Gremlin encounter

Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do you know what really irks me? Walking into the same grocery store I've shopped in at least once a week forever and finding the peanut butter where the canned tomatoes used to be. What's even worse than going to look for bread and finding laundry soap, is to go to the produce section and find the deli.

Apparently there is some kind of grocery store law that says if a shopper can be in and out in less than 30 minutes with only one item, the store isn't getting enough of his attention. The chief time-keeper stands at the door with a stop watch and when he spies a likely suspect -- probably wearing tennis shoes and spandex -- he punches down the button. If that shopper is out the door in less than half an hour with only a six-pack of pop or a loaf of bread, the chief calls in the gremlins. They go to work and before long the shelves have been turned inside out and upside down until not even the clerks know where to find the paper towels. No rhyme nor reason known to anyone but the gremlins is used to rearrange the store so shoppers can't even second guess them: "Well if the bread was here yesterday, it must have moved to the next aisle today," or, "OK, the soup was on aisle 18 a minute ago, maybe it is on aisle 8 now."

That's the day I walk in with a list to get a "few things." First is cereal, where I find instead pickles and relish. I remember I used the last of the hot dog relish and buy a couple of jars.

Next on the list is brown sugar and in that aisle instead is canned soup, on sale. Might as well get a few cans and save a few cents.

Next on my list is bread and I find instead cereal ... aha, finally something I needed. Of course that is the intent of the grocery gurus. They don't want you to know the store so well you can walk in with your list and fill it without picking up something extra. (They have spies who follow anyone coming in with a list. If the customer doesn't pick up at least a bag of chips extra, in come the gremlins.) One hour and five grocery sacks later I leave the store and forget two things on my short list of seven items.

If I were queen of the grocery world, every store of like name would be arranged the same. When you visited in Anchorage or Spokane or Boise or even Soldotna, you could walk right into that brand name store and go directly to the green beans or the aspirin. No walking up and down the aisles trying to find a birthday card and finding instead a bottle of wine (well, maybe not so bad, but you know what I mean).

Of course that won't happen in Alaska, but some other states allow beer and wine on the grocery shelves. Adds a little to the chore of picking up a few things for dinner and it certainly contributes to impulse buying to have the wine beside the ice cream

I spend a lot of time in the library. There, things are always in the same place. If you go to a library in Austin, Texas, you'll find the Science books on the 500s shelf and the History on the 900s just like in Kenai, Alaska. What is more logical than numerical ordering? You'll probably even see the numbers and the category displayed in big letters above the aisles: "000--General(that's where everything that doesn't have a place goes, like MISC); 100--Philosophy, etc."

Of course when you get to the "600--Technology" area you'll find titles for Pets (636) and Parenting(649) and you'll find Quilting over in the 700--Arts, (746.46) instead of in Sewing (646). There's no accounting for some people's logic, but at least it will be illogical in the same way in every library you visit.

When I am queen, I'll make sure grocery items are reasonably arranged --my rationale of course -- so you'll find soy sauce with the salad dressings or ketchup rather than in the Asian foods section. The margarine would be right there beside the bread every time you came into the store.

The arrangement would be easy to learn and would never change. The bacon would be two steps away from the eggs. Syrup and pancake flour would be in the same aisle. I'm wrestling with milk and cereal -- or should the cereal be with the bacon and eggs?

Maybe the milk should go with the cookies and the syrup be moved to ... where are those darned Gremlins when you need them?!

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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