So Tell Me: Supermarket Tales

I was standing there, rummaging through the turkeys.  For some reason, I was convinced that it was really important to find a 21-pound turkey instead of the 2o-pound one I already had.  As I rummaged, a guy on the other side of the freezer started chatting.

We talked about this and that — how many guests we were having, what kind of stuffing we like, and so on. We discussed various methods for thawing a frozen turkey. I said, “Ha ha, I just bring mine to bed with me!” and then thought, Hm, that was kind of a weird thing to say.  Oh, well. Then we talked about different styles of cranberry sauce, how far our guests would travel, and about a pig roast the guy had one time in Wisconsin.

Finally we found our turkeys, and I said, “Well, have a nice Thanksgiving!”  He answered, “You too!  Hope you get that turkey defrosted in time!”  And I answered, “Oh, I’ll just bring mine to bed with me.”

And then I left, even though I still had more shopping to do.  Because I knew that if I ran into him again, I’d once again tell him that I was going to bring my turkey to bed with me.

Which I’m not.  Why do I say these things?  What is it about supermarkets that makes people reveal too much about themselves?

Here’s a sad little window I looked into one night in the frozen foods aisle of the Walmart Supercenter.  A middle-aged man stuffed into a snowsuit, like an enormous toddler, was muttering in a sulky monotone, “I wish they had the Stouffer’s.  They used to have the Stouffers.  Right there, that’s where they had the Stouffer’s.  This isn’t Stouffer’s.  The Stouffer’s is really better, so why don’t they have the Stouffer’s?  I wish they had the Stouffer’s.”

And the woman wasn’t saying anything, in her eyes was written: “K.I.L.L.”

Another time, in another aisle of the same godforsaken Walmart, I saw another couple.  The young man, bored to the point of semi-bonelessness, draped himself over the cart while his monolithic girlfriend surveyed the shelves of cereal.

“Well, do you like Cheerios?”  she asked.

“Myehh,” he said.

“Well, how about Wheaties?  Do you like Wheaties?” she asked.

“Mmmrr,” he replied.

“Well,” she went on,  “Well how about, do you like, like, Honey Bunches of Oats and Shit?”

I swear, that’s what she said.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?  I see a happy future for that couple.  As long as someone else makes breakfast.

How about you?  Any supermarket stories to tell?


  1. Well, there was the time when I saw two Southerners (judging from their accents) perusing the frozen pie section of the local grocery store right before Thanksgiving. They were commenting that “Minnesotans must not be big on mincemeat.” Indeed. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a frozen mincemeat pie in a grocery store around here.

    I had a lovely conversation with a fellow from Chicago while standing in line one day. I even learned something. Apparently, “windy city” does not refer to the weather in Chicago, but rather, to the long-winded politicians. No joke.

  2. I was trying to get some mandarin oranges for my kids the other day and an older woman was standing with her cart right in front of them and the pinapple trying to decide what size can of pineapple she needed. She kept picking up and putting back, turning toward her cart and then back to the shelf. Her husband looked very put upon an gave me a sympathetic look and rolled his eyes at her. Typically when confronted by these type of people, I say excuse me, dart in, grab what I need and move on. But I could tell this woman was going to be the type to grab my arm and lecture me about respect or some other crap. And I was validated when I decided to walk away and another mom of toddlers attempted what I would normally have done and the woman did exactly that. Mandarin oranges aren’t worth it. I’ll just go to another store rather than deal with someone like that.

    • Isn’t that the truth? I am baffled by people’s lack of cart management skills, too – as in, leaving it in the middle of the aisle whilst they peruse sugar substitute for what seems to be an eternity, and act irritated when I ask “excuse us?” so we can walk by. WTH?

      The reverse to your scenario also bugs me – when I’m reaching for something in the 1/200th of a second anyone is allowed to stand still (my rule) in front of any given item in the store, and someone pushes my cart (with my keys, purse, kids in it) down or over so they can get to the pork n beans – have you heard of personal space, single self centered impatient guy? No matter, I’ll see you at the checkout, when you’re behind me and my coupons. Boo-yah!

