Do you ever shop at one of those warehouse stores? If so, maybe you’ve had some of these same experiences. Today I went to “Sam’s Club”. (Yes, I know this clashes with my deep hatred of Wal-Mart, but it’s the only game in town. Don’t judge me; I judge myself enough.)
Today there were an unusually large number of folks using the motorized shopping scooters, which added an extra degree of difficulty to the usual obstacle course that is made up of displays, small children, zealous sample ladies, and toppling end-caps of forty-gallon toothpaste jugs and ten quart cans of green beans. It seems as if each time I attempted a casual-looking stroll behind one of them, pretending to carefully examine the choices in two-gallon tubs of salsa, I’d hear the tell-tale “beep…beep…beep…” that meant they were about to back up into me. It’s no small feat to maneuver a shopping cart loaded with hundreds of pounds of items out of their way before they bump into you.
There are also the “helpful” fellow shoppers who observe you putting an item into your cart, only to advise you that there is a better version, or price, or bigger size available in another part of the store. I know they mean well, but this puts me in a quandary: Do I take their well-meaning advice and take the item I actually wanted out of my cart? Do I nod and smile and walk away? Are they actually store employees surreptitiously up-selling me in disguise? There is no easy way out of this interaction.
I experienced the same anxiety I always do as I pushed my mega-cart around the store. As the cart becomes harder and harder to push with my bulky purchases, I begin to sweat the idea of waiting in line and trying to unload all of my items onto the conveyor belt, desperately trying to get everything with the UPC side up while judgmental shoppers behind me moan and groan and perhaps shake their heads at my choices in purchases. After all, it’s not everyone who buys four 50 lb. bags of dog food and four 35 lb. bags of cat food at one time.
As a side note, loading all of this pet food into my cart makes me a viable candidate for many harsh and critical comments on YouTube if it were ever uploaded. I am puny, and chucking fifty pound bags of kibble into my cart requires a fair amount of contortion and momentum to be successful. I often have an audience of fellow shoppers watching my attempts with slack-jawed expressions. Never yet has anyone offered to help, though some have commented, “You must have a really big dog… Ha, ha, ha…” as they walk by and I grunt in reply.
My growing anxiety surrounding approaching the cashier actually makes me circle the store numerous times, adding even more items to the cart. This is counter-intuitive to my goal of a seamless check-out, but I can’t help myself. I am delaying the inevitable.
As I arrive at the cashier, I have the sudden (though recurring) realization that there are no grocery bags here, and that all of the empty boxes stacked near the check-out are woefully inadequate to carry my haul of mega-products. I know that once this trial is over I will have to somehow load everything into the back of my car in a way that prevents crushing, toppling, or otherwise maiming anything. As “Annie” rings up my purchases, she barely pays attention to me as she and “Ta’Wendy” (Yes, that was really the name on her name tag) talk about the latest sex-scandal at the store. Apparently Ta’Wendy and a young man who stocks the freezers were a going concern until that “bakery bitch” came between them. “I’m gonn’ tell you I know her frosting ain’t as sweet as mine, bitch! Y’know what I’m sayin’?” (That may be the funniest metaphor I hear all day.) It’s a candid conversation, and not what I was expecting to hear as cartons of fruit and various frozen foods are scanned, but humorous nonetheless.
But before I can make it to my car, I have to pass the scrutiny of the receipt lady at the door. She accepts my receipt, scanning it carefully and meticulously examining each item, sometimes picking through the cart, to ensure that I haven’t added any contraband to my huge stack of groceries. Her suspicious glare would make even a hardened felon crack under the pressure. I almost admit that I replaced a bruised nectarine with a pristine one in the box of twelve that I purchased, but before my confession can escape my lips she waves me through with a raised eyebrow and a dead-eyed stare as if to say, “You may have gotten away with it this time, but I’ll be here when you come back.”
Finally arriving at my vehicle, and half-expecting the receipt lady to come charging out with a cadre of blue-haired and blue-vested reinforcements to confront me about the tally on my receipt versus the items in my cart, I repeat my exertions with the pet food bags while simultaneously trying to keep the cart from rolling away, denting my car, or running over my foot. After this I carefully stack each item in a Tetris-like fashion to minimize shifting during the drive home. Bringing my cart to the cart-return queue I dodge drivers looking for a parking spot and yet another scooter-driving shopper who darts out ahead of me from between two parked cars with a look of disgust on her face. I finally sit down in the driver’s seat, start the car, turn the air-conditioning on full blast, and tune to NPR to attempt to soothe my rattled nerves before the drive home.