Friday, October 20, 2006

Adventures in Shopping

Every night on my way home from the commuter station I pass one of the Mart stores. I haven't been to this one in quite a while but tonight I have an array of things to get. You know those Sesame Street quizzes: which of these things is not like the other? Well, my list is like that. A new faucet for the bathtub, a plain t-shirt, toilet paper and cat litter. The one thing they all have in common is that they can be found at a Mart store.

So I zip into a parking place, snag a shopping cart and sprint into the store. It's been re-arranged since my last time here but not drastically. I start off with the t-shirts. I want something cheap since this is to be a scent object that I drop out in a field for some dog to find during this weekend's tracking trial. In the years I've been doing this, the dogs haven't been too successful, so chances are high the t-shirt will never be found. I debate about white or black. White is traditional. But black will be harder to spot. Is that good or bad? What about style? I guess it doesn't matter to the dog if I leave one of those "athletic" tees. But suppose someone thinks it's actually mine? I decide to split the difference, staying with tradition on the short-sleeve style but going contemporary on the color - black.

I swing around the end of the aisle where I encounter a huge display of socks. Oh, socks. Maybe I should get another pair of socks. After all I will be trudging around the fields for two days. But not these socks. They feel kind of scratchy. I veer over into the sock section, feeling up each pair along the rack. Hmmm. Too stretchy, too thin, too tall. Did you know they make socks especially for large shoe sizes? I finally tuck a pair of 74% cotton socks in "Stone" alongside my t-shirts.

Back to the main aisle where, nimble-fingered, I slide a leopard print pillow case on top of the t-shirts without losing any speed. Now, we're up to the shoes. No, I'm not buying shoes at a Mart store, but I just have to look. In the far corner a rack of "dairy boots" catch my eye. Tall, rubber boots would be just the thing for tramping through wet fields this weekend. Too bad. None in my size. I head down the last shoe aisle, Ladies Casual, to exit the shoe section. Wait! Look at these shoes. This is what I want! They are the same style sold at The Outdoor Clothing Store. They have an approximation of my size. I can walk without them falling off. This is exactly the color I've always wanted.

The shoes fly into my shopping cart.

Okay, back to the main aisle. Then, like those flasing neon lights on the bad side of town, out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of that most alluring of all words "Clearance". It's written in red. It's poised on the top of a rack of fabric bolts. Oh yeah. I've been wanting to make this project and I'm sure none of the fabric I have stashed in the trunk at home will do. Not when these bolts are marked $1 per yard. It takes awhile but I finally choose two and circle around to the cutting counter.

There is one customer and no "associate". The customer is ringing that annoying bell. No one comes. I wander over to the hardware section for this trip's primary objective, the bathtub faucet. Then, back to fabrics. Still no "associate".

All right, I tell the customer who is still standing there, now it's my turn. I ring the bell several times. I try to put as much authority as I can into it. No response. Except another customer joins the line. We stand around obediently for a while, but soon we are all taking turns ringing the bell. When we pause we can hear the paging system calling for an associate to return to fabric for customer assistance.

The crowd of customers has gotten even bigger. There are at least six customers, along with shopping carts and entourages, all huddled around the fabric cutting counter. One lady's husband decudes to go in search of the page-master. You don't have to ring anymore, the husband assures us when he returns, supremely confident of his influence. They are sending someone right now.

Still we wait.

The paging system is now calling for an assistant manager to return to the fabric section. More customers join the throng. Who knew so many people go to a Mart store for their fabric needs?
One lady voices the unthinkable, no one's going to come now because they're afraid to face our rabid ranks. I wonder if they can actually close the store for the night and leave us all standing there.
Good thing we're not stuck at the bottom of a well, I say.
Yeah, someone answers, I guess it could be worse.
We are making many jokes at the Mart's expense. Maybe all fabric is free today, suggests one lady.

The page has accelerated to a manager please return to the fabric section for customer assistance.

At length, a junior manager strides into our midst. He apologizes. He starts telling some complicated story about why no one has come to help us. Basically, he says he doesn't actually know why but he's going to find out. While he's talking, he makes no move to pick up scissors and cut our fabric. Finally, the associate assigned to that secion skids up to the counter. Oh! she exclaims at sight of our multitude.

One lady acts as gate-keeper, counting out who was first, who was next, and so on. One man interviews the junior manager closely to determine the source of the problem, copies down the name and hours of the store manager. Before he leaves, the junior manager tells the associate to give all these people waiting a 20% discount on their purchases.

I get my fabric measured, cut and priced. Noting that the associate is using a calculator to figure out 20%, an Indian man stands at her elbow prompting her on the amounts. Five dolalrs, that's one dollar discount he tells her. She acts like she doesn't believe him. He also notices that she's almost out of register paper. I wondered how long proceedings will be delayed when it becomes time to track down another roll of paper. As long as there is enough for my purchase I decide not to worry.

Fabric snuggled in my shopping cart, I cruise toward the check out lines, automatically reaching out left and right to grab more items along the way. Toilet paper, dish washing soap. That new bathroom cleaner someone mentioned. A quick detour to pets but they don't have the brand of kitty litter I prefer.

Finally I wend my way to the shortest check-out line, knowing what a mirage that usually turns out to be. With a start I recognise the first customer from the fabric section now at the head of my check-out line. I am surprised to see her still in line with her fabric while I've been busy filling my cart with pseudo-necessities. As I watch, the inevitable happens. She and the cashier are talking and I can hear snatches of her recital about the fabric section episode. Suddenly the cashier turns off the register and walks away.

I step up behind the customer. You are never going to leave this store, I say over her shoulder. When she turns toward me her eyes are wild. The price tag is not scanning, she fumes. I hope her sewing project turns out amazing, I think, to justify all she's been through. I scoot back to my place in line quickly because I see someone eyeing my undefended cart.

So a quick stop on the way home from work took an hour and a half.
And the cashier didn't deduct the 20% discount on my fabric.
I haven't started my fabric project yet. Maybe next weekend.


  • Yeah, going into a mart store just sucks all your free will right out of you. I think they pump some kind of gas through the vent system to make you lose your common sense. Why else would we stand in line waiting to give some faceless corporation money for inferior products?

    By Anonymous six, at 10:58 AM  

  • Don't get Third started on that!

    By Blogger First, at 4:31 PM  

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