  3. Once I marched into the bug spray aisle – and I do mean marched because I was wearing heels – and this guy asked me “how do you put up with that all day – the clicking?” I looked at him confused and said, “practice, I guess. Do you know what I can use to kill…” whatever it was I was trying to kill. And he looked at me confused and said, “no, I don’t work here” and walked away sad. I’m not sure if he was sad because I didn’t want to talk about walking around in heels, or because I mistook him for a grocery story worker who specialized in killing things.

  4. Once, we had an hour to kill after dropping off our oldest daughter for an activity. We went to the nearby Safeway and got bread and milk, after which the following exchange took place in the dairy section:

    Me: OK, now we only have 45 minutes to kill.
    My wife: (Shrugs.)
    Our (then) youngest daughter: We can get in the longest check-out line.

  5. I’m so confused – you really do take your frozen turkey to bed? Or is that your code name for Mr. Fischer?

    As to weird supermarket stories, you really don’t wanna get me started. I worked in one for a couple of years. Am still friendly with many of the folks who continue to work there. My kids refuse to “run to the store” with me because, as they rightly observe, “You turn a 5-minute trip to pick up milk and eggs into a 45-minute visit with everybody there.”

    There’s just something about a good supermarket!

  6. My only supermarket story will eventually go something like this:
    “She shopped here every week and seemed like a nice lady, but one day she just snapped and stabbed the bagger, shouting something about “only morons put canned goods and bread in the same bag!”

  7. I worked grocery (that’s how you say it) during high school and college. let’s just say- I was happy not to work grocery Wednesday before Thanksgiving- makes Black Friday look like nothing

  8. Saddest thing I ever saw at a supermarket: the man in front of me who noticed I was staring at his basket, which was filled with frozen pot-pies. He said sheepishly, “You can tell I’m a bachelor, huh.” I could still see the dent on his ring finger where his wedding ring had been.

  9. shopping, especially at wal mart, is kind of nice for me because it makes me feel less of a weirdo, and i’ll leave it at that. Recently, I was in the cereal isle and observed a young lady who worked there straightening some boxes of Kashi. She took the front box down, put in on the floor, and knelt carefully on it. she then knee-walked back and forth over the box about 5 times, slowly and methodically, and then put it back on the shelf, right in front. In the check out line I reported this strange behavior to the clerk, who said that it was definitely not normal, but in the back of my mind I think that the girl was told she had to make a certain number of boxed fit on the shelf, no matter what. or else she’s really passive aggressive.

  10. I once saw a guy shoplift a large piece of smoked pork, probably about 2 kg (4 pounds). He just put it under his shirt and walked out. I was too stunned to tell anyone.

  11. Good God, stop shopping at that WalMart. It sounds populated entirely by crazy people.

    (Then again, Stop N Shop ain’t exactly a beacon of sane either… never mind)

  12. We tend to get a lot of comments, because we go grocery shopping as a family. I divide the list: perishables (produce, frozen, dairy, meats) and nonperishable (dried goods, cereal, kitty litter, et cetera). I take the perishable list and the youngest child and go around the perimeter. My husband takes the nonperishable list, the two older ones, and another cart.

    It takes us half the time that it would for one of us to do it, and we go early in the morning so there’s not as many Fruit Loops in the aisles.

    Inevitably I have to tell a kind checker, who tells me she can take me on lane 4, that I’m with that guy up there who is unloading his cart, the one who is looking like he can’t wait to get out of the dang store.

    But I do have a story about the Woolworth’s where I worked as a teenager and college student. It’s since closed down. This Woolworth’s was in a mall out in the middle of nowhere, kind of run down, and obviously had been there since the 60’s or something. It still had a restaurant, which was fabulous for greasy spoon food.

    My brother worked there as well, on the customer service desk. We had an assistant manager named–no lie–Mr. Bean. Nice guy. Anyway, sometime in the summer, a lady came up to the customer service desk to return a turkey baster. Even though it had been taken out of the package, she had the receipt and Woolworth’s had a pretty lax return policy.

