A Lot of Trouble for a 75 Cent Onion

Am I the only one who has these kinds of problems at Wal-Mart? I’m beginning to think I’m a magnet for weird shopping experiences!

Today, I was almost relieved to go shopping. Partly due to the fact that we were running low on, well, everything, and partly due to the fact that I was pretty sure that the craziness of the holiday shopping season had finally ended. And it had. I had my choice of parking spaces, the store wasn’t crowded, I managed to pick up a few things on clearance, and the checkout lines weren’t even long. Well, not until I got into one.

Things were going along just fine, until the cashier had scanned about 3/4 of my purchases. It was at that point that she got to the onion…one solitary, rather small, white onion. She put it on the scale, entered some numbers, and the scale protested. She double checked the produce code, entered it again, and again, the scale just beeped. She turned the scale on and off–no luck. So, she set the onion aside, and finished ringing up the rest of my order, which, thankfully, contained nothing else that needed to be weighed. The rest of my produce could either be scanned, or needed to be entered by quantity, not weight. After she had finished ringing everything else, she returned to the onion, and the scale, which still didn’t want to actually weigh anything.

It was at this point that the people in line behind me must have really started to love me.

She took the cover off the scale, and tried wiping down the inside. Still nothing. For some reason, she must have decided that repeatedly trying to enter the produce code was going to bring different results, because she started doing it over and over. The register is now speaking, and saying something about the scale needing to be recalibrated….loudly. The weight readout is just showing an error message. People are starting to look impatient, and the cashier in the next lane looks over at my cashier, and says, “What did you do?!?”

And I’m just standing there, with my cart full of groceries that I haven’t even paid for yet.

At this point, the cashier looks at me, and says something about how the scale obviously isn’t going to work. And I can tell by the look on her face that she wants me to just say, “Forget, I don’t need the onion.”

But I really did need the onion! Not to mention that I’d already wasted almost 10 minutes, (no joke), on trying to pay for the darn thing, and now, not only is it a necessity, it’s also a matter of principle.

So, I tell her that I need the onion, and so she turns her check lane light to flashing, to get some help.

The manager comes over, looks at the register for about 30 seconds, and tells the cashier that the scale is broken, and she won’t be able to ring produce until it’s fixed. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my onion. Now, at this point, I think that it would have been totally reasonable for them to just give me the blasted thing. It’s an onion, for crying out loud! One white onion isn’t going to bring down a mighty corporation like Wal-Mart. And now that the problem has been identified, they know to move the cashier to another lane, so it’s not like this is setting a precedent for giving away free produce all day.

But no.

The manager decides that the onion must be weighed at another register, so that they can determine the price, and then take that price, and enter it manually into the register at which I was (no longer patiently) waiting.

75 cents.

The onion cost 75 cents.

This was worth holding up the line, and then holding it up more to identify the price, which anyone could see wouldn’t be over a dollar. It wasn’t even a large onion! But Wal-Mart needed to get their 75 cents out me, at the expense of my time, and that of everyone waiting in the line behind me.

I hope they don’t spend it all in one place!

Yes, I know, I could have just given up on the onion when the problems started. But I needed it to make a pot of soup, and I didn’t want to have to go back out, or stop at another store, just to look for another onion. And the onions around here have been pretty pathetic lately, to boot, so when you find one that’s the right size, and isn’t mushy or turning pink, (pink???), you jump on it!

So, my apologies to the customers in line behind me. But if they really want to get mad, I think they should blame Wal-Mart for making such a fuss over something that cost only 75 cents!

Wal-Mart Redux

Despite the insanity that was shopping at Wal-Mart yesterday, I discovered I had to go back there today, because someone, (me), forgot to put laundry soap and shampoo on the grocery list. As much I didn’t want to go to Wal-Mart, I really think that clean clothes and clean hair are important at Christmas, (OK, they’re important all the time, but especially as Christmas), so I gathered my courage and off I went.

