Monday, February 17, 2014

Playing Tetris Finally Pays Off

A certain magical, British nanny (no, not Super Nanny) once said that “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP! – the job’s a game!”

In my house, I’ve been the head grocery-getter for a few years now. As I’ve said before, my wife and I both work from home. My job has a bit more flexibility on what time of day I actually work, while hers requires that she be at the desk during most working hours. Living near the busiest Wegmans for three counties, shopping during  evening hours or Sundays would be just plain foolish.  

For that reason – and others – I’m the Family Vice President of Grocery Procurement.

While there are aspects of grocery shopping I will never fully wrap my head around, like double coupons (or single ones for that matter) – other parts I’ve taken to like a duck to water. Or is it a fish to water? I don’t remember. Let’s go with duck, considering this is Ruddy Bits not Trout Bits, which sounds even grosser.

Anyway, one of the things I’m awesomest at is checking out of the grocery store. First, I rock at picking the right line. Bear with me as I throw over-stated compliments my own way. Some days, I need it. 

I think I've Lost All Perspective
I’ve gotten to know the checkout people at the local store and have a sense who to go to. Kind of like picking the right toll booth line on the Thruway, which I rule at as well. My wife might disagree with that. But when it comes to grocery checkout, she’s not usually there to dispute my effectiveness. So I’m sticking with my original self-evaluation. And I rock.

Generally, I try to avoid the self-check, since I see it as one more way they are taking jobs from real people. Not they as in Wegmans, but they as in the purveyors of self-service technologies. Plus, I’m usually able to find a person who checks out customers with speed, precision and care. Care matters.

Here are few tips on who to avoid when picking checkout folks:

The droppers. These are the one who take your fruit over the scanner and then just let it just drop into bag, smashing the metal shelf underneath. Bam. Squish. No good.

The single baggers, who bag everything separate. One spaghetti jar. One bag. Second spaghetti jar. Second bag. It’s just wasteful (though it does increase the number of bags I can carry in from the car at one time, of which I hold the world record)

The double baggers, who bag things together, but use two bags for every grouping, no matter the weight. I don’t need that many bags.

The chatty, check-out socializers. These are the ones who spend your entire checkout experience not talking to you, but to the cashier next to them about some store-related gossip. It’s riveting, but I’m checking out groceries not getting my hair cut.  

And then, of course, I avoid anyone who’s too slow. You can usually tell the dreadfully slow checkout person because they have no line – even when others have long lines. I guess everyone knows to avoid them.

Note how I didn’t mention people who bag bread with cans, or raw chicken with fruit. There’s a reason. And here it is.

The real way I excel at grocery store checkout is in the precision I load the groceries onto the cart. All those years of Tetris training led to this singular parenting act. 

I load all the large boxes at the front of the checkout conveyer belt, followed by the large plastic containers, then the cans and jars.  Next comes the raw meats, which are followed by frozen, then by smaller boxes, and then dairy that must be cooked, like shredded cheese. We next move on to deli items, tortilla shells and other cheeses that do not get cooked, followed by heavy fruits and vegetables, then lighter, crushable fruits and vegetables. Eggs come next to last, finishing off the conveyer belt with bakery goods and breads.

I’m actually quite anal about this, and surprised that in all the times I’ve gone grocery shopping no clerk has ever complimented my precision. The care taken loading the checkout conveyer belt really does make bagging, cart packing, car packing and unpacking, and putting away the groceries at home much easier.

Anyway, it’s a thing I do. And do well, I must say. In part because -- as Ms. Poppins suggest -- I have made it a game. If only it was an Olympic sport, I’d get more than just odd looks for my neurosis. Alas, it isn’t.

So, that's it. Thank you. And have a nice day. 
Paper or Plastic?

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