Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Walmart Can Seriously Damage Your Health

We went on a quick shopping trip to Walmart yesterday afternoon and may need to go again on Friday as Deb/Den are leaving on a week long cruise on Saturday and so I'll be 'home alone' in the park with no transportation if I run out of anything.

Well that's not strictly true as their truck will be here but as it's a one ton behemoth, over 21ft long and 8ft wide, I'd rather not drive it (and park it) around Sebring ! It has the turning circle of a school bus and I just know I'd get struck in the McDonald's drive thru ! I've driven it once before, from Orlando airport back here to sunny Buttonwood Bay, but that was mostly along a 4 lane highway where I picked a lane and pretty much stayed in it for 80 miles.

Despite huge wing mirrors, it has a larger blind spot than Stevie Wonder and so most movements other than going in a straight line require the driver to triple check those mirrors, stick his/her head out the window, glance at the rear view mirror as if that'll help a lot and then move lanes hoping not to sideswipe some little hidden car and send its driver to a gruesome death in a roadside ditch.

So no, I think I'll be staying put in the park next week.

Anyway back to Walmart, always a great place for raising one's blood pressure and yesterday was no exception. I finished getting my few grocery items and went to the deli counter for some cooked ham. I was 3rd in line but this means little in Walmart as other more important factors come into play.

How many people are serving ?
How many deli items are being ordered by the customers in front ?
How old are both the servers and customers ? (This may be unique to Florida Walmarts).

There are some other factors of lesser importance (like do the customers in line know each other and so chat away when they could be odering ?) but even these can still add to the time taken for ME to be served.

Yesterday there was one lady server and even being kind, her best years of being a useful member of society were long behind her. When I joined the line, she was over at the slicer with her back to us and so I assumed she was cutting the meat for the person at the head of the line.
I checked my watch as we were on a schedule and HAD to be back at the park for a set time as Dennis needed the truck to go to work.

7 minutes passed.....yes I swear it.....7 minutes passed and she finally turned around with a slice of meat to give to the customer to be sure it was sliced how he wanted it. They do this here and if you're in no hurry, it's a great idea and you end up with a free slice of meat. UK supermarkets, please note. The (old) customer nibbled at it like he was a food critic and he was tasting a slice of kobi beef rather than cooked ham, reduced to $2.88/lb. Once satisfied, he told the server it was fine and she sauntered back to the slicing machine to cut his order.

What the hell had she been doing for those 7 minutes (plus any time before I got there) at the slicer ? Had she had a stroke, gone into a temporary coma, forgotten where she was or all of the above ? Just how long does it take to cut one slice of meat ?

In an effort to relieve the boredom and lower my blood pressure, I started looking around the store. People watching there is such fun. The usual crowd were in.....numerous obese people monopolising the disabled scooters, women in bedroom attire wearing crocs, ponytailed men in heavily stained wife beater shirts, women (mostly) with backsides you could rest your laptop on, little old women with pants hitched up to their armpits and visually impaired old men who had their clothes picked out by a wife that they'd obviously had a fight with the night before. Never mind colour clash, these outfits were fashion disasters.

I looked back at the deli counter as by now 15 minutes had passed and I'd not moved. The man at the front still hadn't been given his order and I assumed he'd ordered a lot and would be presented with several ziplock bags of sliced meat at some point in time. Eventually he was given one bag, left and we all moved up one place. ONE BAG !!???

Before the man in front of me was asked for his order, the server resealed the joint of meat on the slicer, gave the machine a good clean and put the joint back into the display cabinet with all the speed of an Olympic sprinter not on drugs. I immediately saw a flaw in this procedure and sure as eggs are eggs, when he was then asked for his order, the customer wanted the same ham !


At this point a quasi manager (he had a different coloured tag on his shirt and to be honest, I didn't care what role he performed) came out from the nearby bakery area and as he was obviously going to pass by our rapidly growing line, I did a very unBritish act and stepped out to stop him in his tracks. Thinking he was about to be attacked, he put up his clipboard as some sort of shield and was patently relieved when he discovered I just wanted a word with him. I'm not sure how much use a cork clipboard would've been against a determined attacker but maybe it would've deterred a novice gang member out of his initiation gig.

I politely showed him that there was only one server and a line of about 8 people who were all getting a bit frazzled by having to wait for so long. I pointed out that I'd been clean shaven when I joined the line and that most of us could now recite, word for word, the Walmart commercial being repeated ad nauseum on the tv screen hanging over the deli counter. I could even hum the tune if required.

He went to get more staff and as I turned back to the deli expecting to see smiles and hear applause from my fellow 'liners', I found that the customer in front had long gone and I had been holding up the line by talking with the manager ! No smiles or applause were forthcoming.

I gave my order to FloJo, asked her not to bother with a sample slice and was done in about 3 minutes. In the meantime another server appeared as if by magic and as I made my way to the checkouts, I looked back and the line was actually moving before my very eyes !

