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Something's been happening down at your supermarket.
Remember when you’d drive to the store, go in the store, grab a cart, go up and down the aisles getting what you needed, get in the checkout line, read the salacious headlines on the tabloids as your order was being totaled and bagged, pay, leave and go home.
So what’s happened?
The other day I stopped at my nearby supermarket. All I wanted to do was pick up a few items.
As I moved through one of the aisles trying to navigate my small shopping cart around countless floor displays and past other frustrated customers, I felt like I was in some teeming Calcutta market.
Looking around it occurred to me that things have changed in the world of grocery stores. Over the years, teams of highly motivated supermarket consultants have been moving toward their individual goals that, if reached, will lead to total supermarket aisle immobility. And, judging by the looks of the aisle I was in, the teams are just about there.
Follow me, here -- but watch out for that pyramid of tomato paste cans.
I’ve not seen the memos or attended the meetings, but I’m certain these teams exist. One is a team whose job it is to give each customer the precise cart needed for their uniquw shopping needs. The other’s job is to design and place as many large, flashy, cumbersome, bulky, burdensome aisle displays in the aisles as the laws of physics and public safety will allow - then put in a few more for good measure.
Now, most people of average intelligence -- like you and me -- would see right off that these two groups of consultants would eventually “collide” since both need aisle space for their “things.” So what’s the matter with the managers of our giant supermarkets who don’t see a problem here.?
As customers, we have to try and shop around the aisle-blocking objects that these two overzealous consulting groups produce.
I can imagine that these groups began with the best of intentions. The product-display group wants to feature as many products as possible. The shopping cart team probably started off with the goal of providing customers with the cart best suited for their individual shopping experience.
After months of meetings, exhaustive discussions, teleconferencing and Las Vegas conventions, they finally settled on providing customers with small and large shopping carts. Goal achieved.
But hold your breezeway basket, Bunky. Have you ever heard of an American ice cream stand that served only chocolate and vanilla? I don’t think so. Nothing in 21st century America can ever remain that simple. Small and large indeed! Give a group of inventive red-blooded Americans a task, and they will keep on proposing and conferencing and brainstorming and refining and redesigning and perfecting and mass-producing and multi-tasking until Doomsday, or quitting time, whichever comes first. The result is, we now have in the average supermarket almost as many choices in shopping carts as we do in food products -- maybe more.
We still have large and small carts, of course, but now, because of the tireless efforts of these consultants, we also have shopping carts in an endless array of sizes and shapes and models. To keep the little ones amused there are kiddy-carts, which look like vehicles, come in two- and four-door models, 2- and 4-wheel drive and can take up the same aisle space as the average adult-sized four-door sedan. These kiddie carts come in sporty convertible models and even five-ton SUVs for shoppers who want to get serious about their aisle-obstructing.
And -- don’t worry - the resourceful cart committees have not forgotten seniors. The over 60 set can now move around the supermarket in battery-powered comfort on a scooter cart that I’ve seen go from zero to 1 mph in just under 60 seconds.
Eventually, the aisle display people and the shopping card consultants will achieve their ultimate goals and will occupy every square-foot of space in our supermarkets.
Gridlock at the grocery store.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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