I found most of what I needed to buy, (there’s always that one missing item that forces you to also stop at the grocery store, again, right?) and headed for the check-out. I was hoping that this would be a quick process, because I had three other stores, including the grocery, to stop at. I suppose that hoping for efficiency was my fatal flaw…

I only had three items, so they were rung up quickly. I swiped my card, and it was promptly declined. This ranks up there as one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you in a busy store, especially in a busy store at Christmastime, when everyone in line behind you is also in a hurry and impatient. I didn’t have another card to use, because we just switched banks, and I haven’t activated my new debit card yet, (thanks to the fact that I somehow lost the first one, despite having never even put it in my wallet, and had to order a replacement, which I just received), so I had to abandon my purchase at the register and leave the store.

Once I was out of the hustle and bustle that it is requisite of Wal-Mart, I called the bank, because the only other time I’ve had a card declined was when a fraud alert was put on it, and it turned out someone had stolen our credit card number. I was worried that this happened again, and terrified for what that might mean for the rest of the shopping I hoped to finish without stopping at home first to get my new card. Once I got through the maze that is the automated phone system, I was connected to “Bob” who was obviously in India, who said he would be happy to help me.

I explained the situation to him, and as he checked the account, he told me that there was not transaction at Wal-Mart at all, much less one that had been declined. What? I really think he assumed I must have had a different card declined, and I was calling the wrong bank, but as I only had the one card in my wallet, I knew what I was doing. He was completely baffled, and finally said that the only thing he could think of was that there was something wrong with the machine at the store, and that I should go back in and try again.

I was dreading going back in the store, lest the same thing happen again, but I followed his advice, and with no problems, so it was clearly a problem on Wal-Mart’s end. Still, it would have been nice to avoid the embarrassment in the first place, and not have to go through the store twice, (why can’t the items I need ever be in the same general area of the Super Center?), especially since this particular shopping insanity wasn’t even my fault. Well, except, for the reason I had to go in the store in the first place. I guess the blame for that is my responsibility.

Hopefully I’ll be able to stay out of the stores until at least…let’s go with December 27. That’s the goal, anyway. That way, I can avoid any further pre-Christmas insanity!

The Crazy Person in Wal-Mart

I’ll be honest right up front and admit it…the crazy person I’m referring to is me!

Let’s face it, going to Wal-Mart during Christmas week is no one’s cup of tea. But I gathered my courage, and headed out to go grocery shopping today, not only because I needed the supplies for our Christmas dinner, but because we’ve become accustomed to eating in general. I didn’t make it there as early as I would have liked, but I did still get to the store before lunch, and the parking lot wasn’t terrible, so I was hopeful…

It started out OK. Some things were more expensive than I was expecting, (oranges, I’m looking at you), which was annoying, but not terrible. And then I discovered that they were out of stock on a few key items I needed for recipes, (how do you run out of peppermint mocha creamer at this time of year?), so I came to the realization that I’d also have to stop at the grocery store. It was at that point that my mood began to sour, I guess.

You know how when you’re in a routine, going up and down each aisle, you begin to realize that you’re crossing paths with the same person, going the opposite direction, in every aisle? Well, I quickly came to that realization about a lady that was shopping at the same time as me, but when I say we “crossed paths,” what I really mean is that I waited for her to move out of the way in every aisle. Because she’s one of that special breed of shopper that needs to leave her cart in the middle of each aisle as she searches the shelves, peruses her list, and talks to some long-lost acquaintance that she just happened to run into. I kept hoping that eventually our shopping would fall out of sync, and I’d have the aisle, (at least my side of it), free and clear, but no such luck. She even got into the check-out lane next to me! Weird.

The real trouble didn’t start, however, until I got to the canned meat aisle. Ryan asked for canned tuna for his lunches this week, so I dutifully squatted down, (why must they keep those tiny cans on the bottom shelf?!?), to get a few cans. But, I must be more pregnant than I thought, because I almost didn’t make it back up! I’m sure the other shoppers must have gotten a chuckle at the crazy pregnant woman trying to get to her feet without making a bigger fool of herself…at least maybe I brightened someone’s shopping experience!

I didn’t really start to lose it until the toy department. I don’t even know what possessed me to go back there–I wasn’t actually looking for anything in particular. Just morbidly curious, I guess. But as I was wandering down one of the aisles, the inevitable happened…one of the toys started talking to me. You know, the kind with the motion detectors that launch into their shtick whenever someone goes past? Unfortunately, though, I was deep in thought at the time, and had no idea there were such toys around. So, again, my fellow shoppers probably got a good laugh when I noticeably jumped at the disruption.