    My brother called Mr Bean over to approve the return, and as he was filling out the slip he asked the lady, “Reason for return?”

    She replied, “Well, no matter which way I try to position myself, it HURTS!”

    Mr. Bean turned bright red, muttered something, and gave her her money back and scuttled back to the manager’s office as fast as he could.

  13. I now wear my ipod when I grocery shop- I listen to radio show podcasts from NPR and CBC… sometimes funny ones, which make me laugh out loud and make other people look at me funny. I wear the ipod because it helps me not be hateful and murderous at the store…
    My fave grocery store joke is this one, and you can use it too: when I get a couple of odd items like a jar of hot fudge sauce and some cat food, and they ask if I want a bag, I say, “oh no, thanks, I’m going to eat that in the car.” It’s a hit every time.

  14. Once I was at the grocery store around 11 pm or midnight and I was putting eggs in my cart when a latino man approached me looking for something, don’t know why me. From the few words of English he knew and from his attempts at sign language I quickly learned he was looking for something to remedy a personal itching problem. Yep, down there. At first I figured it was for the woman in his life, as he was asking a woman for help, but after directing him to the monistat and vagisil he was even more confused and turned an even deeper red under his dark brown skin. So I guess it was him with the problem. I tried to show him some other things but I was very confused and distracted and it was very late and I really don’t speak much spanish. I kept wondering if I was on candid camera or something. Bizarre. I hope he got over his problem. Not sure if he left with the lotrimin or the preparation H.

  15. This is borrowed from a friend of mine, as in she is the one who experienced this.
    She was at the grocery store, with her family. There were a couple of young ladys, one with dyed cherry-red hair, standing in the check out lane a line over talking *very loudly*. They were talking about money.

    One lady said, “You don’ even live like regala people. Yo rent is only ninety-seven dollas.”

    I freaking laugh my ass off everytime my friend says those lines out loud. It’s our go-to phrase for laughter!!


    Ok. 1 more.

    When I am shopping with all my kids (which is pretty much everytime I go) I often get the questions about the big family. “Are they all yours?” “I am glad it’s you and not me.” “Are you gonna get fixed?”

    My favorite is when someone asks, “Haven’t you figured out what causes that?” And I answer, “Yes. That is why we have six kids. Have *you* figured out what causes that? I see you only have 2 children. Maybe you need lessons.”


  16. Once upon a time I was once checking out at the grocery store with two of my children, both transracially adopted. The bagger said to me, “How much did they cost?” Confused, I replied, “What? How much did what cost?” She nodded toward the kids and said,
    Them. How much did you have to pay for them?” The end.

  17. My husband is currently unemployed while I’m working full time. To help out, he’s starting to pick up the grocery shopping. These are real calls I’ve gotten during the day:

    “OK, I’m here. Where’s the banana aisle?”


    “I don’t know what kind of milk to get – they have this half milk, but that seems dumb. I’m getting whole, ok?” (we usually get 1%)

    and these are real conversations we’ve had at home:

    Me: I wrote down “Fajita size” tortillas. These are “burrito size.”
    Him: Yeah, I got tortillas like you said.

    Me: I said vodka. Where’s the F#*&ing VODKA?
    Him: We didn’t need any. Look! There’s a bottle in the freezer. (Opens door to demonstrate.) Uh… (Perplexed) Oh. It’s empty.
    Me: Don’t ever question the list.

    • Hahaha. Men on cell phones with their wives to locate an item is exactly the type of story that came to mind for me. And I hope you got your vodka.

    • CLASSIC. So funny.

      ok so I wasn’t there for this one, but I’ve heard it told so many times.

      My parents were newly married. On their first trip grocery shopping as a married couple, my father spotted a grocery cart FULL to the brim with Raid…you know, the stuff you kill ants with. When my mother wasn’t looking, he swapped their carts out, so that my mother was pushing the cart with all the Raid. And then he proceeded to follow behind her through the rest of the store pointing at her and making the crazy sign to anyone who looked their way. HILARIOUS.

