Well, I did it. I got up my courage, and I made a change. It’s going to take some getting used to, but the die is cast: I have made the move to a different supermarket.
Shocking, right? Come on, admit it, all real women understand that making a change like this is perhaps not quite as dramatic as changing hair stylists or doctors or moving to a new state, but it ruffles our feathers and means a fairly substantial change to our routines. Sure, those of you who perhaps only buy a few items occasionally at several different markets may not appreciate the magnitude of this type of change. But any of you who consistently shop weekly for a family at your go-to destination can certainly appreciate the repercussions of this decision which can not be made lightly.
I had been shopping at my usual grocery store for nearly 20 years. In a long-term grocery relationship like that, we RW’s get to know the layout of the store like the back of our hands. We know exactly where products are located – not just aisle number, but shelf level and depth. I would write out my shopping list in the order of the store to save time and back-tracking. We regulars can direct any wayward newbie or man as to where to find an elusive item. We recognize sale pricing and special deals, and know the best way to download coupons and wrack up rewards points. We know best days and times to go for inventory and crowds. We even get to know staff members by name.
So making a move away from that comfortable familiarity takes thoughtful consideration, or at least a high enough frustration level with problems and issues to compel us to go through a G.B. (Grocery Breakup). For me it was a combination of irritations, poor management choices of “improvements”, a decline of quality, and quite literally an annoying robot that pushed me over the edge.
Like all divorces and relationship breaks, I tried to adapt and be open minded. I worked hard to accept the narrower aisles, the lack of baggers, the long lines at check out, the decline of quality in the produce department. I even tried to find the humor in Marty, the beeping robot that follows shoppers around looking for spills and the resulting incessant announcements over the PA that Clean Ups were needed in Aisle 14, or Hazards were Detected in the Produce Area. I had conversations with other shoppers who felt freaked out that Marty was following them. I attempted to drown out the never ending beeping the machine emitted. I tried to not be angry that I had to routinely bag my own purchases, scurrying back and forth from the end of the check out lane where I was putting my purchases away, to the front of the lane to keep loading goods onto the conveyor belt. I was greeted with uncomfortable chuckles from the cashiers when I asked for a discount for doing my own work.
The final straw that broke this RW’s back was when a renovation was completed to install far more Self Check-Out pods than regular, human check out lanes. This also coincided with the reduction of regular parking spaces to make room for call-ahead order pick ups. For a Grocery Store. Neither “improvement in service” is useful at ALL to a woman shopping for a cart’s worth of groceries for her family.
One day, out of interest and for comparison sake, I went across the street to a different store to which I’d only previously stopped in for quick short purchases. It felt a bit like putting a shirt on backwards because I had no idea where to find things, and the layout was nothing like what I was used to. But like any new relationship, it felt exciting and appealing. Brighter, cleaner, wider aisles, better quality produce and deli, no robots, and – get this – friendly and available baggers. Real humans. Being helpful.
My decision was made, and it was time for my G.B. Determined to be a thoughtful soon-to-be-ex, I wrote a letter to the corporate office to let them know of my discontent and my departure. As expected, I received not a word from the headquarters, and instead received a call from the local manager. I was asked to reconsider and was given a $20 gift card. Too bad not all breakups in life could be that painless.
So I’m in the honeymoon phase of my new grocery relationship. Pleasant enough, but it’s also a bit awkward and costly as we get to know each other. Awkward because I’m still finding my way around and searching for my favorite products and brands and trying to understand their philosophy of why, for example, greeting cards are the next aisle over from To Go foods. Perhaps so a shopper can buy a Thinking of You card with a slice of pizza? It is costly because my new Grocery Partner is more expensive than my Ex. Simply an example of “get what you pay for.” And lastly, it is definitely more time consuming – at least for now – as I serpentine my way around the store, muttering things like “iced tea used to be half-way down aisle 6” and “where the hell do they put spices?” But the pain of transition is eased every time I have a clear path down a wide aisle, have friendly humans assist me at check out, and each time my husband says “their deli ham is so much better!”
I know that my visits will not always be rosy, and the shine will wear off. After all, I still kind of hate grocery shopping, and I’m already realizing they don’t carry certain products I’m accustomed to purchasing from the old place. But these are clearly First World Problems, and I will courageously adapt to my new surroundings. And once in a while I may pop back in to see if anything has improved in my old stomping grounds and for reassurance that I did the right thing.
Besides, I’m sure Marty misses me.