Annoyed in aisle 5

price chopper international aisle

This aisle may look empty. But once Wendy enters it -- or any other supermarket aisle -- someone will show up to block her from the borscht. (It's physics. Or something.)

By Wendy Voelker

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

I love grocery shopping.

I love wandering the aisles, smelling fragrant greens, deciphering nutrition labels, discovering new and exciting products, imagining possibilities for weeknight dinners, finding great coupon deals, keeping track of prices in my grocery list app.

What I don't love about grocery shopping is that there are other people involved in my experience. People just get in my way and ruin everything.

Sometimes, one of those people is me.

Not often, but sometimes.

Every week, I encounter the same issues at the grocery store. Ninety-nine percent of the time I shop at the Hannaford in Clifton Park, but occasionally I will venture to Price Chopper, or maybe the Fresh Market in Latham. But, no matter where I go, the same problems follow me.

Positional annoyance

I keep my grocery list in the Grocery Pal app installed on my iPod. It allows me to sort my list according to aisle, enter weights and per-pound costs of produce, deduct coupon savings, check off items as they go into my cart, and adjust prices as things go on sale or as prices go up (which they seem to be doing at an alarming rate these days). It's a great little application, though I wish there was an option for adding sales tax. I keep my iPod in my hand as I traverse the store, checking things off and adding current prices.

Oftentimes, I need to pause in my journey to be able to type things into the app. Which means I need to stop. And every time I stop -- and I mean every time -- another shopper needs something from the very shelf I've stopped in front of. Seriously. Even if I've stopped in front of the dusty old jars of borscht in the "Kosher for Passover" section, someone needs that jar of purple soup right then and there. And these people seem to materialize out of thin air. The aisle could have been empty, with crackling tumbleweeds drifting through, moments earlier. But as soon as I bring my cart to a stop, the hordes descend. Well, maybe only one horde, but that horde needs to be exactly where I am at exactly the moment that I'm there.

Shopping cart joyrides

Specifically, parents letting their kids (usually girls; boys engage in other annoying antics) push shopping carts. These darling princesses are similar to those little old ladies who drive Cadillacs: they can't see over the dashboard, and all you can see of them are tiny little hands gripping the wheel for dear life. Carts fly dangerously down the aisle, not caring a tinker's cuss who or what is in their path, repeatedly running into the backs of my ankles.

It's all an amusement park ride. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee! I'm pushing the cart and I can't see anything in front of meeeeee! And I'm wearing Uggs and a North Face fleece so I'm cuuuuuuuuuuuuuute! You're not cute. You're really really not. I think I will kill you with this twist tie from the parsley in my cart.

Supermarket sports

This -- this is what the annoying little boys do in the market, while their mothers ignore them. Sometimes, it's track and field day -- boys running, just running. No destination, just running. Other times, it's Turkey Football. I actually witnessed a team of pre-pubescent boys tossing around a frozen Butterball like they were in Giants training camp. Mom was nowhere in sight -- probably too busy fixing her lipstick in the reflective glare of the organic frozen vegetable case.

Aisle blockers

You know them -- they're the slow-moving folks who dodge and weave their way through the market, teasing you all the while, letting you think you'll be able to get by them. Oh, great! They're moving over to the sausages and bacon... No! Shuffle to the left! And now you're stuck behind them all the way to the dairy section.

The endcap logjam

I'm at the end of the aisle, ready to turn right and make my way into the next aisle. But there's an endless stream of traffic in front of me, not giving a single hairy rat's ass that I'm trying to merge into the flow of carts. Nope. I just sit there and sit there and sit there, waiting for an opening. Just like how people in the Capital Region have no clue how to handle merging traffic on the Northway (Screw you trying to get in my lane! I gotta get to Crossgates!), people in the grocery store are so caught up in themselves that they don't realize there are actually other people in the store, also trying to shop.

Out of my stuff

The Hannaford in Clifton Park is always out of whole wheat pita bread on Sundays. ALWAYS. The kid in the bakery unapologetically tells me that they'll be getting more in on Tuesday. BUT I CAN'T SHOP ON TUESDAYS. I shop on Sundays.

Is it really too much to ask to order an extra case so there will be a few g-d packages of Joseph's Whole Wheat Pitas available to us lepers who must do our shopping on the weekends because we're too damned tired to haul our butts to the market after working for ten hours? I may live in Clifton Park, but I am not a stay at home mom with leisure time during the week. Good thing, because I kinda hate kids. And most people.

And sometimes I bring things on myself

I was short last week. I'm short this week. And I'm pretty sure I'll be short again next week.

I hate that the stuff I want to buy (Friendly's ice cream sundae cups) is invariably located all the way back on the very top shelf, completely out of my reach and line of sight, forcing me to step on the bottom shelf and flail my hand blindly until it hits the item. As I step down from the shelf with the item, I usually knock over about a dozen other items on the lower shelves.

