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Personal Shopping Cart Space and the Effect of Christmas Upon It

Quote of the day: Hail!  Hail!  The gang’s all here. — D. A. Estrom

008Some people say Christmas is the most heartwarming holiday of them all.

“Silver bells, silver bells / It’s Christmas time in the city”

As I walk through the front doors of one of Santa Fe’s upscale grocery stores, the produce department sounds like a cattle drive gone cowbell crazy. Everywhere I look, aisles are crowded. People are rushing by me as if en route to an urgent bathroom visit. Shoppers, with one ear attached to their cell phone, fuss over lettuce as if choosing their last supper, albeit an organic one.

Desperate, I park my cart in a little nook of space on the sales floor the marketing director has actually failed to fill. Unfortunately, in the time it takes me to pick my first item up for purchase, the empty cart is gone, snatched away in a flash.

I go back to the store entrance and get another cart. The only one left is a huge family size monstrosity. As I wheel this green, tank-like contraption back to produce, I get butt-ended by other people trying to turn their tanks around. Space is at an all-time premium today. Some people act as if there’s a personal two foot area surrounding their cart, a zone I’ll get shocked by if proceeding within. (I don’t exactly experience shocks, but do see snarls and flashes of customer teeth.) Wasn’t the average personal cart space in August at least three feet in width?

Cautiously navigating my way out of produce, I head to one of the store’s middle aisles. No way – it’s clear of customers! Overhead piped-in Christmas carols are replaced by “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” I kick my heels in mid-air as I skip down the lane for no other reason than I can.

But, like Dorothy in “Oz’s” Munchkinland Square, shoppers quickly descend upon me from all directions. I stop to watch my fellow New Mexican shoppers race around, as if by doing so they’ll shave time off their unalterable fifteen minute check-out experience.

Christmas lyrics return:  “Strings of street lights / Even stop lights / Blink a bright red and green / As the shoppers rush home with their treasures.” “Shoppers rush home” is a reminder, a warning I must stop and look both ways for oncoming customers whenever exiting an aisle. I’ve learned that cart traffic laws don’t exist during Christmas, despite the fact it’s the season of giving.  How sad. Christmas isn’t a very heartwarming holiday anymore. Because of it, and feeling crowded, people just get grumpy. All I really want to do now is shop, pay, and get out of here.

Approaching my car in the parking lot (with its Munchkin-sized lanes and Munchkin-sized parking spaces), my checkout line bagger suddenly rushes up and says, “Oh, sir, you left your bottled water behind. Here it is. And happy holidays, sir.”

He smiles. I smile. We even shake hands.

“Silver Bells / silver Bells / Soon it will be Christmas Day.”

Maybe Christmas hasn’t completely failed the test after all. I guess it just depends on who you bump into.


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The Odd Human Behavior About Firsts and Lasts

003I rolled out my produce cart with a new box of plums. It was a really good collection – all the plums were ripe, but not too ripe. As produce manager, I was around all afternoon to watch customers buy these fresh pitted delicacies bag by bag.

By three o’clock, only one plum was left – just as good as the previous ones it shared the bin with, but nobody wanted to buy it.

At five o’clock, the plum was still there and reminded me of a certain human behavior I’d noticed, how nobody wants to buy the last of anything – ever – regardless of condition.

I roll a cart of items to the thrift store’s display floor to be placed on shelves for sale. Working in the thrift trade now, I’m introduced to another customer behavior. As the newly donated items come out, a customer follows closely behind the cart. She’s studying the articles carefully. As I slow, she picks one up. I can’t see what it is, but she smiles while examining it, as if handling a gold necklace.

“How much is this coaster?”

“The coaster? Two dollars.”

Another customer, who’s been eying the cart by way of a gap through the housewares, wanders over.

“How much is this scarf?”

“The price is marked on a tag, ma’am.” I stop the cart.

A third customer, having seen the cart crowd building, walks over. She lowers the glasses to the tip of her nose, then picks through the bottom rack of irresistible consumables.

“Does this pencil sharpener work?”

I might as well set up  a tent with a big sign saying “Cart Sale Today” because it appears I’m not going to get any more work done now. More customers surround the cart as if on a hunt and they’ve just smelled fresh meat enter the store. These thrill-seeking thrift seekers must think that because the items I’m rolling out are the hot new ones, they’re better than the last cart of hot ones I put out twenty minutes ago. What an annoying throng of people.

Next time, I’m going to take advantage of modern customer behavior and roll out one item on the cart. One, and that’s all. For sure nobody will want that.


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