Thursday, September 25, 2014

What the hell, Food Giant?


I live just steps away from a Fresh Market grocery store and Trader Joe's. If I need something not available, I go to Target. If I can't find it there, I will buy it online. However, I am trying to curtail my Amazon habit since the company treats its employees so inhumanely. But I saw an ad for Beech-Nut baby food, and wanted to look at some canning jars for homemade purees, so I decided to go across the street to Food Giant.

This was a massive mistake. I have learned that a routine and consistency are key to a smoothly operated week, especially with a baby and disability in the picture. I have a system and it works for me. Convenience can be pricey but it's often worth the cost. 

First of all, this particular Food Giant is in a busy shopping center with terrible service road placement so it was kind of a pain to get there, even though it's less than a mile away. All the carts are outside the store, where the front is thick with huge storage pods (I think that's what they are) and fall squash. Dirty carts and a clogged entrance. All that is missing is this:

The layout is a bit weird. I couldn't find a lot of choices for organic produce, but there was a "healthy eating" section. I found some baby food and frozen organic vegetables, but not what I was looking for. So, off I went.

It was crowded. I've never seen more products in my life. I think this place must sell as many items as Costco. I finally find the baby food, and it seems that the Beech-Nut is on sale. Nice! It's only a few cents but it brings it down to a dollar per large jar. I gather up some Stage 1 and Stage 2 flavors and then head to check out. My cart is full, so I look for an employee operated check-out line instead of self check-out.

This is where everything falls apart.

Food Giant is apparently attempting a "work for them" model of shopping. There were at least a dozen self-checkouts, including longer conveyor belt operated aisles for larger purchases. All lanes had "12 items or less" on the signs but some were dimly lit while others weren't, and yet others were brightly lit. I am now moderately confused. There seemed to be only one or two lanes with actual employees, and of course people backed up. I decided to self check out for lack of options.

I began to make all the wrong moves. I pushed my full cart up to a dimly lit "12 items or less" self check-out stand, but was quickly corrected by a suited employee. Okay, fine. I needed to go to one with a conveyor belt. So I go find a full lane, one that resembles lanes operated by employees but with the self check-out computers at the front. I had 1.5 liter bottles of Smartwater, but they wouldn't roll down the conveyor belt. The same employee came over and instructed me on how to place the bottles on the belt correctly. He then scanned a few more items, including sending my bread items down the line first so all the cans and jars following could smoosh the bread. Awesome. I am now slightly more-than-moderately confused and more-than-moderately irritated.

So now I needed training to check-out at the grocery store. A grocery store that has employees, but operates fewer check-out lanes with staff than Wal-Mart on a Saturday the first week of school.

I am not apt at scanning a cart full of food. I have worked probably 30 different jobs in my lifetime, but working at grocery store has never been one of them. I can scan sweaters and shoes with the best of them, but not food. I had to place the scanned items on the belt before you could scan the next one, where they had to pass through a red laser line. Even checking out a dozen jars of baby food was difficult. Some of them didn't check out with the sale price, but I was too flustered to stop and go check at this point. I think this is intentional. I had to look up all the produce items manually. There were multiple opportunities to put in incorrect items, whether intentionally or accidentally. I can't imagine what their theft loss looks like.

Now I just don't care anymore, as I have no idea how I got roped into working for Food Giant and not getting paid. I am past confusion and now just quietly raging inside. It's not like their prices are so amazing that one could fail to notice that they have taken someone else's job. For free.

So right at the end, on the very last item, I get a warning from the computer that I need to stop and bag some things before I continue scanning. But I don't need to scan anymore! I just want to check out! Please! Couldn't someone at least bag all these groceries? No. No one works at Food Giant, except for the poor man in a suit who probably hates this system more than I do. So now I had to get enough items off the belt for the computer to go back to the original screen. I go about this, then head back up the conveyor belt to check out. Finally, something goes as planned. I am having to push the cart back up and down as I do this, though, as there is no clear path of maneuvering. I then went back down the line to bag the rest of my groceries. Since I had not done this before checking out I didn't know if I was going to use any store bags, which cost five cents each (county tax). This is another opportunity of loss to the store and the county, since there is no way to predict how many bags will be used. As I finally bagged up my groceries, another person came along to begin this horrible process for himself. I told him to go ahead as I bagged up my things. I used the cart to go back out to the car even though I didn't need it. I had no place to put it and didn't know what else to do with it, besides push into a display of pumpkins. I have never felt such animosity at a grocery store before.

On my way out of the world's worst grocery store, I see a display full of portable scanners. Apparently, you can grab one of these gadgets and scan your items as you shop the aisles. Okay, cool! But what about bagging them? What if the wrong price is charged? What about honesty? Do you have to go bag these items yourself? Wait in one of the few lines operated by an employee? Or go do it at self-checkout where the computer is going to go off every ten seconds about bagging and item weight? What if you have a kid who takes things out of the basket and puts them back on the shelf? This, too, seems like a horrible experience designed to fluster the customer to the point of not caring what price is charged. "Just give me my damn goods and take my damn money!"

Can you imagine doing this with children in tow? While in a wheelchair or with another disability? Forgetting to scan an item? Scanning too many (well, that's actually not a problem considering how long between items you have to wait to continue). This was an impressively terrible shopping experience. I don't care how awesome Beech-Nut baby food is because it's not worth a trip to Food Giant.

I didn't even get to look at their canning jars, either.
I think I'll order them online.