Then I quickly run away so I don't have to clean them up. Which means I'm probably on someone else's list of annoying shoppers.

The circle of life.

Wendy Voelker muses about all things yummy at Wendalicious.

Supermarket Week 2012:
+ Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U


I love supermarket shopping and have my own list of annoyances. I made a rule years ago to never shop at Hannaford on Tuesdays. The fact that a bus, from I'm guessing a senior center, would dump about 50 elderly folks into Hannaford around 3PM every Tuesday may have had something to do with that rule. No offense to seniors, I'm hoping to be one someday , but talk about aisle-blocking, coupon clipping and cash-paying induced slowness. I think most Hannafords do their stocking on Tuesday as well which adds to the craziness of trying to shop that day.

I surprisingly found Joseph's whole wheat pitas yesterday (Monday) at Hannaford...but have you ever bought them with more than two days left before they expire? I haven't. This isn't a problem when you have lots of hummus on hand (ahem), but it's annoying if you want them to last the week.

Hoping this post was written for maximum snark factor, otherwise Wendy makes herself out to be a real self-involved, um, shopper. Looking forward to reading her next post on just how annoyingly awful all the *other* drivers are on the Capital District roadways.

First World problems.

I'd suggest you try shopping at different times of day... I usually run into one or two issues, but don't quite get so flustered. And I tend to have a short temper for such things.

Yes, my snark was set on 11 when writing this. I think I had just returned from the grocery store.

I'm truly a very nice and polite person, and manage to contain my anger when in public. By looking at me, you wouldn't know that I'm seething inside; I even smile.

Since writing this, I have discovered that Wednesday evening is a perfectly lovely time to shop. Much more pleasant.

I'm feeling better now.

Wendy, I'm with you. I don't hate kids, I have one, but I can't stand them out of control in the supermarket. And the aisle blockers...oh how I want to take a bullhorn shopping. There is NO REASON (ever) to park your cart diagonally in the middle of the aisle. Believe me, this stuff happens on weekdays too. I don't share your issue about reaching the high items, but everything else you nailed. And for goodness sake, shoppers, PLEASE do not place your items on the conveyor belt before I have finished unloading my cart. I am generally easy to get along with, and usually relatively docile, but I swear after I unload my groceries into my trunk (and return the cart to a proper cart corral, thank you) I have to check the rearview mirror to make sure I have not sprouted horns. Ugh.

There is nothing self-involved about expecting common courtesy in a public location. Delusional, I am beginning to believe, but not self-involved.

One thing I've learned moving to upstate NY: never take your time and actually try to choose a good cut of meat. There will be five soccer moms push between you and the meat as if you're not even there. Seriously, what is that?!? I've shopped, quite literally, all over the globe (1st and 3rd world) and have never met pushier people than in the 518 at the store, and that's saying something, because I've seen some babuskas in the Russian markets go pro-hockey level fouling over a good chicken.

Going grocery shopping with little kids in tow is one of the most stressful experiences a person can have. You have to simultatiously1) make sure the kid is safe & keep them occupied 2) prevent the kid from having an exhaustion-induced meltdown in isle seven 3) get everything on your shopping list 4) be courteous of others. I'm not complaining about being a parent, I'm simply stating the reality. So maybe instead of bubbling with rage when parents don't complete this routine perfectly, you could cut them a little bit of slack and let it go. Remember, if they could leave their kid at home with a nanny, they would.

Your list of annoyances are some of the many reasons why I switched to shopping from the comfort of my couch and opting for home delivery as often as I can. The occasional unsatisfactory produce or mix-up on a price with the home delivery from Shop Rite is, what I would consider, an even trade for not having to deal with all of the other annoyances I find when shopping in person.

My annoyances are simple: anyone or anything that gets in my way. I know what I want, where it is, use only a hand basket, always use self-check out, and use a card to pay. I know all p.l.u. codes for any produce I buy, and where the bar codes are on most of the products I purchase. I can enter and exit a store in under 10 minutes and purchase a weeks worth of groceries as long as no homo sapien gets in my way.

First World Problems, indeed, but nothing makes me feel more civilized than a stroll down the a clean, well-lighted grocery store in an affluent neighborhood. What a Country!

It is easier to avoid the plebes when shopping either during dinner hours (7 pm) or pre-workday hours (7 am), fyi.

@ James, you have obviously never been to the North Shore of Nassau County, Long Island (Great Neck, Manhasset, Roslyn), and the Trash-with-Money upon whom you can always depend to be the most obnoxious people that you will ever meet. The 518 people of whom you speak are Mennonites in comparison.

As for certain people and their kids, it's not their kids; it's their entitlement-mentality, me-centric, oblivious parents. Eventually it will all come to a crashing end.

