Friday, March 18, 2016

The Grocery Store We Love to Hate

Dear Woodman's,

I am devoting this blog post to you because if I owned a grocery store, I'd want to know what I'm about to tell you.

My son is three years old — he'll be four in April if we're getting technical.

He's a happy, go-lucky little guy who smiles frequently. Like most little kids his age he laughs and jokes and likes to be silly.

At least he does all of this until we enter the parking lot of one of your stores.

It is then that he turns dark and he starts to repeat the phrase, "I'll not go to Woodman's. I'll not go to Woodman's."

Often he starts to sob.

To be clear: merely the sight of your store brings sorrow to my son and tears to his eyes.

During our ten-minute search for a parking spot in your narrow-laned, labyrinthine parking lot, my son's cries grow deeper. My wife, a perpetual ray of sunshine if ever there was one, also grows solemn, resigned to her family's fate.

As we pull into our sliver of a parking space, I put the car in park, my wife and I share a knowing glance and gird ourselves for the excruciating slog that is to come.
The lines often start at the cash register and block aisle after aisle through
the store. You say "fire hazard?" they say "cost savings!"

You see, shopping in your stores is without question the low point of my week.

You offer name brand products for ridiculously cheap prices and the best beer selection I've ever seen — also at rock-bottom pricing.

But, there is a price to be paid for these bargains.

Increased blood pressure, a racing pulse and the possibility I'm slowly extinguishing my children's belief in a greater good, top the list.

And if the simmering anger and thinly veiled hostility of nearly every one of my fellow Woodman's shoppers is any indication, my feelings are not unique.

So, back to the car in which my wife and I are preparing for the gauntlet.

I'll skip the details about the treacherous trek through your parking lot and get to the part where we manage to commandeer one of your squeaking, rattling carts, which appear to have been pilfered from a Woolworth's circa 1972.

The three exclamation points almost had me but I summoned
all my will power and resisted. Note: the floor from hell. 
It's a matter of time before someone from a government agency accuses me of abuse for asking my son to sit inside one of these carts. But the cart is only part of the problem.

Throughout your store the floor is made of tiles that are the size of an average brick. Thus ensuring that one's cart convulses with every step it's pushed. The rattling of carts fills the air in the store as the vibrations echo up one's arm, the shaking sensation finally taking up residence in the middle of one's brain.

The combination of these rickety carts with your tightly-tiled floors is a conscience-shattering sensation that sets the tone for the entire Woodman's shopping experience.

And if that's the foundation of the experience, its spirit is the willy-nilly, who-the-hell-cares nature of your merchandising.

So very, very few of your products are anywhere near where one might expect them to be. I'm sure the arrangement of your products is intuitive to someone, though I've no idea whom and for how long they've been using LSD.

Given that it's one quarter mile from one end of your store to the other, it's quite the time-consuming pain when one can't locate what they're looking for. Naturally, employees are about as easy to find as a cart with four functioning wheels, so shopper after shopper is forced to navigate your narrow aisles aimlessly searching.

All the while, the cart rattles, shakes and shimmies shooting vibrations through the nerves of  your hands straight into your consciousness. Each step serves as a shattering of any peace you might have accumulated from the last step.

Inside your head it's a nightmare of a circus:

These smiles occurred within the confines of another
grocery store. 
You can't remember where the garlic salt is. It's not with spices. And it wasn't with the salt..... "and oh dear God won't the baby stop crying. Whoops! Sorry fellow customer who I nearly bumped into and who just glared like she'd rather see me drop dead than hear me apologize. Hey! There's the Tabasco! In an end cap on the cereal aisle."

And while one is pushing his or her cart through your store, it's clear that fellow shoppers are fairing no better.

They're people so they're all different but, once inside your store, each of them shares a single motivation: to get the hell out as quickly as possible no matter how much human decency must be shed in the process.

Put bluntly, your stores make shoppers mean.

So why do we go? To save 15 % on our shopping bill? I guess so, but we're going to start finding our bargains elsewhere. It might mean a bit of work searching to find them, but, it'll be worth it.

So, this is goodbye Woodman's. I'd say it was fun. But it wasn't. I'd say we'll miss you but we won't.

And I'd say you'll never see me again. But, like any abusive relationship, I know that when I want really good beer, really cheap, I'll come crawling back to you. Until then, here's hoping you retile your floors.

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