Sunday, August 31, 2008

Humpty Dumpty shills at the store

Friday evening I picked up the girls from daycare, drove home, dropped the younger off with her Daddy, and brought the older one with me to the grocery store. We were allegedly hurrying, and for several valid reasons. But-- the store had just finished its months-long remodel and although it never closed during that time is celebrating its Grand Reopening. (The whole building should have been covered in a huge star-shaped sticker: New! And Improved!)

So we're allegedly hurrying for several valid reasons, but improvement brings technology and now our ol' reliable friendly neighborhood grocery store is fancy and foreign. We're supposed to use a hand-held scanner to scan each item as we put it in the cart, which (again with the word allegedly) should make the experience ultimately faster, because we won't have to unload the food onto the conveyor belt at checkout - just use our handheld to beep the cashier's station. This means, of course, that we're supposed to bag our food as we select it. My friend has told me that her store does this, and she has sturdy baskets she puts in the cart, fills, and lifts directly into her trunk, but I have no such accessories. I had the same shapeless nylon bags I always use when shopping. I'm not so much the most coordinated person in the best of circumstances, but selecting food, bagging it, dissuading E from handheld scanning my necklace and elbow and the ceiling lights, and proceeding in an orderly fashion...the last agenda item just had to be sacrificed.

So we're allegedly hurrying for several valid reasons, and have I told you yet about this scanner? Its ADD TO CART button is purple. And it gives you electronic coupons that show up on its screen, complete with sound effects. Ch-ching!! Save 50 cents on a box of Cheez-its. And E sees the picture of Cheez-its and yells Mama! Cheesy crackers! We eat these at school! because its picture is right in front of her face because she's the one holding the scanner not me, because after all, it has a purple button! And sound effects! And I have an internal debate: Cheez-its? Should they be serving those at school? Isn't that a little far into the world of junk food? Processed food? But then I have to ask my brain: kindly turn yourself off, please, because I have not the spare capacity for outrage right now at the white flour partially-hydrogenated oils with corn syrup foods being fed my children during that part of the day when I do, after all, pay other people to feed my children. Plus, let's be honest, I love a Cheez-it.

The coupons program is either completely crazy or needs some fine-tuning, because a few times it gave me coupons that I wanted to use, and I'd go backwards to retrieve something, and a few times it gave me coupons that I'll never need to use, and in no instance did it seem to bear any correlation with what I had just ADDED TO CART, but it got E excited every time. She pushed the purple button to ADD the Greek yogurt TO CART, and ch-ching!! Save 50 cents on bananas. Mama!! Look! Bananas! Bananas might be a good idea, you and your sister both like them, let's go get them. She pushed the purple button to ADD the jar of salsa TO CART, and ch-ching!! Save $1.00 on three cans of cat food.

Mama! Look a kitty cat! What's that? It's cat food, sweetie. Let's get it!! We don't have a cat, love. We don't need it. But the picture came! Let's get it! And this is why media experts are concerned for how marketing is being directed at children.

So we're trying, really I'm trying, to get out of this store in less than record-slowest time, but there's the purple button, and the ch-ching!!s and the layout is all different, and we're going backwards and forwards and even foods I ought to be able to locate have relocated. Frozen spinach should be in a freezer case, not too difficult, right? But frozen vegetables that used to be in aisle 23B have leapfrogged the freezer units into aisle 24A, or whatever the ch-ching!!ing numbers now are. And my bags, I love you, but you might get downgraded to the minors. I might need to get those baskets, because bags, we've had a good run, but it's not working out. It's not you, it's me, I can't bag like shapes in shapeless bags when like shapes come from disparate aisles and I'm so accustomed to organizing those like shapes on the conveyor belt that has been taken away from me. (New! And Improved!) We'll keep you around, though, for if we ever have to go to Safeway.

So you could never tell that we're allegedly hurrying, because I've traversed this store probably a dozen times. And periodically, E has been yelling out Look, Mama! Humpty Dumpty! And I have no idea what she's trying to show me, or where, or why, and I'm just trying to get out of this store before the ch-ching!!s make me lose my mind. But the longer it takes, the more E's interest in this little chore is waning, and the more agitated she becomes about Humpty Dumpty. We're getting ready (finally!) to pay and leave and E starts yelling. Mama!! I NEED TO SAY HI TO HUMPTY DUMPTY RIGHT NOOOOOOWWWWWW!

Perhaps the shoppers still in aisle 24A didn't hear her, but everyone else in the store did. So I ask her with far more patience in my tone than I feel in my head or heart: E, my love, I don't know what you're talking about. Could you show me? She points, and we head backwards into the store:

BYE-BYE, HUMPTY DUMPTY! SHABBAT SHALOM! she yelled. And even the shoppers in 24A must have heard her that time. But I felt relieved on two counts: because we could finally leave, and because I know I have done my job in not exposing her too much to all that children-directed marketing.
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