her attention. Seriously. Don't be sweet and patient and polite. You have been waiting in line forever, and darn it, you got there half an hour before midnight. You really should be able to get your beer, and the only person who can help you is a manager-type person. She doesn't know to bump you to the front of the line unless you let her know about your shopping needs.

How I've Changed As A Shopper
Now I know to unload the heavy stuff from the bottom of the cart myself so the cashier doesn't have to do it. I know now to bag my own groceries if there's no bag boy and the line behind me is two carts long. You might think, "The cashier has a method for bagging and if I try do it myself, I will get in her way." This is not true. The cashier will kiss your feet if you bag your own groceries.

Sadly -- very sadly -- I'm now aware that some of the people who work late really hate the shoppers who come into the store during the hour before closing. I have always been a late-night shopper. I had no idea that a front-end manager I've seen hundreds of times was making faces at me behind my back, and it hurts. It isn't my fault the store is open until midnight and they have to work that late.

The Upshot and the Lowdown
I gave notice on Thursday. My last night at the grocery store will be Saturday, April 22nd, which is the local high school's Prom Night. The store will need all the adults it can find just to keep the place open.

On Friday while I was washing and waxing my beautiful Prius, I stepped on something very sharp that stabbed deeply into the bottom of my heel, and now I'm afraid I won't be able to work out the remainder of my week. The pain is pretty darned significant. It wasn't bad last night, but it's swollen and painful today. I'm supposed to be at work at 6:00 to 10:30 tonight, and ... I'm just not sure I can physically do it.

When I gave notice to the store manager on Thursday, he said, "If you ever change your mind, you know where we are. I would hire you back in a heartbeat." I wonder if he would still feel that way if I failed to be able to work because my heel hurts so much?


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