I know better than to go to Walmart on Saturday afternoons. Really I do. But darn if it isn't the most convenient time of the week to go grocery shopping. And when I go, and circle the lot 27 times just for a chance at a parking spot a quarter mile away from the door, and dodge traffic on my way into the store, I sometimes fantasize about my grocery shopping routine of years past.

In college, I would go to Walmart after work, which sometimes meant after midnight. And hoo boy, I'm here to tell you – THAT'S a convenient time to go to Walmart. I had my pick of front row parking spaces, never had to play chicken with other shopping carts in the cereal aisle, and rarely had to stand in line to check out. No "patiently" waiting while the lady down the aisle from me (whose cart is casually positioned diagonally, carelessly blocking BOTH lanes of shoppers) meticulously decides between brands of chicken broth. No carefully stepping around a Mom having one of "those" days wrangling a cart full of toddlers pulling sugary cereals off the shelves whilst shrieking to the heavens a barely distinguishable jumble of "not fair!" and "puleeeeeeeze".   

That was the life.

Nonetheless, I brave the store almost every Saturday afternoon while The Boy takes his nap. I take my list. (And I still forget things.) And I follow my usual route through the store – toiletries first, then back across to the grocery side, shoot up the side through the meat then back to the front going down each aisle, back and forth - small detour over to the Baby Department for diapers and butt paste – then back to the front to check out this week's People Magazine. Riveting, I know.

Every week is more or less the same. Sometimes I bump into someone I know and chat for a minute. Walmart_checkout Sometimes it's a holiday weekend and the aisles are double crowded. But nothing really bothers me about this process – grocery shopping. I have my routine down to a science and I stick to my list and my route.

I have carefully considered every last detail, including the checkout. Especially the checkout. You see, the checkout at Walmart is a sociological experiment, of sorts. The checker I choose is far more important to me than the length of the line at each register. Meaning, I will NOT get into the shortest line if it means I will have to deal with the wrong checker. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

I'll admit, it took me a while to learn this lesson. I used to scan the front of the store for the winning combination of shortest line and emptiest carts and make a bee line for the prize. But no more. I've been burned too many times by the mirage – the shortest line. It's not all it's cracked up to be.

And I've learned to make The Checker Decision very carefully. I've learned to respect the fine line that exists between being old knowledgeable enough to understand that I don't want my hamburger meat to share a bag with my milk or dish soap yet not so old as to think my reusable shopping bags are newfangled nonsense. I've learned that teenage-ish boys do not appreciate the deliberate order in which I place my items on the belt – cold stuff together, baby stuff together, bathroom stuff together, etc. It's almost entirely subjective, and I cannot describe the perfect checker – but I know it when I see it.

This weekend I was had. I scanned the checker selection and made my choice. It was a fairly short line – bonus! I emptied my cart onto the belt – cold stuff first, blah blah. I waited patiently while both shoppers in front of me zipped right through the line. I grinned, satisfied that I had made a wise decision, almost irritated that I didn't have to wait in line long enough to catch up on my Words with Friends.

Then. It happened. As I leaned over to hand my shopping bags to the nice, capable, efficient checker, another checker appeared behind her, smacking her gum to punctuate her arrival. It was shift change. The Josie and the Pussycats stunt double was there to relieve MY checker. And my heart sank. Nooooo. My mind was racing. Can't you wait just five more little minutes? Just one more customer? Look – my stuff is already on the belt! I'll be quick! I promise! Please don't leave me with the girl with blue hair and black nails! I don't deserve this!  

And as it turned out, my discriminatory, preconceived prejudices were 100% deserved. (This time.) Before I was granted my receipt, I had the opportunity to explain to this girl that eggs really do need to be bagged horizontally, and that bread doesn't go in the bag before, well, anything – and a manager visited our register TWICE to override some fool thing she'd entered into the machine. I could feel the eyes of the shoppers in line behind me boring into the side of my head, but I refused to look up and respond with a sheepishly apologetic shoulder shrug. No! I was tricked!

Maybe if I were to call Mr. Walmart and explain to him my theory on the checkout. Maybe if I proposed some sort of policy that would require a suitably comparable substitution for checkers - little old lady for little old lady, teeny-bopper for teeny-bopper. Maybe. Or maybe I persevere, and practice a little patience. Maybe. 

3 thoughts on “The Bait and Switch

  1. I have a problem with my reusable shopping bags, and I wonder if it happens to you, too. Whenever I put a reusable shopping bag on the bag carousel, it triggers something in every checker. It appears that suddenly, the checker is compelled by one thought: “I must fit as much as humanly possible into this one reusable shopping bag; it does not matter that she has four — I will cram this bag full to the brim.”

    I don’t get it. I bought four so I’d have one for each category of food! One is for produce. One is for nonperishables — the stuff from the middle aisles. One is for refrigerated and frozen items, and one is for meat (obviously, it gets its own). What do I have to do, label them?!

    Ok, that was a rant. Sorry to dominate your comments with my nonsense.

  2. Ok – couple things.

    First, one of my favorite things about the reusable shopping bags is their capacity. I LOVE that they hold more. Though I also understand that the checkers can abuse this to their advantage. And I’M the one heaving the brimming bag of canned goods in and out of the car. But overall, I like them to be full.

    Second, I have learned to be more vocal with the bagging of my groceries. This took awhile for me, but I am now comfortable asking them to put cold in one, leave the eggs out altogether, etc. And most of them are open to this. I predict they are open to it because they are all still a little intimidated by the whole concept of those bags.

    Either way – good for you for using reusable shopping bags. Aren’t they the best?

  3. Ohh walmart
    I hate when it’s crowded, but you’re right, the most convient time to go is on the weekends (which is by far the busiest time). I find that if I go on my lunch break it’s busy too! It’s only not busy on weeknights after 8pm.

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