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Market Madness December 9, 2007

Posted by emsgeiss in Green & Frunchy, parenting & family.
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Friday evening, I went to the market after several fruitful hours writing. It was time, we were almost out of everything. Three c-notes poorer, but rich in mostly healthy and delicious food for my family, I left the store with the usual bad taste in my mouth from yet another sucky shopping experience. Like something out of one of the Target sketches from SNL, I endured the questions and strangeness from the cashier and bagger. Why oh why do the clerks at Kroger feel it necessary to question my purchases? Politeness of course, always prevails, and I just play along, trying to hide my growing irritation. I’ve come to expect it, starting with the look as if I’ve sprouted five additional heads as I toss my cloth sacks and two square cloth collapsible bins on the conveyor belt while saying, “No plastic, use these instead.” But this trip, I was getting the curious yet inappropriate commentary from all angles.

 As I wait for the person in front of me to move through the process that makes going through airport security seem like an Aruban beach vacation, I double check my list, mentally calculating the final price, in an attempt to not have to interact with anyone else. The boy is home with Papa, so I while I’m getting to shop alone and with more space in the cart, since the front section is free, I’m also missing having the toddler to talk to and distract from wanting yet another Mylar balloon.  My cart is bulging, bottom platforms are filled, six-packs of pop (soda) bisected by the rails upon which they are perched. The eggs and other fragile items are where the boy usually sits, smaller boxes are on the bottom shelf of the cart. (As annoying as shopping there is, Kroger does have great carts.) 

The woman behind me scolds her youngest, who is about six, telling him to move. “Get outta my way! I’m trying to read what’s in her…” Oops! She outed herself, in her scolding, letting it be known that she was nosily questioning another patron’s purchases.  But the 11-year-old who was pushing the cart wasn’t going to let his mother get off that easily.

As Six scurries away and behind his brother, Eleven pipes up,

“Why are those eggs brown? I’ve never seen brown eggs before. Do they come from brown chickens?”

“Yeah. They come from brown chickens.”

Now I’m from Back East. Massachusetts to be specific, and throughout my childhood, we always heard the jingle, “brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh!” Kind of gets into your psyche, your blood. I tend to buy brown eggs when I can, probably because of this highly effective marketing, even though I’m 800-some-odd-miles West of Boston now.  But here, in the Midwest, if you want brown eggs, it means buying organic ones or EBs. And at nearly $4.00 a pop on the organic eggs, I’ll settle for the EBs, which are a dollar cheaper despite their plastic packaging, but at least it’s not Styrofoam and at least they’ll make it home without breaking. Hell, most of the containers of  “regular” eggs at the store were broken, so you’re hard pressed to find a good complete dozen to put into your basket. 

I digress.

I turned to the woman and said, “They’re healthier, plus these are from chickens that are cageless and raised on organic feed with no antibiotics.”

“They’re healthier,” she says to Eleven.

She continues to stare at the cart, eyeing the lower shelf. “So what’s with the raw sugar? What is it? I’ve never seen that before.”

I stopped myself from telling her that she had, since it’s right next to the poison sugar, and instead said, “It’s healthier too, as far as sugar can be healthy, that is. It’s not refined and not bleached, so it has fewer chemicals. Plus it tastes better.” 

“Oh. Yeah, I figured it would be healthier.”

I’m beginning to regret that I didn’t drive a half hour West to the Whole Paycheck in Ann Arbor, as I notice her eyeing the containers of tofu and yogurt that are perched next to the eggs.

Contemplating returning the favor of inappropriate questions about her shopping choices, I was spared by timing. Thankfully, the woman ahead of me had gained enough of a lead that I could start placing my items on the conveyor belt and escape further communication with the woman behind me whose cart was full of diet pop, Doritos, processed foods and other things that we rarely buy.  I try not to make any value judgements about what’s in her cart and go on about my business, awaiting the look as if an alien had landed as I fork over my preferred shopper card and eco-bags to the cashier.

“I’ve never seen these before. Red bananas! What are these; are they good?”

Here we go again. Patience thinning, I consider my response and force myself to not say, “well didn’t you just state that they’re red bananas?” and just say, “Yes, they’re good. A bit sweeter than the yellow ones, plus since they’re not Chiquitas, I know they’re not funding terrorist groups.”

“Ohh. Well they look good. I’ll have to try them.” At least she didn’t leave her post to go pick some up, which truly would have turned this experience into a case of life imitating art. (They are so on at SNL.)

As the items make it down to the end, with no bagger in sight, I start bagging. Then over comes Boy Wonder, whom I’ve had as a bagger before. The cashier tells him, “she doesn’t want plastic.” He picks up one of the bags and says, “oh, I thought these were just T-shirts.” (Apparently he doesn’t remember me from two weeks ago, but that’s okay, he sees hundreds of people in a given week. Then again, how many women in Taylor are walking around with Frunchymama Oatbags?” Whatever.

He packs them as if he’s packing plastic bags—two or three items to a bag. Oy. I explain: “You can put more in there,” as I fill a collapsible bin with organic whole milk and half-and-half.

“I don’t want them to be too heavy.”

“They hold up to 20 pounds, don’t worry about the weight. Trust me, they weigh less than my toddler does.”

A  chuckle. “They just don’t look that sturdy.”

“Trust me, they’re studier than the plastic.”