I had 11 items in my cart and so approached the express checkouts....20 items or less. Now as I've mentioned before, these signs are there simply to heighten blood pressure and stress levels as the only people who ignore them more than the customers are the checkout staff. I scanned all 6 lanes to try and work out which would be the fastest but in the Sebring Walmart this is no easy task. Customer numbers mean nothing and you have to scan the carts.

Admittedly most of those in the lines did only have a few items but this was offset by knowing that, as seniors, they'd take forever to get those items out of their carts and processed and then either pay by check (not having filled in any of the details up front), or pay by credit card and swipe it backwards and upside down a few times before getting it right or worse still, pay by cash.

OMG never ever be behind an old woman paying with cash. They are the only breed who can visit Italy, safe in the knowledge that no passing Vespa thief will EVER successfully mug them.
Their money is hidden so deep within purses, handbags and shopping bags that exchange rates would change before it saw the light of day. The bit that gets me every time, is that when presented with the amount owed, they almost jump with surprise as if the very idea of having to pay for the items had never entered their minds.

On the rare occasions when I pay by cash, as a man, I've checked and rechecked the money in my hand several times before getting the first item out of the cart. I usually apologise profusely if it comes to £12.57 and I hand over £12.58.

"Oh I'm ever so sorry. I've probably got some coins in my turn ups if you've got a minute. How about £12.56, a piece of fluff and a polo mint that's only been lightly sucked ? "

I almost joined the line that had only 2 customers until I noticed that the last one was obviously a Haitian relief worker and was wanting to organise a food drop by himself. If some wag had used a felt tip and added a zero to the sign, he'd still have had too many items.

Still seething from the deli counter and worrying about getting back to the park in time, I took a chance and went behind a line with four people as two of them were a senior couple in front of me who although having about 30 items in their cart, looked sprightly enough to get them processed and paid for without me needing to 'tut' them along.

I was only half right. Oh the man was sprightly enough. So sprightly that he was putting the processed items back into the cart while his wife was still putting new items up on the checkout belt. Like waiting for an inevitable train wreck, I watched with mounting horror as the first 'already processed' item passed by the scanner for a second time. It had been in a plastic Walmart bag of course but the wife was in full 'grab it and lift it' mode and wasn't paying attention to where exactly she was grabbing things from.

If I'd thought about it in time, I could've moved my cart up a bit and had my groceries paid for !

After a second item was rescanned this way, I just had to jump in because, amusing as this was for the idle spectator, I was on the clock and this version of Groundhog Day could've gone on for some considerable time - till one of the couple twigged something was wrong or the cash register ran out of paper. I didn't hold out much hope for the former and couldn't wait for the later and so pointed out what was happening to the 3 of them. The two rescanned items were voided, I helped the lady put the rest of the NEW items up onto the belt and suggested that the cart, and the husband, be moved to the front, well away from wife !

My groceries were processed without incident and as I wheeled my cart to the doors, I glanced at the deli counter and gave a little smile when I saw there was no line.

Was that a successful ending to the shopping trip ?

On no. There was still the small matter of the Burger King Whopper that was anything but a Whopper.

to be continued...........


rhymeswithplague said...

Your Walmart has only 6 cash registers? I remember standing in a line at a Walmart for more than 30 minutes once because there were 32 cash registers and only 2 cashiers. Upon reaching the register I said to the woman at the register, "Whatever they're paying you, it's not enough." She agreed. Then, when I asked, "Why don't they just hire more cashiers?" she said, "Didn't you hear what you just said to me? You answered your own question."

My guess is that the woman at the deli was unwrapping the plastic from the package of ham. Either that or praying.

Silverback said...

I said I went to the express checkouts Bob. Come on now..don't you get all 'senior' on me too !

Katherine said...

Hilarious account Ian! I was there with you! Now where's my pills?

Daphne said...

Your account is very funny,- especially the bit about FloJo and her seven minutes - but it raised my blood pressure by about ten units of whatever blood pressure comes in. My trip to Tesco's this afternoon is beginning to seem quite calming in comparison.

Jennyta said...

I was there with you 'in the moment' Ian! What a performance! Can't wait for the next chapter...!

Juanita said...

Can't stop laughiing...oh so true!! I got behind someone in the less than 20 item line.....who checked out 2 batches of 20 items...the people behind me were livid...I told them that it appears she has 20 x 2 items...depends on how you interpret the rule....rofl

CLS said...

OF course - it was a HOLIDAY !! Never a good time to go to any store - especially here in Seniorville

Katie said...

This makes the Merrion Centre Morrisons sound like a tranquil organised efficient place in comparison.

Milo said...

"The usual crowd were in.....numerous obese people monopolising the disabled scooters, women in bedroom attire wearing crocs, ponytailed men in heavily stained wife beater shirts..."

Hahaha, love your Walmart stories! You sure know how to tell'em! It made me feel stressed out just reading your account.

Jay said...

"The bit that gets me every time, is that when presented with the amount owed, they almost jump with surprise as if the very idea of having to pay for the items had never entered their minds."

Oh, hahahahahahaha!!! I've been behind those old ladies! They use the ticket machines in the car parks, too, though what business they have getting behind a wheel with thought processes that slow, I'll never know!

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