Things just kind of fell apart after that. I realized at one point that I was actually talking to myself…out loud. Just a little, but still. When did I become that person?

As I was checking out, a child in a line near mine starting crying that she was hungry. As her mother tried to shush her with promises of lunch at Subway as soon as they paid, I couldn’t help but think I really understood where the little girl was coming from. At this point, I had been in the store for over an hour, (and remember, I still have to stop at a regular grocery store on the way home for the missing items from my list), it was past lunch time, and I was hungry, too! Not a good situation for a pregnant woman!

Then, as I was paying, I realized that the cashier didn’t even bother to card me for the bottle of peppermint schnapps I was buying for our Christmas cake, which I felt weird doing in the first place, because I don’t usually buy liquor when pregnant, and I always feel like the pregnancy police is going to yell at me. But not to even be carded? Then I really did want to cry.

I was quite relieved to finally leave the store, so I could stop making a fool out of myself. As I was putting the groceries in the van, though, I couldn’t help but think that my shopping experience would have been better if they would hand out stickers at the check-out saying, “I survived Christmas 2011 at Wal-Mart,” or something to that effect. Because it really was quite an accomplishment!

The Bread Aisle

While doing the week’s grocery shopping, I started pondering the placement of aisles in the grocery store, and how accessible things in those aisles are.

What’s the one thing that almost everyone who frequents a grocery store needs to purchase on a regular basis?

Bread, in one form or another.

Whether sandwich bread, hamburger or hot dog buns, speciality bread, bagels, English muffins, or even, gasp!, Hostess snack cakes, most people need or want something from this aisle, even more so than the actual bakery. And the choices! Do you want 7-grain, 9-grain, or 12-grain bread? White wheat, honey wheat, or whole wheat? Hearty rye, soft rye, or pumpernickel? Kaiser rolls, sesame rolls, or just plain old buns? Egg, New York, or everything bagels? And the list goes on…

Obviously, the bread aisle is a very busy place. People surveying their choices, searching for their favorite product, debating over whether they should put that box of Twinkies in their cart, and then guiltily doing so.

So why is it, then, that Wal Mart, a store that’s busy on a slow day, and completely frantic on a busy one, has chosen to make the bread aisle the narrowest aisle in the store? Pillars block a good deal of the aisle, making an already small aisle smaller. It’s nearly impossible for two carts to pass each other in many places, so you can imagine the back-up that ensues, and yet, it’s not like most people can just turn around and skip that aisle–no one in their right mind would even venture into that mess if they didn’t need something, and let’s face it, everyone needs bread!

I don’t understand why, in this carb-centered culture, (have you looked at the base of the Food Pyramid lately?!? It’s all carbs!), grocery stores haven’t caught on that this is an area of the store that needs to be accessible. Perhaps they should make the candy aisle difficult to navigate, instead…as much as people love sweets, I never see the masses shopping there like I do in bread!

Back to School Shopping

I love buying school supplies. I really do. Homeschooling is really just one big excuse to buy new crayons, new glue, and cool new notebooks all year-long. And don’t get me started on the books I can pass off as “necessary” for education!

But back to school shopping is a whole other animal. I hate it. Hate it with a passion. Where else can you find desperate mothers, whining children, and overworked employees all in the same three aisles. (If you’re thinking Christmas, even that isn’t *this* bad!)

It took all my strength to load up the children and head to Wal-Mart today. I knew it would be a zoo, but I finally had Moose’s school supply list, and a rapidly dwindling amount of time in which to find everything on it. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that *I* make the list, and we can shop early, before everyone else is thinking about school, but when the stuff is already on sale. But Moose needs stuff for his year in the public school, so off we went.

We encountered children running around the school aisles unsupervised, trying to find the perfect color binder, or the folder with the coolest picture (hey, I remember Lisa Frank supplies; I know what’s it’s like!), or the right pencils, while their totally oblivious mothers stare dumbfounded, trying to find the pack of *16* crayons instead of eight or 24.

