6 November 2006
We left the hospital Thursday morning, and surprisingly Jessica let me go almost a whole 24 hours before driving our baby to a store.
Of course, according to pretty much everything I've read and heard, the newborn brain is incapable of learning anything more complicated than sucking or peeing for the first six months*, so we probably shouldn't be worried about her inability to find the freshest gallons of milk or know if the cashier has short-changed her yet. She's got a little time before we can really brush up on basic consumer skills; after all, you've got to learn to walk before you can push a shopping cart. I think.
But the experience was relatively painless, but I'd been thinking about writing about shopping stuff many weeks ago (you know, the ones in months that are blank in the archives) but never got around to actually putting fingers to the keys.
I'm not a big fan of shopping in stores, whether it be for something I want (DVDs, small toys) or need (groceries, socks). Grocery shopping in particular is a source of many annoyances:
- Items that are shelved in a haphazard fashion, in aisles that have no discernable heirarchy
- I never know where to go to find kidney beans. This is not the only food I can't find, just the one I remember most (searching for them, not where they are). I realize there is a good reason - for the store's bottom line - to send me searching every single aisle that has anything like "vegetables" or "cans" on the index-board, but it always seems to me that sorting the store by color could well be easier and faster for the shopper. Cereal and bread would all be together, more or less, but all the tomato products (diced, salsa, paste, ketchup, juice) would all be together, as well. Of course this would still be troublesome for things that have indeterminate colors (I bought prune juice once, and I think it was either purple or brown) but the store associates would only need to say which color to check, not send shoppers down aisles for which they may or may not know the numbers. Yes, I realize this is completely impractical and dumb, but you tell me why every store has the potato chips five aisles or more away from the crackers.
- Whoever picks the music has horrible taste
- If there's music blaring, more often than not it sucks. It's either eighties revival (i.e. the same five songs that comprise every bad eighties mix), lite rock (Celine Dion and bad Elton John) or cartoon ballads (again with the Elton John, and so forth). I miss hearing Muzak - at least then I have the fun of trying to figure out which popular song is being mangled, but sadly grocery stores don't seem to use it.
- Unit prices aren't always in standardized units
- I shop based primarily on price and value. If I can determine that I get a better price per ounce buying one box instead of another, I'll reach for the first one as long as its something that doesn't change much vendor to vendor. However, if one has the price per ounce given and the other is price per hogshead or some such, then I'm outta luck and end up shaking the boxes and making up mathematical conversions to make a decision. Then I generally pick the box that has better graphic design, since a company that spends more time and money on presentation of the box must logically have better stuff therein. This, of course, is foolishness and I know it.
- No concessions are made for competent shoppers at the checkout lane
- Having long ago realized that the "15 or less" rule for Express lanes is merely a suggestion, I doubt there's anythign the store would be able to do about my idea, but here it is anyway: a checkout lane for competent customers. Like me. When I get to a checkout lane, I'm ready to go. I know more or less what every item should cost, I have whatever coupons I need to use ready, and I've got my credit card and pen ready too. I preempt most of their questions ("Hi, doin' fine, thanks, here's my card, and no bags for the milk") and often will be out of the store in less time than it took to find the kidney beans. I'd almost be willing to pay a little fee or endure some sort of licensing test to have exclusive access to a true 'express line', since half of the time I try to check out quickly, something ahead of me in line has happened, and then I'm screwed. Nine times out of ten it's somebody paying with a check.
Now don't get me wrong - just because it takes me over a year to get through that first fifteen checks the banks give you for opening an account - I'm not anti-check. I am, however, firmly against people who wait until every item has been scanned and bagged before that crucial moment of "Gee golly, I guess I'm gonna have to get out my checkbook and pay for these groceries. Now where did I leave it in this bottomless purse... and now where's that pen..." after which the checkbook is found, and the cashier begins the twenty-point checklist of personal items required to be written on the check and/or signed in triplicate from a notary public.
And yet, to these people, this isn't hassle enough to get them to stop using checks, or to figure out how to streamline the process (like filling them out in advance, or at least having the checkbook out and ready by the time it's time to pay), and as such I think the stores need to step it up and get these people in line. Since they're not going to implement my competent checkout license idea, I'll give them another: go for blood.
Why not get one of those pinprick blood test things that the Red Cross uses (and also as seen in Gattaca)? I'd imagine that a drop of blood would be more conclusive to a person's identity than writing some numbers on the check.
This would speed things up considerably, and make paying with a check that little bit more annoying to discourage the slow people in front of me from doing so.
I'm not suggesting that people sign the checks in blood - that would be going a bit too far, at least, at first.
* It may in fact be the six week mark that changes her from stupid to studious. I can't say for sure; lack of sleep makes me a little dumber too.