Paper or Spastic?

Ever have one of those days when you feel you should have just stayed in bed? I did today, thanks to an Epic Grocery Fail this morning.

Normally, I shop at Fred Meyer. Love the place – it’s local (or was, until Kroger bought them out a few years ago), and is the ultimate one-stop shopping experience. In Fred Meyer, you can buy a carton of milk, a pair of tennis shoes, a bird feeder, a leather sectional, The Sound Of Music on DVD, a protractor, a bandsaw, and a diamond ring all under one roof (and then fill up your car with gas outside). Their grocery section is huge, and the prices are pretty reasonable. Freddy’s – as locals call it – is the awesome sauce. However, with my ongoing joblessness, I’m willing to try to save a few bucks here and there, and slashing the weekly grocery bill is a good place to start. My parents are forever suggesting Wal-Mart, but I am carrying on a self-imposed one-man crusade against that place and refuse to ever shop there because I think they’re the devil’s spawn for personal reasons. Fortunately, we’ve got WinCo, a regional grocery chain whose name either stands for “Winning Company” or the five states in which the stores are located (Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon), depending on who you believe. WinCo has great prices on their food – in many cases their groceries are lower than ol’ what’s-that-other-store’s. But it’s not as nice as Fred Meyer.

Granted, a grocery store is a grocery store. You don’t go there for the ambience, right? Well, maybe you don’t, but I guess I do, because the grocery store I used to shop at when I lived in Beaverton had soft lighting, hardwood floors, and a grand piano with a musician tickling the ivories every night. That was pretty cool. WinCo is nothing like that, unfortunately. First off, it’s huge: it’s like shopping in an airplane hangar. Second, you’ve got to bag your own groceries. I guess not having to pay baggers is how they’re able to keep food prices low. And the layout is weird, forcing you to double back so you don’t miss anything. All these things make the overall experience less than desirable…but hey, cheap is cheap!

I have never wanted to get out of a grocery store so quickly! (Courtesy of

The trouble started in the parking lot. I had just pulled in, and came to a three-way stop. In my defense, how often do you see three-way stops? Most intersections have two-way or four-way stop signs. So, when I arrived there before the car to my right, came dutifully to a halt and then proceeded to go, is it my fault that the woman in the gray SUV to my left – the one lane without a stop sign – had to slam on her brakes to avoid plowing into the driver’s side of my car? Hell no, I say! Besides, I did see her. Midway through the intersection, but still. Better late than never, right? I came to a screeching stop, did a polite little wave while sheepishly mouthing I’m sorry, and backed up so she could continue on her way, while she glared daggers in my direction.

Following my near-death experience, I pulled into a spot and waited five minutes, sufficient time for the angry lady in the gray SUV to disappear into the cavernous store, before following. Hey, she was a large woman! I wasn’t going to take any chances. And then I rounded the produce aisle and nearly rammed into her with my cart.

Son of a &*%$#…

Pull back, pull back! my brain screamed, and I quickly veered over to the greeting card aisle, even though there aren’t any anniversaries or birthdays in my family in the near future. She didn’t know that, though. I pretended to examine some ribbons and bows until she had moved on. Whew. Another close call!

The actual shopping part took longer than normal, because I’m not used to WinCo and so I had to carefully check every aisle. (By the way, it’s fun to shop at a new store once in awhile – seems like they always carry some unusual food product you’re not used to; in this case, it was Tillamook Pomegranate Blackberry yogurt. Score!). Finally I was finished and ready to check out, so I picked the aisle with the friendliest-looking cashier I could find, since I’m a newbie and all. The good news: I unloaded my cart without a hitch. The bad news: I screwed up every other part of the transaction.

First, I tried to use a credit card, but it kept asking for a PIN number. “We only take cash, checks and debit cards,” the cashier informed me. Of course. Nine times out of ten I’d have paid that way, but my mortgage is due next week and finances are tight. Oh, well. I swiped my debit card instead, and then hit the wrong button, so it was trying to give me cash back. I certainly didn’t need that, but somehow the machine was frozen, so the cashier had to manually back out my transaction herself. (I’m so glad I picked the friendliest-looking one…she was quite a peach about the whole thing). Then it was time to bag my groceries. I felt pressure to hurry, because there were other people paying for theirs, and even though it’s a two-way conveyor belt both sides were being used. I didn’t want some stranger’s eggs mingling with my mayo, if ya catch my drift. (Then again…hmm). The super-friendly cashier then said, “You don’t know how to use the belt, do you, hon?” There’s a button you’re supposed to press to move the grocery-laden conveyor forward, instead of making multiple trips back and forth with bags. I had forgotten about this handy little feature. Oops. Then, adding insult to injury, I dropped my tomatoes on the floor.