We also encountered mothers with no conscience, armed with heavy tanks, I mean shopping carts, ready to run down anybody and everybody, just to get the last box of 25 cent crayons. And if we weren’t dodging the soul-less cart wielders, we were trying to get around the cell phone happy moms, calling their friends and trying to figure out just what they were supposed to buy, all while blocking most of the aisle with their carts, their bodies, and their occasionally present children, who would show up every so often to throw something else in the cart when mom wasn’t watching.

And don’t even get me started on the store employees. I feel for them, I really do. I’ve worked in retail, and I know it’s no picnic, especially at busy times of the year. But I have to wonder if 2:30 in the afternoon the week before school starts is the best time to plunk a ladder in the middle of the most-traveled school aisle, causing backups that rival the interstate as rush hour. Or maybe it would be a better idea to leave a palette in the middle of the main aisle, forcing to people to walk to the back of the store and around, only to have to stand in a mob to get to the discounted school supplies on the other side.

The best part of the trip, however, is the amount of stock available. After several trips between the seasonal school aisles, and the regular school aisles, convinced that I will *never* find half of the stuff on my list, I notice my full cart, and think I must be done. So I check over my list–I finally found the right crayons, (after checking in two different places), have the right size binder after searching three spots, got the scissors on the first try, folders that were replaced partway through the trip but are now suitable, watercolor paints…wait, no paints. No paints in the seasonal aisles, no paints in the regular aisles, no paints left in the whole store.

Nope, this is the *best* part of the trip. The realization that after I wait in the checkout for 20-plus minutes, I get to go across town to Target and start the whole crazy process, with a whole new group of crazy shoppers, all over again, this time in search of *one* elusive item!

(I did find the paints at Target-the last package of them. Clearly God was watching out for me, as He must have known I didn’t have the patience to trek to undetermined store number three with all four children in tow!)

How Much is 3/4 of a Pound?

Seriously?  Is this a trick question?  That was my initial response, but the guy behind the deli counter at Wal-Mart was dead serious when he asked me that.

I was getting 3/4 of a pound of corned beef.  So, I asked for it (once he finally acknowledged my existence after standing around waiting for an eternity), and he looked at me and said “how much is that?”  I thought he hadn’t heard the amount I needed; Wal-Mart is a pretty noisy place, after all.  So, I repeated myself.

That’s when the fun started.  “No, I mean, how much is 3/4 of a pound?”  I would have loved to see the look on my own face at this point–who asks that?  And how in the world was I supposed to answer?  So, I’m rummaging around in my brain, trying to find some way to explain a basic fraction to a Wal-Mart employee, and all I could come up with is something like it’s halfway between a 1/2 pound and a pound, but that sounded ridiculous, so I didn’t want to actually say it out loud.

Anyway, he helps me out by letting me know what he’s getting at:  “You know, is it like point five or…?”  OK, at least I see where he’s coming from now.  So after letting him know that 3/4 is .75, I get my corned beef and am on my way.

But, seriously?  Maybe they should give their deli employees a bit more extensive training…I can’t be the only person who has requested a quarter of a pound of something!

The Family Shopping Experience

We were on our way to Wal-Mart last night to do our grocery shopping.  And, yes, by “we” I mean all six of us. And it got me to thinking how we used to shop, and how we never figured we’d be taking all four children shopping with us on a regular basis (certainly not to the madhouse that is Wal-Mart!).  

Back when we were first married, Ryan and I used to always do our grocery shopping together.  Not sure how that started, but it was fun, and something we looked forward to.  Maybe we were just newlyweds who loved spending time together, or maybe we both just loved the novelty that was choosing our own food for our own meals, but every week, we went together (and I can’t believe how little we used to spend, and what amount used to seem like a lot to me!).

So, when Turkey was born, we just brought him along, too.  And then when Bunny arrived, we just got a second cart, and brought her, as well. We figured at some point, when she was bigger, we’d have to stop the whole family shopping experience, but we really didn’t, and when Moose and then Ladybug joined us, they came along, too.  

We still only need two carts (and that’s as much because of how many groceries a family of six needs as it is for the seating of the three littler ones), and that day of having to “stop” shopping as a family has never come. Sure, we’ve had days where little people are crabby, and I needed to just go by myself, or the occasional day where grocery shopping just couldn’t happen when they were awake, so, again, off I went alone, but usually we go together, and it’s something we all look forward to.  We’re just weird that way.