March 30, 2017

Errand Gleanings


Sunday afternoon is the time I spend shopping for the week's basic groceries, as well as for those items that have to be prepared from ingredients as fresh as can be obtained in the present day supermarkets. These present day supermarkets are, if you've been on the planet longer four decades, breathtaking in the kinds of packaged foods, fresh meat and seafood, and fresh produce.

In these cathedrals of commerce it seems that every month more and more items from throughout the world are on offer. Ghee! You can now buy ghee in jars. It is true that some special cheeses seem to be coming in at $40 per pound and that the one ounce package of sliced dried mandarin oranges works out to $65 a pound. These items are there if you are so drenched in disposable income that nary a thought of the price to value absurdity of it all can emerge to shimmer the surface of your seething cranium.

From blackberries air-dropped from Peru and pre-stuffed Turducken's in the freezer rows to the "local sustainable organic" food items that are four times the price of their more plebeian corporate varieties, the sheer variety is staggering to someone who can remember when an orange in the toe of one's Christmas stocking was a very hard to obtain and expensive fruit for that season.

Besides these somewhat obvious but always striking impressions of how America fares in its current position as the top of the food chain, three other things struck me as I went to three, yes three, different supermarkets on this fine Seattle afternoon in late Spring of the year of our Lord 2014.

First, as a friend remarked a couple of weeks ago, "Every woman in America seems to have gotten the personally addressed memo concerning very tight jeans and/or leggings. This includes the 90% of American women who, if caught dead in them, would die; and yet they too seem to have joined the Cult."

Second, while a warming Spring brings out a very fine parade of nubile ladies in various stages of revealing and "en déshabillé" clothing, it also reveals Winter's crop of thoughtless, tasteless, and usually revolting fresh tattoos on areas of the body heretofore thought untattoable. One unfortunately memorable one seemed to be located at above the "tramp stamp" position and was a kind of winged velociraptor baby with a bloody beak breaking out of an egg. It gave one pause. And then one walked on.

Third was the advent of a new parting phrase from supermarket cashiers. Usually they inguire as to the manner in which your day is going, something to which I invariably answer with an upbeat "Great. Thanks for asking" just to be polite. The ringing up of one's groceries then takes place and one pays, as one pays for most things in today's suddenly cashless society, with a debit card. Then the receipt whirrs out of the machine at the end, after it has transmitted the contents of your cart to the supermarket's headquarters, the local police, and the host of three letter interested parties in the government, and the cashier usually just thanks you by name after glancing at the receipt.

Today this was as it always is but with the addition of the trenchant phrase, "Thanks for coming in."

Three different cashiers at three different supermarkets on three different levels of retail demography -- working class, middle class, and upper middle class -- all saw fit to say the exact same phrase, "Thanks for coming in."

An alien visitor to our planet might think that's simply a coincidence of phrasing, but I take it to be the beginning of some bit of customer-stroking fluff that depraved retail consultants started telling their corporate customers in order to have something to justify their many, many thousands in annual billings. They probably came up with some study that showed that of every 100 customers that you said "Thank you for coming in" 15% more came in again.

It's bullshit of course, but retail and marketing in the food industry needs a constant stream of fresh bullshit if it is to keep its profit line up. Just as things done to transmogrify kale work as this year's chipotle, so does "Thanks for coming in" operate as the new "Have a nice day."

Listen for it at a supermarket near you.

Soon to be a major motion picture.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at March 30, 2017 5:00 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Contrary to industry practice the supermarket nearest my home puts their best checker at the express register. She is the master of multitasking and can carry on a pleasant conversation with the elderly lady who has no one to talk to while she checks her out. Good checkers are a rare treasure, if corporate give them a new mantra go with it. And thank them for being good at their jobs. It's getting less common every day.

Posted by: Glenn at May 18, 2014 6:43 PM

Yeah, it's hard to miss those phrases that were obviously put out by some marketing study to its customers. I swear I'm gonna scream the next time I hear some doofus in an advertisement try to tell me about "this weird trick" that is supposedly going to improve my life.

Posted by: Grizzly at May 18, 2014 7:06 PM

Have you noticed that it's usually phrased as "this 1 weird trick"?

And on checkers. My wife got started talking to one of the checkers at our local supermarket, and found out that her husband nearly died of cancer last year, and that they live in a mobile home that's heated solely by a wood stove. She's a good checker too, not grumpy with the customers, and I'm not really sure I'd even notice if she started saying "Thanks for coming in".

Posted by: pfsm at May 18, 2014 9:16 PM

A bitter heart cannot reveal the Spring that love remembers.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 18, 2014 9:58 PM

Sheba pet food. Oh, (inexplicable) "meat" processing discards?
Chives. Oh, those purple flowers I mow over?
Wait, that works out to HOW much a pound?
Fast food workers DEMAND a wage suitable to afford to buy pet food, and chives.
OH LOOK! ATM, credit card gas pumps, and self check out scanners! Education, "on line"!, because "our" children are "used to" electronic
"aids" in their classrooms.
That push the icon "wellness" triage keyboard from "Idiocracy", along with ID/billing "processing" via. number (bar code) tattooed on ones arm, get's closer and closer.
Considering the actual value of academia's "communal" price-per-initial credentials, maybe it's a good thing.
Somehow, It's all for "our" children.