Son of a &*%$#…

At long last, I escaped. My dignity was nowhere near intact, but at that point, I was just thankful to be finished. Man, what a stressful experience that was! I have no idea why I was so jumpy in there. Talk about a spazz. I guess my brush with death put me on edge.

Next week, I’m sticking with Freddy’s.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

24 thoughts on “Paper or Spastic?

  1. That which doesn’t kill us…

    I’m actually a fan of bagging my own groceries since I’ve encountered so few baggers that do it correctly. (i.e., to my taste; yes, they are supposed to be mind-readers!) Also, I always feel bad for making them deal with my various totes since it’s outside of their standard bag knowledge.

    But the belt! That would have stumped me, too!


    1. I always assumed I’d make a good bagger, but when you’re dealing with a line of people waiting for you and a tricky conveyor belt, you sacrifice a perfect fit for speed!


  2. OK, just sayin’ … Best. Blog title. Ever.

    And you know that your whole “her eggs, your mayonaise” part would inspire a comment from me … right?!?! PRICELESS!

    I hate WinCo — more than I hate WalMart. And I super-duper hate Wal Mart, so you can imagine…

    BRILLIANT post, Mark!!! 🙂


    1. Thanks, Mikalee! Your state is the “n” in the name, so of course you’re familiar with WinCo. I’m wondering why you hate it more than Wal-Mart, though.

      The eggs/mayonnaise joke pretty much wrote itself. Then again, it helps to have a deviant mind!


  3. “I didn’t want some stranger’s eggs mingling with my mayo, if ya catch my drift.”

    Bwhahahahahahahaahahahaha! Yes, I DID catch your drift – HILARIOUS, man!

    OMG, this whole experience sounded like something off Seinfeld!

    I’m with you, “Granted, a grocery store is a grocery store. You don’t go there for the ambience, right? Well, maybe you don’t, but I guess I do.”

    Me too! That’s why I love shopping at Trader Joe’s. I really enjoy the ambiance there.

    I usually bag my own groceries because I can’t stand how they do it. I mean how hard is it to realize that the COLD stuff should all go together?????

    FAB post, Mark!


  4. I dislike the WinCo. The savings are all smoke and mirrors…
    plus…there’s something about “discount” stores that bring out….well, the Wal-mart types.
    Stick with Freddy’s. That is the shizzle. That way, you can, as you said, get that diamond pinky ring next time you’re there, and the eggs and mayo.

    “What’s on your list today? You’ll find it at Fred Meyer!” They aren’t lying. I likey like them, too.
    p.s. best title ever. Freshly pressed! where are you!!!


  5. You’re right, Jane – I *did* notice “Wal-Mart people” in WinCo. I even thought that to myself at the time. There was the odd man who held a package of ground beef under my nose – literally! – and when I looked at him questioningly, he said, “Lookit that expiration date! It’s today! I’m going to speak to the manager,” and then practically knocked on the door leading to the back room. I have no idea if the manager ever showed up, because by that time I was far, far away.


  6. We don’t have those places- sans the evil walmart I am proud to shop because of ambiance and cute bag boys who also put the bags in the car. I’m all about customer service over cheap. When I need to save money, I buy less. Buying less also helps the waistline! Win/win/win


  7. This sounds like everyday life to me. If there’s a mistake to be made or an embarrassment to be endured–I will make it, endure it–and then some. But this one made me laugh out loud, as well–guess misery loves company!


  8. This post further solidifies my argument that we should stay at home all the time. The Mister says this makes me antisocial and reclusive. I say it makes me safe and happy 🙂


  9. That’s rough, Mark. I’ve felt that way before. All I can tell you now is, tune in to my blog on monday, you’ll see, it could’ve been worse. Prepare for the most embarrassing moment challenge!


  10. So, you’re one if THOSE WinCo shoppers?

    :::smacks forehead with palm:::

    We discovered WinCo a few mos ago when they opened in our city. WinCo is now like crack to me. Oh, the bulk bins call to me!!!


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