The cashier interrupts to ask me what’s in my veggie sack. (I use eco-bags for veggies and fruits too.) So I tell her, “Red potatoes. And there are lemons in the other one.” 

“Oh, okay.”

She finishes ringing me up, and I fork over the C-notes, while texting to my husband, that I’ll be leaving the market shortly and on my way home.”  Or so I’d thought.

We still seem to be having trouble bagging. Apparently, the shapelessness of the eco-bags throws Boy Wonder off entirely. He can’t figure out how to make the items fit, or for that matter, how to fit the items into the cart. Now, I know that the ability to figure out spatial relationships on the fly are not on the Y chromosome (or why my husband is not allowed to pack my car when we take trips—ever), but c’mon, this was beyond comical and heading straight for the surreal. Boy Wonder reverts to type and as I turn my back to put the bags into the cart, starts using plastic and slips them into the cart.

Boy Wonder is shocked when I give him back the bag and say, “Really, I meant NO plastic,” as I take the merchandise out and place it in extra space in the already partially filled bags and the bags that he didn’t use.


“Yeah, ______, she said, ‘no plastic,’ use these instead if you need ’em,” the cashier says to Boy Wonder and from underneath the bagging shelf pulls out a stack of paper bags. You mean grocery stores still actually stock these relics of the past? Holy shit! Well, at least Boy Wonder’s confusion would be abated.

Ms. Cashier then tells me how much I’ve saved with my Kroger card.

Oooh, ahh! I’m all a-tingle. “Did you do the bring-your-own-bag discount?” I ask.

“The what?”

“The five-cent per bag bring-your-own-bag discount that all Kroger stores offer.”

“Oh. I didn’t even know about that.”

“Well, I’ve got eight, so that should be 40 cents. It’s all over the news about how Kroger gives green shoppers a discount.”  She hands me the receipt.

“Yeah, I heard something about that, but they don’t give us the codes for it, so we can’t put it in.”

Now, this is complete bullshit. I shop at Kroger regularly. Half of the cashiers know the code, the other half doesn’t. Some, when confronted with the dilemma, will go and get the code over at customer service or call in a supervisor to do the override. The point was, she didn’t know what the code was and was too damn lazy to take care of it. Not to mention, she obviously knew about it, since she’d confirmed that she’d heard the same news report. The irony is that back in early September I wrote an article about eco-friendly shopping as a guest columnist for my local paper, The News Herald, and cited Kroger as one of the few local big chains that offer a reward for bringing your own bags.

My patience thoroughly tested, the line of people behind me also anxious to get the hell out of the store, I let it go, and told her, “You need to get that code. More people are bringing their own bags these days,” and went on my merry way.  So the next time I head to the market, assuming that I don’t decide to make the trek to Whole Paycheck where I can shop in peace and without inane questions from other shoppers or clerks and occasionally get the “thumbs up” for my shopping eco-solution, I’ll have that code in my arsenal . And the next time that I’m told by a Kroger cashier that he or she doesn’t know it, I can smile sweetly and loudly proclaim, “that’s okay, the bring-your-own-bag discount code is 22955.”

 shopping2.jpg  shopping1.jpg    

Picts are not from this trip, but from a similar one in September.

© 2007 Erika-Marie S. Geiss



1. Scott - December 9, 2007

Hilarious, and well told. 🙂

2. Scott - December 9, 2007

Hilarious, and well told. 🙂

3. emsgeiss - December 9, 2007

Thanks Scott, 🙂

4. Mysti - December 9, 2007

Fantastic post, as always! I thoroughly understand the questions that arise from obtrusive shoppers.

5. Dawn Allcot - December 9, 2007

Great, funny story! Sorry your shopping trip had to be so hellish though. Look at it this way–you’re educating people… even if she was nosy, annoying and ignorant and probably won’t try half the things you told her about, you did your part. 🙂

I didn’t actually know brown eggs were healthier, either, so I learned something too!!

6. Branwyn - December 9, 2007

You had me LOL-ing. I should get the Chia lawn for my neighbor. He’s into powerwashing everything that’s not nailed down until spring!

7. Thursday - December 10, 2007

I recently spent a couple of months in Ireland, and there’s it’s the exact opposite — the grocery stores don’t automatically provide bags, and they’re close to an American quarter every time you want a bag. I took my backpack every time (had to walk to the store and back, so no handled bags, thank you!), which always got me a weird look when I got back to the flat I shared with a bunch of Americans.

8. Laurie - December 13, 2007

*laughs* Yeah, I’ve been through my share of experiences similar to that.

The biggest problems we have here are baggers who insist on putting bread in with the raw chicken, put yoghurt containers on their side, or put potatoes and other vegetables on top of eggs or bread. All true. 🙂

9. indianamatt - December 15, 2007

Love the post. Our “favorite” moment was when we were buying a spoon rest at a department store, and the clerk asked, “Just this?” with a frown on her face. We wanted so badly to say, “You’re right. That would be ridiculous to buy this one thing!’ and leave with it still sitting by the cash register. We couldn’t do it, though, as we had been looking for the perfect spoon rest for awhile. Wow, I just realized I’m a man and used the phrase “perfect spoon rest.” I think I need to watch the NFL network or buy a Playboy magazine now.

10. Al - April 1, 2008

Hey – Start bringing your own bag to the market. Save the environment and feel good in the mean time. I know WholeFoods encourages this, but I’m not sure if any others do.

11. emsgeiss - April 2, 2008

Al…Really? You don’t say.

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