  18. I was cruising the aisles one evening and I saw two women greeting each other. The younger woman asked the older, a sweet-looking white haired lady, how she was doing.

    “All of them once, some of them twice” was the reply. I nearly drove the cart into the meat cooler.`

  19. I lingered an extra five minutes at the store last week listening to a guy in the next aisle discussing his pending purchase of a “feminine product” with his wife on the cell phone. It must have been his wife; I can’t imagine going through that for anyone else!

    The conversation was replete with cell phone pictures going back and forth as well as a sidebar discussion of the effectiveness of various products. He sounded fond of his spouse, though completely exasperated.

    If his intent was to not be tasked with that particular errand ever again, he may well have succeeded. He certainly made my day.

  20. After having a sweet, biddable girl I was blessed with a rambunctious boy who, around a year old, defeated the buckle in the shopping cart.. I only had my back turned for a minute and had pushed the cart right next to a waist-high freezer so it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Of course I turned around–no baby boy! He was happily sitting in the freezer gnawing on a tube of cookie dough. He knew exactly what it was and decided that’s where he wanted to be.

  21. I’m another former grocery store worker – I worked in the bakery last year, and I was constantly amazed by how many diabetics would come to us and complain because the brownies had frosting or because the donuts were glazed…..We had a “sugar free” section, but I guess it didn’t do it for them. My favorite was a woman who would order half a dozen plain, custard-filled donuts for her diabetic husband. I guess the lack of frosting made up for the fried dough and custard?

    I think I may have inadvertently pushed my husband into being someone else’s “crazy person in the store” story. Early in our marriage, when I was pregnant with our first baby, we went to a book store. We were fresh out of college, and looked it. I picked up “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” and handed it off to my husband. He picked up a couple of computer game magazines then went to the checkout, thinking I was behind him…. But I wasn’t. I had wandered over to the other side of the store, leaving him to answer the clerk’s confused, “Is this for you?” by himself. He answered, “No” and gestured to the empty space where I would have been. When he realized that I was gone, he started to stammer some sort of reply that obviously sounded like an excuse, because the clerk smirked the rest of the way through the transaction.

    He still likes to give me a hard time for abandoning him, but I maintain that it would not have looked nearly so sketchy without the videogame magazines.

  22. My children have a habit of saying humiliating things in grocery stores. Once we were in the produce section where an obese woman, dressed in pink, was shopping. My 3 year old son loudly proclaimed, “That’s a big pink dress.”

  23. Years ago, I was in one aisle with one of my kids when we heard a voice from the cereal aisle next to us, “No, you don’t need that cereal. You just want it.” My daughter, amazed: “Mama! You’re not the only mother who says that!”

  24. Oh my father revels in being the crazy person:

    My father dresses in a suit every day (he’s a lawyer).

    He once stopped at a supermarket on his way home from work. While perusing the aisles, a young man approached him.

    Young Man: Sir, where do you keep your ketchup?
    Dad: Um, in my refrigerator. Did I win??!?

    The Young Man had NO IDEA my dad was messing with him. It was clear the man thought my father was an employee. I’m pretty sure the rest of the conversation included a question of whether or not my dad would get the ‘grand prize’ for answering the question correctly.

    Another of his favorite responses:

    Clerk: Sir, would you like your milk in a bag?
    Dad: No thanks. The last time you did that, it made it really hard to pour.

    But my favorite story is the only one where he wasn’t deliberately messing with people: he paid and left and approached his minivan. But it wouldn’t unlock. He kept trying to fit the key into lock and it just wouldn’t fit. He may have spent five or so minutes attempting to unlock his car door.

    Finally someone approached cautiously & asked him what he was doing. Sure enough, at that moment my dad realized he got the wrong car. Right model, right color, wrong car.

    He turned to the guy, held up his key and said, “I just wanted to see if my key fit into all the other cars that looked like mine.”

    Such a priceless story. I love my dad.

  25. I hate baggers. I hate them so much. As soon as their shift is over, I love them as I do any other child-of-God, but while they are working they are all dead to me. Last week I left the store with no less than 7 bags with only one item in each. Makes. Me. Stabby.

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