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The social side of grocery shopping
Old 08-04-2012, 09:17 AM   #1
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The social side of grocery shopping

Now that I live in Atlantic Canada, I noticed different attitudes compared to Central Canada. In Ontario each shopper more or less keeps to themselves and if there is any social interaction with another person it is usually when one shopper recognizes a friend.
Every time I shop in Nova Scotia it seems invariable that another shopper or clerk engages in conversation with me. Advice about the best bargain, merits of a paticular product, short recipe tips...whatever! People you've never met before. They like to shop and talk. I enjoy it. Yesterday my niece went shopping with me. She took soda crackers off the shelf while I scanned the array of soups. An elderly lady asked my niece if she had tried the crackers, were they good? My niece and the lady had a converstion about the quality and price of the budget crackers and how they compared favorably to the brand name crackers. The lady selected three boxes of the cheap crackers recommended by my niece and explained that she was donating it to the food bank. Another short conversation followed. It was charming to watch. The older lady was out on a shopping expedition, had some social interaction, and whatever her retirement income was, she chose to use some of it to help the less fortunate.
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Old 08-04-2012, 09:28 AM   #2
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It sounds like you have stumbled on a sense of community. My impression is that only people in small towns or closely knit neighborhoods will chat in stores. If there is no sense of community, then people don't want to bother or be bothered.

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Originally Posted by Frugalityisthenewblack View Post
Now that I live in Atlantic Canada, I noticed different attitudes compared to Central Canada. In Ontario each shopper more or less keeps to themselves and if there is any social interaction with another person it is usually when one shopper recognizes a friend.
Every time I shop in Nova Scotia it seems invariable that another shopper or clerk engages in conversation with me. Advice about the best bargain, merits of a paticular product, short recipe tips...whatever! People you've never met before. They like to shop and talk. I enjoy it. Yesterday my niece went shopping with me. She took soda crackers off the shelf while I scanned the array of soups. An elderly lady asked my niece if she had tried the crackers, were they good? My niece and the lady had a converstion about the quality and price of the budget crackers and how they compared favorably to the brand name crackers. The lady selected three boxes of the cheap crackers recommended by my niece and explained that she was donating it to the food bank. Another short conversation followed. It was charming to watch. The older lady was out on a shopping expedition, had some social interaction, and whatever her retirement income was, she chose to use some of it to help the less fortunate.
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Old 08-04-2012, 10:11 AM   #3
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It's pretty unsocial at Safeway. I think it is unionized and there may have been labor disputes but this seems to not make the media. The checkers at Whole Foods seem to be happier and more friendly, in general.

The customers in both stores keep to themselves unless you ram them with your shopping cart. Once I got a good conversation going with a shopper at Whole Foods. Seems that I had inadvertently taken off with her shopping cart. She did not see the humor in it.
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Old 08-04-2012, 01:56 PM   #4
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Where I live it's very social in the grocery stores . Everybody discusses the merits and ways to cook various items . I even got invited to a Bunco group by a stranger while discussing yogurt .
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Old 08-04-2012, 04:22 PM   #5
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For the record, I despise grocery shopping. I can usually talk Mr B into doing the small stuff like milk and eggs and bread. Otherwise, we go together, with me whining all the way.

On the rare occasions I do go alone, I find myself being asked to reach something on a top shelf (I'm 5'6" with long arms) or if I know where something is. Most of the askers are ladies older than I am. I must give off some sort of friendly aura. I do continue to chat with the gals and enjoy it.

The guys mostly check me out, which is fun in itself. All good.
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Old 08-04-2012, 05:02 PM   #6
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Pet peeve. People who sit in the middle of the aisle. SHAKES FIST

I have a good relationship with the produce guys. Amazing how well you get to know them after 15 years of shopping at the same place. They usually let me know whats good and what not so much.
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:05 PM   #7
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When our chain supermarket had a union that worked well the staff were mostly women who were raising families or older. They had secure jobs, family supporting wages and were always friendly and got to know the customers as they were long term employees. The company broke the power of the union, squeezed out the workers and replaced them with high school kids etc. Now there is high turnover, lots of check out clerks who don't even make eye contact and certainly no sense of community.
Pay people minimum wage, schedule them with no regard to them having personal lives and you get what you pay for.
Since retiring from 30 years of office work I have gone into retail clerking in a deli, part time. I make minimum wage but I work the hours I want and I am valued for my customer service skills even if I am a little slower than the young 'uns doing physical duties. I love the customers and want to give them not just good service but a fun experience. I don't feel I have done my job if my customer doesn't leave the store with a smile.
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Old 08-04-2012, 10:51 PM   #8
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I live in the central part of a big city. Many people chat in stores. It was always the same way for me- in LA, in the Bay Area. Less so on the east coast, but overall people are social and they will engage you if you look open to it.

Went down to Lake Washington to watch the Blue Angels today. COming back a bunch of middle aged people on the bus were discussing berst combo deals to go to Casinos. Overall recommendation was a $10 rt from downtown to Snoqualmie Falls Casino- and when you get there they give you the $10 back. GF and I are going.

I hate going around in my little bubble. To me the best part of life is other people.

BTW, shop at Trader Joe. The staff are great, the prices and quality are good, and although it varies with neighborhood, the other shoppers are usually friendly.

Ha
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:56 AM   #9
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...(snip)...
BTW, shop at Trader Joe. The staff are great, the prices and quality are good, and although it varies with neighborhood, the other shoppers are usually friendly.

