Saturday, July 01, 2006

You Know Who You Are!

[And now everyone else will, too.]

I am seriously so bad at studying, so let’s not talk about that. Instead, let’s talk about what happened the other day when I was shopping at my friendly, neighborhood Central Market, my favorite grocery store. While I was there, I saw this couple.

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I first encountered the couple in the fruit aisle, and I then proceeded to stalk them through the store. I took the picture from behind to protect their privacy, and well, yes, also because I did not have the nerve to ask them to stand still and smile for my phone camera.

Here’s what happened. No, first, let me start by making clear my position on the oh-so controversial topic of grocery store grazing. I’m against it, period. You know what I’m talking about—the “sampling” of items that are not pre-packaged. Folks, let’s call it what it is—yep, it’s stealing. If you do this, I don’t want to know because my opinion of you will be irreparably damaged.

And for those of you who make the (lame) argument that “how else can we tell if it’s ripe,” let me ask you—do you open up loaves of bread and sample the slices to make sure it hasn’t gone bad yet? I can see the argument (sort of) if you are sampling fruit that you already intend to buy, and are taking, say, a grape from the bunch you are right now actually planning on buying. But that’s not what you see. You see people randomly sampling grapes and then either not buying them, or not buying them from that bunch (but usually just not buying). The produce section is not a free buffet!

So, anyway, I’m buying grapes, and I notice this couple eating some strawberries. The man says to the woman, “they’re ripe,” and I think how not surprised he should be, considering that it’s early summer and the strawberries look exactly like ripe strawberries should look. As soon as he said it, I knew, I just knew that they were not going to buy any strawberries. I was buying some, however, and when I was weighing my choices I noticed something out of the corner of my eye--they had stopped by the grapes and lo and behold, fruit juice samples! Of course they stopped to try it. They commented on the fruit juice flavor, but unsurprisingly, opted not to purchase any. Then they stopped over by the pineapples. I couldn’t see what they were doing, but I think there were more samples. They did not buy any pineapple.

At this point I should say that I don’t have anything against taking samples. That’s what they are there for. There’s nothing wrong with even choosing to do your grocery shopping on the day you know they hand out the most samples. But I think it kind of crosses the line if you aren’t going there to actually shop, and you’re there just for the samples. And I don't mind if you see free samples and stop to see what it is. It's just that they seemed to be purposefully hunting down free stuff and "free" stuff, and it really seemed like that was the only reason that they were there.

Anyway, at this point I made up my mind to follow them. I thought they were going to go by the meat section, but they surprised me by tracing their steps and going towards the health and beauty section. They almost made it through that section when . . . wait, yes, look to your right, there, they spotted . . . free soap samples! And of course they stopped to dig through the basket.

Then we moved on to the grocery section. First the woman went down one aisle and emerged with what looked like a package of seasoning (it was about that size). We then went to the bulk bins, where I knew what I would find. They did not disappoint me. Yep, sure enough, as I peered through the shelves where I was pretending to have a hard time deciding which container of pre-packed mini chocolate covered sandwich cookies to buy, I spotted them helping themselves to a handful of bulk candy.

At this point, I called rr because I really wanted to tell her what was going on. We have a mutual disgust for people who take food out of the bulk bins—especially those who have no intention of actually buying anything. Sadly, rr was not at her desk, so I had to leave her a cryptic message.

And now for my lecture on not taking candy from the bulk bins: you cannot possibly justify grazing on the jelly beans or the chocolate-covered almonds because you are checking to see if they are ripe. And if you’re just not sure if you will like them, that’s the chance you take. You know, like when you buy ALL THE REST OF YOUR GROCERIES. And now your grimy, disgusting, just-had-them-to-your-mouth-when-you-were-eating-that-strawberry hands are all over the little scoop thing that will then be used to scoop up the candy that the rest of us are intending to actually buy. THANKS A LOT!

So, anyway, from there we went to the bread section. Ah, the smell of fresh baked bread—it’s by far my favorite part of the store. While I pretended to look at scones, I saw the guy pick up a loaf of bread. Now what, I wondered, is he going to do with that? Apparently he handed it to a store employee to be sliced. But while she was doing that, he went over to the scale and seemed to be weighing . . . nothing, and then he printed a label. After the employee had put the bread in a plastic bag, he put the label on it. For a minute I thought he was trying to steal bread, but then I remembered that you have to print your own label for the bread and don’t have to weigh it. I think he was printing a label correctly and not trying to pay less for the bread than he should have. I think. I’m just saying that it was odd-looking.

Unfortunately, although I followed them through the fish section, I was unable to spot anymore “sampling,” because I thought it might look odd that I was monitoring them, even though I was trying to play it cool by pretending to talk to rr on my cell phone (sorry about that long message, by the way). They got in line, and I didn’t have the courage to stand in the same line. So I don’t know what they paid for that bread. But I do know that they didn’t buy any jelly beans.


Deals On Wheels said... I knew there was a reason that I don't shop in the Central Market near your apt. Actually, I'm not a big fan of sampling, either. However, in Central Market, they have that olive section. There are just some things that I cannot resist. Olives happen to be one of them. In my defense, though, I would like to point out that they have those little toothpick things out for the purpose of sampling the olives (don’t worry, I NEVER use the same toothpick twice). I've bought olives almost every single time I've gone to Central Market - mainly because they always seem to have some new type of olive goodness. The few times I haven't bought olives had more to do with the fact that I sampled some horrible new take on the olive, or I was there to buy something sweet - not olivey.

Are you still my friend?

EmmaSometimes said...

I agree. It's stealing. Samples are free game, but not to be treated as your next meal. If you buy, like deals then I think it's okay.

I probably would have gotten into it by waiting behind them in line then commmenting to the checker how each of the should be weighed and charged for the meal they just ingested. Because it eventually would cost me. (plus I'm a brassy chick, so why not?)

Amstaff Mom said...

I TOTALLY agree with this post. Although I do love CM samples. But I normally buy what I sample. Which is why they do it in the first place.

I dislike moochers.

RR said...

Oooh, those grazers really get on my nerves. Especially since CM has signs in the bulk candy area that says they will give you a sample if you ask for one. People must not ask for samples because they a) have no intention of buying something, even if they like it or b) they don't want the size of their sample to be restricted in any way or c) both of the above. Grrrrr.

Katie said...

This is why i shop at non-fancy (read WHITE TRASH) stores. There if you open a bag of chips to graze on and pull the top off that two-liter, people are going to notice and make you pay for it.

Although, if you could somehow sneak a hidden camera into your fancy store and video tape people grazing I bet you could sell it to Dateline.

JLR said...

deals: if they actually provide toothpicks, then sampling is ok. But only if you are actually tasting them because you are considering buying them, and not if you are making yourself an olive lunch.

emma: I so, so, so wanted to be that person who could in line behind them. I wish you'd been there with me!

AM: thank you! no moochers, please!

rr: exactly. and then they spread their germs everywhere, which is just gross.

Katie: that is a FABULOUS idea. Also, I frequently shop at said white trash stores, but they don't have the selection of bulk items or other stuff I'm addicted to, so I have to go to CM a lot.

jes said...

Oh, JLR. How I wish you would have called me. I tooooootally would have met up with you, video camera in tow, and we could have shown CM our stealthy secret agent skills.

Next time, baby.

Lia said...

that was an beatiful, masterful diatribe. inspired, and totally legitimate.