Posted by: CaptDMO at May 19, 2014 7:04 AM

Gerard, you're being uncharitable. I don't care where or how the checkout clerk learned to utter a pleasant greeting or goodbye or what the words are. It is sufficient that the encounter be a pleasant one. Why bash people, whether clerks or motivation consultants, for trying to make our lives within a bureaucratic, technological society more pleasant?

Posted by: Gloria at May 19, 2014 11:20 AM

I'm not bashing clerks. I have infinite respect for them. If anything I'm bashing the corporate clones who force them to mutter banalities and slogans and requests for extra money, "Would you like to donate a dollar to end world hunger?"

I qyote myself: "It's bullshit of course, but retail and marketing in the food industry needs a constant stream of fresh bullshit if it is to keep its profit line up."

Posted by: vanderleun at May 19, 2014 1:22 PM

The next time one of them cretins asks, "Would you like to donate a dollar to......?", I'm go all the way over the top and punch someone, anyone in reach, right in the face.

After dodging demolition derby carts, grabbing shit off the top shelf for 4' tall old ladies, waiting for the 400lb lardass in the free electrowheelchaircartto unass the A.O., deciphering or just trying to find prices on stuff, being disgusted with the 30% per year inflation in food, I just want to get the hell outta there.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 19, 2014 7:25 PM

And then there's the motherfucker that picks your shit up, scans it, then while holding it says, "Mmmmmm, I just LUVVVV these!!!"

WAMMM! Right in the eye.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 19, 2014 7:28 PM

I have been very fortunate over the past decade. My house is about one mile from work. Kroger is about one mile from both. I go home for lunch. And over lunch I stop by Kroger.

How wonderful to get all I need and put it away - and eat lunch - within an hour.*

*The drycleaner is within the same arc, as is the tire store, gas stations, and the dealership body and service. My office will be moving this summer - much to my regret.

Posted by: Mikey NTH at May 19, 2014 7:55 PM

Most of the cashiers in my local markets encourage me to "Have a good one." So far I've been able to restrain myself from asking, "A good what?"

Posted by: Harry at May 20, 2014 2:56 PM

I do believe all of the ideas you've introduced for your post. They're really convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief for newbies. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

Posted by: kazania online at May 21, 2014 6:40 PM

At least they say thank you. The 'thank you' has been replaced with a 'there you go'. Arggghhh... Millennials.

Posted by: Miguel at May 29, 2014 10:07 AM

Speaking of *thank you*.
Have you noticed that when you say thank you to anyone under the age of say 30 or so they reply, "No problem."

Makes my skin crawl.
The implication that my politeness might have been a problem.

Makes you just wanna ball both of em up and react like restrained spring steel.

Posted by: ghostsniper at March 30, 2017 9:44 AM

I am always impressed with the variety and quantity of good food at my local supermarkets. I have even taken pictures of the produce counter in awe of the mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. We are very lucky to live in both a country and a time where this is possible.

I like strawberries and blueberries in the Winter. I understand that some smart businessmen made a deal with airlines to use previously unused cargo space on regularly scheduled flights to get produce from South America and other locations to markets in North America. A win/win. The airlines made this available at a price that made it practical and the farmers in South and Central America opened up a viable market for their goods. And I get to eat fresh strawberries in January.

Posted by: GoneWithTheWind at March 30, 2017 3:41 PM

Publix: "Where shopping is a pleasure." I love this place.

Posted by: Larry Geiger at March 31, 2017 6:13 AM

chasmatic, at 5-18-14 9:58PM, lives:
'A bitter heart cannot reveal the
Spring that love remembers.'

Posted by: Howard Nelson at March 31, 2017 8:11 AM

As someone ready to go out the door in about 10 minutes to utter some of those corporate bullshit phrases...I say Thank You Gerard!

Posted by: Mary*Ann at March 31, 2017 8:23 AM

The ubiquity of tramp stamps does not alter their significance. It simply means that more tramps are publicly self-identifying.

Posted by: Brother John at March 31, 2017 3:00 PM

Back when they still said, "Have a nice day!" my standard response was, "Thank you, but I have other plans."

Posted by: Skorpion at April 1, 2017 6:48 PM

Speaking of tramp stamps, I learned that in Germany they are known as ass antlers which is a perfect description.

Posted by: Galway Boy at April 2, 2017 7:39 AM

In response to "how is your day?" a reply along the line of with this purchase my plan for world domination is set in motion knocks the mindless patter right outa the clerk.

Posted by: itor at April 2, 2017 11:48 AM