Ha
Yesterday I went to Trader Joe's and bought the usual. One case of Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc (2 buck chuck). It's a nice ordinary summer wine.
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:58 AM   #10
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...(snip)...
Since retiring from 30 years of office work I have gone into retail clerking in a deli, part time. I make minimum wage but I work the hours I want and I am valued for my customer service skills even if I am a little slower than the young 'uns doing physical duties. I love the customers and want to give them not just good service but a fun experience. I don't feel I have done my job if my customer doesn't leave the store with a smile.
Great spirit! Wish all the service people out there had your attitude.
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:31 AM   #11
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It sounds like you have stumbled on a sense of community. My impression is that only people in small towns or closely knit neighborhoods will chat in stores. If there is no sense of community, then people don't want to bother or be bothered.
That would be my take on it too. It's not hard to strike up a conversation with another shopper in our local grocery stores, still possible but less likely in Chicago.

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It's pretty unsocial at Safeway. The checkers at Whole Foods seem to be happier and more friendly, in general.
My experience too. The checkers at our local stores are pretty antisocial unless they're new. It's not unusual for checkers to criticize another shopper ahead of me in line after they've left, understandable (bad behavior by shoppers) but unprofessional? I've never run into an unfriendly employee at Whole Foods, they're always helpful and incredibly knowledgeable. Once again, you get what you pay for...
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Old 08-05-2012, 01:05 PM   #12
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Here, I can pretty much predict the amount of socializing I will encounter depending on which grocery store I choose to patronize.

At Zuppardo's, there will be a lot of older native New Orleanians blocking the aisles and talking, but I really enjoy talking with them and have learned a lot there so I don't mind. It takes a while to get out of there, though.

At super WalMart, nobody talks, people are rude and the only contact seems to be when someone shoves somebody else, but you can get done and to the checkout line faster that way.

I generally go to a third store that is about halfway between these two extremes.
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Old 08-05-2012, 01:12 PM   #13
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It's pretty unsocial at Safeway. I think it is unionized and there may have been labor disputes but this seems to not make the media. The checkers at Whole Foods seem to be happier and more friendly, in general.
This is my experience as well. The cashiers at Safeway often look like they don't want to be there. They pretty much follow a script when interacting with customers. Whole Foods is generally more friendly. I haven't tried Trader Joe yet.
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Old 08-05-2012, 03:27 PM   #14
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This is my experience as well. The cashiers at Safeway often look like they don't want to be there. They pretty much follow a script when interacting with customers. Whole Foods is generally more friendly. I haven't tried Trader Joe yet.
From what I've heard cashiers at Safeway are supposed to say your name on checkout. They look at the printed slip to find your name and say "Thanks Mr. Lsbcal, do you need help taking out your groceries?". Apparently there is a little management camera so this can be checked on. They will ask if I need help out even if the bag is just a few cookies. Sad state of affairs.
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Old 08-05-2012, 03:32 PM   #15
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We do 95% of our grocery shopping at the nearest Super Walmart. We schedule our trips in the middle of the day on weekdays. That way we can avoid the Cubicle People and their kids.

Many of the customers appear to be older than me (67). A number are physically handicapped (or extremely obese) and are riding the store's electric scooters. We see elderly men with paper lists that look like they are not used to grocery shopping. We see them looking at items on the shelf and consulting with someone on their cellphones. Most of them are happy to talk, or not, as you wish.

Since I'm retired I enjoy going to the store. It's like Sociology 101.
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:26 PM   #16
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We do 95% of our grocery shopping at the nearest Super Walmart. We schedule our trips in the middle of the day on weekdays. That way we can avoid the Cubicle People and their kids.

Many of the customers appear to be older than me (67). A number are physically handicapped (or extremely obese) and are riding the store's electric scooters. We see elderly men with paper lists that look like they are not used to grocery shopping. We see them looking at items on the shelf and consulting with someone on their cellphones. Most of them are happy to talk, or not, as you wish.

Since I'm retired I enjoy going to the store. It's like Sociology 101.
Those electric scooters at Walmart, are a good idea gone bad at my local store. Very few elderly use them, and the ones that do are very considerate in their use of them. The majority of the users are 40ish and have literally ate themselves into the privilege of using them. They are a menace in the aisle way and use them like a heavy equipment operator would driving a bulldozer!
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:54 PM   #17
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Yeah, Grocery stores can be very social:

Here's the scene from the movie Animal house where Otter discusses produce with Dean Wormer's wife...

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Old 08-05-2012, 10:22 PM   #18
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Try asking where something is at Safeway They are instructed to take you there. They are not supposed to just tell you where it is (in fact, they always take me or want to take me to whatever I am looking for.)

Someone who used to work there told me that they send testers(spy customers) to check these things and if they do not follow the guidelines, they are to be fired, or something like that.
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Old 08-05-2012, 10:33 PM   #19
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Try asking where something is at Safeway They are instructed to take you there. They are not supposed to just tell you where it is (in fact, they always take me or want to take me to whatever I am looking for.)
....
In many cases, I really appreciate that help.

I was in a local hardware store yesterday and they would tell me to just go down that isle and turn left, it then is on the right. Did not find the item and just decided this wasn't worth the hassle.

My dream is to have some sort of electronic display that shows me where my grocery list items are and plans my store route. You get to the multiple brand section and they tell you which one is the best value. You don't have to look at unit prices on those little labels because it's done on your heads up display. Dream on ...
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Old 08-06-2012, 04:38 AM   #20
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Today I was looking at various beef roasts. This nice older lady (she may have been 10 years older than me) asked "would the round steak roast be OK, my kids are coming and I'm planning to marinate it for 3 or 4 days and then cook it on the BBQ". What do I know, I said "if you marinate anything for 3/4 days I think it will be fine". I hope I don't meet her again if my advice wasn't the best.
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