Friday, August 22, 2008

The Joys of Grocery Shopping

Unless you order online--or have the luxury of having a maid or a butler--odds are, you practice the bi-monthly ritual of venturing out to your local grocery store to purchase goods chock-full of sustenance-y goodness. You know, the five food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, meats and whatever Oreo cookies are made out of.

Grocery shopping in itself is a perfect example of the yin/yang philosophy of duality in that for every fun part of grocery shopping--scooping up free samples, squeezing oranges--there are several unfun aspects as well--hauling the heavy groceries, having a heart attack after seeing the total price at the register. So, in an effort to improve upon the grocery shopping experience, I am writing this open letter to all grocery chains to offer these 5 tips on how to improve the customer experience:

1. Invest in New Cart Technology.
Isn't it odd that throughout your lifetime, grocery carts have changed very little? Outside of substituting out metal for plastic, grocers still provide the same shoddy carts that have fold down seats that get stuck and wheels that either stop spinning or go into a jittery, dancing convulsion with every revolution. Or there are the carts that insist upon turning right, which can lead to collisions and the potential bruising of produce and small children. Speaking of children, do you expect children to sit in those uncomfortable, pinching, ice-cold or burning hot seats and have a good time?

2. How About a Map or Directory?
35 rows filled with hundreds of thousands of products. A seemingly senseless arrangement of said products. And no map. I get it. You want people to meander and make impulsive buys. But why do so at the expense of annoying them? Imagine going to the New York City Visitor's Center and they tell you, "No, we don't have a map of the city. We figure that you'll eventually find the place you want to go and will probably find other places to go to along the way. So, win-win." And how about some logic to the arrangement of products? Try putting the bagels in the aisle next to cereal. Or how about putting salad dressing near the lettuce?

3. Hire Traffic Enforcement.
Let's face. For some reason, people enter a grocery store and turn into oblivious drones that are incapable of looking away from all of the shiny packaging on the shelves. This leads to traffic chaos. How many times have you walked down an aisle and a customer has their cart parked perpendicular to the rows, blocking the entire lane? So you sit there and wait until they decide between Honey Smacks or Trix. Or there's the speed walker who almost plows you over with his cart as he races down the lanes. Solution: Paint lines down the middle of the aisles to designate to lanes and take away the "preferred value super savings premier customer card" of anyone who carts like an idiot.

4. Less is More.
How about a sale that doesn't require me to buy enough food to feed a small army? Yes, I would like to save money on some chicken breasts. But do I have to buy 42 packaged in one large crate in order to get that savings? How about instead of having "Buy 4, get 1 free" deals, you can just take 20% off of each. I get it. You want you to buy more. But until they reinvent the storage capacity of kitchen shelves and refrigerators to be limitlessly expandable, there is no possible way I can fit all of the food you want me to buy!

5. Just be a Grocery Store.
Stop trying to be a "Super" market. You have too much stuff already. Why are you selling patio furniture or sports team t-shirts? How many people are sitting at home and thing, "Hmm, I need some engine oil, a lazy boy recliner and a Morton Grove High School pennant. I know! I'll go to the grocery store!"

I could go on, but I thought I'd leave that up to you, the readers of this silly blog. If you have ideas on how grocery stores can improve, comment on this blog. Rock the Vote! (I know, that makes no sense). As for me, someday I hope to have a butler to avoid all of this. And if I do, he shall be called Merriweather whether it is his name or not.


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