Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I had to find the passage back to the place I was before

"Submitted for your approval — a grocery store unlike any you or I have ever seen. Aisle after aisle of common items, all at unheard-of prices. The prices so incredibly low, the typical shopper would be led to believe the store had made a mistake on nearly every item. But, the prices are legitimate and the products are real. The catch is that this store is in... The Twilight Zone."
Mrs. P and I are not regular grocery shoppers. We run to the supermarket when we have been out of bread for two days or when we remember that it's been a week since we added half & half to our morning coffee. So, a full-blown, all-out, "let's-get-a-cart" trip to the supermarket is a real adventure. This past Friday, an adventure we did have.

I had an appointment for a haircut after work. Mrs. P accompanied me with plans to head to the nearby Walmart SuperCenter afterwards. A SuperCenter combines a standard Walmart store with a bonus, full-size supermarket. Since I don't have as much hair as I once did, my appointments get shorter and shorter, so soon we found ourselves prowling the Walmart lot for a parking space. My wife swung the car into a spot and we started towards the store.

Them's good eatin'.
Now, I have been to Walmart before. They are the single biggest retailer in the world. They call the shots with their suppliers, dictating prices and requiring exclusive versions and packaging of national products. Their prices are low. Very low, as a matter of fact. Because of its ubiquity, Walmart attracts a certain ilk of people. I'm going to do my very best to try not to be insulting, but... Jesus Christ! Have you seen the people that shop at Walmart? They walk the aisles in a fog, as though this is the first store they have ever visited. Once, I saw a guy covered in - what I can only assume was some sort of animal shit - pushing a cart filled with Little Debbie's, beef jerky and tube socks. Walmart - God bless 'em! - happily offers their customers sixty-four ounces of lard in a fucking bucket! And if you can't make it on out t' th' store, by gum!,  they'll ship it right t' yer trailer for under six bucks! I think I may cry.

But I digress...

I love orange soda.
Mrs. Pincus and I roamed the aisles of the grocery section of Walmart. We marveled at the prices, filled our cart and wondered how the other supermarkets stay in business. Our cart was fairly full and we beat a path to the massive checkout area. This particular Walmart boasts thirty or so cashier lanes, four of which were open. We chose a lane behind a young man who was a dead ringer for Kel Mitchell in Mystery Men and an older woman in a motorized scooter. From our vantage point, we watched the woman move in slow motion, meticulously examining each item before she slowly set it upon the conveyor. The young man double-checked each item, as well. My wife had enough and began to scan the store for another line, preferably one with people moving in real time. I followed my spouse to the next cashier over. A customer already had the bulk of her shopping order piled on the conveyor, making its way towards the cashier. Suddenly, time ground to a crawl, as this customer began asking the prices as the cashier scanned each and every item. She clutched a single hundred dollar bill in her hand. She instructed the cashier to put certain items aside as the total inched toward her hundred dollar limit. Even from our distance, we could tell that the items in her cart would total well over one hundred dollars, as it contained large trays of Perdue chicken parts, stacks of Swanson dinners, a full case of ramen noodles and several family packs of frozen fish (something called "swai"). She cast a dismissive finger to most of the perishables in her order, opting instead for such staples as gum and bagged tater tots. The cashier filled a separate cart with the unwanted food and shoved it into a restock area that looked as though it hadn't been touched since the Bush administration (the first one!). Finally, the customer surrendered her C-note and slowly strolled to the automatic doors.

It was now our turn. We blew through our order in record time, quickly grabbing our bagged items. Mrs. P had a credit card at the ready. We were quite anxious to be free of the Walmart experience.
"The next time you see tempting prices for groceries, remember... bargains often come with a price. A price that doesn't always materialize on a sticker or a shelf tag. Sometimes, that price is only payable in... The Twilight Zone."


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