"And every time I stop -- and I mean every time -- another shopper needs something from the very shelf I've stopped in front of."

I am the person who patiently waits for my borscht making polite "I'm here" noises while you tap-tap-tap away oblivious on your iPhone until I give up and awkwardly reach over your shoulder for my beet soup as you give me a look normally reserved for folks on the sex offender registry.

Forget Wegman's and Whole Foods...the Capital Region needs a Wendy Exclusive Market! I believe in common courtesy and manners, but after reading this, seriously, you need to get over yourself!

*crickets chirping*

Hear that?

The world's smallest violin.......

When is it not Supermarket Week on AoA?

From now on, every time I shop, I'm going to skate on the carts down the aisles and stop in crowded places, just to annoy people like you.

I wouldn't exactly call staying at home with a toddler and trying to navigate grocery shopping between nap times (which I call, "grab and go") my "leisure time". This, coming from a CP stay at home mom who shops at the same Hannaford.

If you really want to complain about something, what about the 16 year old helping tell the huge line of people which checkout lane they need to go to, whether you have 3 items or 300. THAT is what will ruin your shopping experience.

Completely off topic, but is this a stock photo or some place around here? I see McVities Hobnobs in the England section and have been trying to find a place locally to get those as well as other fare from GB and Ireland.

I wonder if the person standing in line at the local soup kitchen has to deal with those problems. Oh right, they probably don't have a soup kitchen in Clifton Park.

Your #1 problem is that you are shopping in Clifton Park, the entitlement capital of the Capital District. I used to live and shop there and had the worst grocery store experiences included a woman on her phone slamming her cart full force into the back of my ankle, cutting it up and then proceeding to walk away quickly as I bled all over the floor. I never have those experiences at the Hannaford in Glenville. :-)

If I could get away with it I would shop at sometime between 12am and 6am ... most of the annoying people aren't there, and probably some rather "interesting" characters. :)

I agree that as a whole, there are a lot of kids in America being raised by selfish/oblivious parents.. but I almost never see this being played out at my local grocery store. I usually see the opposite problem: moms and dads going bonkers on their kids for the slightest offence. That's just one of the reasons why Wendy's post didn't ring true for me. I've never seen anything close to boys playing football with a frozen turkey while their mom does her lipstick around the corner. The whole thing reeks of exaggeration.

I'm an advocate of good shopping cart management. This involves parking your cart at a point in the aisle or section where it will cause the least congestion and setting off on foot to get what you need.

The only problem with this is you might forget where you put your cart -- or worse, someone accidentally rolls off with your groceries.

It is fascinating to me how many people will walk past a bag of english muffins or a lonely lemon that has been knocked to the floor of the store, employees included, instead of dealing with it.

Do yourself a karmic favor and pick it up, inspect it, and put it back in its perch if it is not damaged. Much more satisfying than creeping away from cascading Friendly's cups.

@Barry: Good point.

@Bonfire: It's from when the expanded international aisle opened at Price Chopper in Westgate a few years back. I'd guess your chances of scoring Hobnobs there are still pretty good.

I should have figured people would try to tear Wendy down over the airing of some supermarket grievances, most of which I share. I predominantly shop at the PC in Westgate, and I see many of the same problems there. Grocery shopping brings out my inner grumbly-grump, and I'm normally a demure and easy-going person. I am also looking forward to trying out delivery services.

I won't address the entitlement. I won't address the lack of sympathy for moms having a tough time controlling their kids while trying to shop. I won't even address the concept that stay-at-home moms have all that free time.

What I will address is that Grocery Pal App. Who needs an electronic device for that? Most of us do all that in our head, and don't need to waste fossil fuels, or clog the aisle in a supermarket to do it. I can guestimate my bill as I load the stuff on the conveyor belt and CONSISTENTLY be less than a dollar off, whether I am buying $60 worth of stuff or $300 dollars worth. As for tax, so few things actually have tax that it is negligible, at least for how I shop.

Stretch your brain and use it!!!!

I think it's the tone of the piece that has people riled up. There's a difference between the airing of grievances and joking about killing toddlers with twisty ties.

@Seasoned Shopper: I don't *need* the app; I *like* it.

And, you mentioned entitlement. Why do you feel like you are entitled to my sympathy for your misbehaving children?

Don't get me wrong; I am not unsympathetic to parents with infants & toddlers - I know there's not much to be done when those inevitable meltdowns occur. The unruly children that I witnessed were in the eight-to-twelve-year-old variety. Children who are old enough to know better than to act that way in public. Children who should have been taught to be respectful of other people around them. Their parents were oblivious. It's really them that I have a problem with.

For the record: the turkey football story is 100% true. I might have been making up his lipstick-wearing mother.

