Secrets to Escaping the Grocery Store Before Your Ramen Noodles Expire

supermarket jail

Monday April 10, 2017

Friends, with all the serious problems we face in the world today I feel it’s appropriate take a short break from writing nonsensical movie reviews in order to discuss a subject of much greater import: grocery shopping.

Other than the super wealthy who can afford personal shoppers we all have to go to the grocery store. Yet they don’t teach grocery store related life skills in school. Thanks a lot Common Core! Pythagoras won’t help you when you enter the bowels of your local discount supermarket and come face to face with the wretched denizens who dwell within. Lucky for you the United States Government commissioned some research back in the '60s that eventually lead to the Internet you’re using right now to read this drivel so I can teach you how to survive daily life in the first world.

One of the biggest challenges about grocery shopping is finding enough money to buy what you need to survive when globalization and automation have steadily devalued your labor for the past 40 years. Sorry, I can’t help you with that. I can give you some advice, however, on how to get through the checkout line before those ramen noodles you’re trying to buy expire.

I’m an experienced grocery shopper. I buy the best groceries. They’re tremendous, believe me. Though I’ve slowed down recently, at my peak I probably visited a grocery store at least 4 to 5 times a week. I’ve been going to grocery stores on a regular basis for decades. So you could look to the so-called experts on this topic who dole out advice from their ivory towers or you could listen to someone like me who has been in the trenches, buying groceries along with the plebeian masses.

Don’t count on the express lane

The world’s staggering illiteracy rate becomes painfully obvious when you get in a line sporting a “10 Items or Less” sign. Aside from the grammatical error of the sign itself, it is apparent that huge swaths of the population either can’t follow simple instructions or can’t read. Try to find one person who hasn’t seen someone go through an express lane with more than the allowable number of items or even done it themselves. If you do find that person they are probably blind, probably a monk and probably live in a cave.

These days a lot of express lanes allow more than 10 items. Often they allow 15, sometimes even 20 items. If you’re allowed to have 20 items is it really an express lane anymore? No, it’s more like an average pace lane. Even with these higher item limits people still break the rule. If you really want to save some time at the grocery store you should start writing to congress demanding that they make violating an express lane item limit punishable by death.

Beware the self-checkout line

Self-checkout is a wonderful invention. Sure it puts some people out of work by letting one cashier do the work of half a dozen cashiers but it also lets me buy groceries without having to speak to anyone. That’s worth sacrificing a few livelihoods if you ask me.

These machines can save you time but they can also make you want to become the next Unabomber. The same Neanderthals who can’t understand the complex regulations of the express lane often stumble their way into the self-checkout. You can wind up developing severe varicose veins while waiting for some idiot to figure out what the giant “pay now” button means.

Then when you do manage to use the machine, there’s no guarantee it will function properly. You scan something lightweight like a greeting card and you might be hearing “please place the item in the bagging area” over and over again until you begin to fantasize about building a shack in the wood where you can spend time writing your manifesto.

Beware old people

Old people are slow. That’s not a moral judgement of their character or intellect, it’s just a statistical fact. Get in line behind an old person and you might not get home before the neighbors call the authorities to report you’ve abandoned your children. Not only do they move slow, they are typically resistant to change and prone to using slower methods of payment like exact change or even worse a “check”.

What the hell is a “check”?

Once upon a time people would pay for things with something called a “check”. A “check” was a slip of paper with a person’s name, address, phone number and banking information printed on it along with a space to write a payment amount and recipient’s name. People used to carry books of these things with them everywhere they went to pay for their day to day expenses. It was like a prehistoric version of a debit card.

Believe it or not there are still some crazy people out there using “checks” at places like grocery stores. If you get in line behind one of these people you might as well call your friends and family to say goodbye.

Conduct Reconnaissance

Every grocery store is required by federal law to employ at least one checker who is actually a three-toed sloth with a name tag. Trust me, you do NOT want to get in the sloth lane. Unfortunately stores don’t bother to label the sloth lanes so avoiding them requires a little time observing the performance of the various checkers. I know that sounds like a lot of work but if you can identify and avoid the sloths your time investment will pay off with interest.

Prepare to fail

You can follow all of this spectacular advice and still wind up stuck in checkout line purgatory. You might as well prepare for your eternal supermarket limbo. Bring along a portable camp chair so you can be more comfortable. Keep a book with you to help pass the time. Maybe invest in an e-reader.

If all else fails, just pretend you’re on vacation. After all, people pay good money for the same experience at Disneyland.