@Greg- Thank you! The drive to Wegman's is a little much for my tasty treats.

Some people need to unpucker. Or at least familiarize themselves with the concept of hyperbole. The article is meant to be a humorous and semi-serious airing of grivances and frustrations EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has thought. If you say say you haven't, you're lying.

Most people at stores have NO concept of flow control, and absolutely no awareness of their surroundings. People stop suddenly right in front of you, leave their carts in the middle of the aisle while they wander aimlessly...

And while I love kids, even with none of my own, I hate their idiots parents that can't control them.

I always think about David Foster Wallace's amazing Kenyon College commencement speech when grocery shopping.

I will admit that my children run up and down the aisles at the grocery store. Often I'm guilty of encouraging it.

My littlest one, not even two, likes to spin around the oddly placed support poles and scream, "Wheee!!" in a high-pitched giggle. (A clear failure of parenting, according to Chris Rock. At least she doesn't call me Pam.) And I've caught my almost 5-year old son squeezing the melons more than once.

I'm not neglectful; I'm not trying to ruin anyone else's shopping experience. But my kids are kids. And I don't expect them to act like little adults.

That said? We never go on a Saturday or Sunday. We have very strict rules - we only run when the entire aisle is empty of people. And we never, ever, knock anything over, including other people.

Less tongue-in-cheek: there is nothing worse than trying to drag two screaming, miserable children through a grocery store when you NEED to shop. I would love to be able to go by myself, linger over cheese and pick out the perfect fruit. In reality, I have a short window of time before one or both of my children implode. And so we try to make the best of it.

If you'd like to join us, let me know. The more the merrier. :)

Like Abby, I'd love to go to the supermarket all by my lonesome - enjoying the smells, sights and discovering different foods we haven't tried. However, with 5 kids, that's a laughable prospect. I've always got somebody with me, and it's up to me to make sure that the food we need gets purchased, regardless of the miserableness of the children in tow. We have rules - no bashing the cart into anyone that isn't related to us, no pulling things willy-nilly off shelves and tossing them to the floor or into carts that aren't ours. Those are the biggies. But, I do try to make it at least somewhat bearable for the kids. They don't love it, but if I manage to keep them interested, they won't scream at the top of their lungs for CANDY or CHIPS or SODA like children often do. In fact, sometimes I'm able to slip in a little lesson on good food choices or math.
Truth be told, I'm not a fan of most people either. And I don't wish to inflict my kids on those people who aren't fans of kids. But at the same time, I need to go shopping, like everyone else. And it's not always at my leisure, I need to coordinate around nap schedules, school buses and activities of the 5 kids. I much prefer to do it when someone can watch at least some of the kids at home, leaving me with only the ones who have expressed an interest in joining me.

I find that plastering a big smile on your face, making room for anyone who looks more intense(or confused) than you, and keeping up a constant patter with the kidlets help. Otherwise, after 10pm is good, even if your workday starts at dawn.

I really don't know Wendy, nor would I really ever want to. I can't imagine interacting with someone who is so negative about a very normal task that we all must do. I wonder if she has ever just sat back and enjoyed anything at all? Is her life really that hard, grocery shopping in Clifton Park?? Take a deep breath and just remember life is too darn short to think twice about all these petty annoyances. And Wendy, I realize you're just saying it for a rise, but I would love to know how you came to think staying home, being a homemaker, and raising children is leisurely?? Haha!

@Eric: And what's wrong with politely saying "excuse me"?

This kind of posting (on AOA and elsewhere) has become predictable and formulaic.

1 Somebody airs a litany of trivial, entitled pet peeves.

2 Commenters pile on, either seconding one or more of the peeves, or taking exception to the overall tone or to a specific peeve.

3 Meta-commenters add their voices, siding either with the original poster or the critics.

4 And on and on

I am curious whether this formula generates reader traffic. Do people enjoy these teapot tempests? To me they seem to foster incivility and rancor over issues that don't warrant such intense emotion. I find them tedious and tend to avoid them.

Wendy, you'd be happy to know that I'm raising my son not to run around the grocery store aisles. I do let him have one of those "Shopper in Training" carts at Price Chopper, and it's an ongoing struggle to teach him not to block the aisles. I don't want him to be That Guy when he grows up. I'd say I don't understand why parents don't take a more active role in teaching their kids proper grocery store etiquette - but most parents themselves don't really have a clue either.

@Tim in Waterford - "Excuse me," "Could I just..." "If you don't mind," "*Small throat clear*," "Could I squeeze past," etc. These are the "polite 'I'm here,' noises" I meant. Sometimes people are too immersed in the soft glow of their portable devices to hear.

@Bonfire -- You can often find Hobnobs at Ocean State Job Lot (Westgate in Albany and off Rte. 7 in Schenectady), as well as many other McVities and Cadbury goodies.

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