Field Guide to North American Grocery Shoppers

shopping cart

I enjoy the concept of grocery shopping. In theory, you go to the store, find what you’re looking for, and bring it home, thereby giving you meals for the rest of the week. However, it’s not that easy in real life. Sometimes the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for. Sometimes you get the pleasure of reading two or three magazines while waiting in the checkout line. And more often than not, you end up feeling like you overpaid for your food (five bucks for a pound of beef?!?! I could buy McDonald’s hamburgers and get more for my money….. if only their patties were made from cows).

Above all else, the biggest shopping obstacle is other shoppers. They have a way of turning a 20-minute trip into a 45-minute nightmare. Here’s a handy field guide that describes some of the characters you encounter at the store, along with how to deal with them, should you ever encounter them first-hand. You’re probably familiar with these types, and you might even fit into one of these roles yourself (I know I do).

(Note: for sake of simplicity, I’m referring to each person as “he.” But in the spirit of equal opportunity, we all know that women are just as guilty as men!)

Aisle 1: The Beaver Dammer
Much like a beaver dam, this person blocks off everything. He stops the steady flow by parking his shopping cart smack dab in the middle of the aisle. You can’t squeeze by him on the left side; you won’t fit through the narrow opening on the right.

Solution: If you need to get by him, your best bet is to take a detour through the next aisle over and come back around to the item you want… that is, assuming that a Beaver Dammer hasn’t clogged up the next aisle, too.


Aisle 2: The Coffee Club
This is when two or more Beaver Dammers get together in the middle of an aisle to chit chat. Never mind that you want to grab a bottle of ketchup. The Coffee Club needs to meet right there in front of your ketchup to spread the latest gossip. Did you hear that Sally Sue got into a fight with her husband and kicked him out of the house? No, but I heard that Michael wants his 64 ounces of ketchup.

Solution: The Coffee Clubbers need to disperse and relocate to a location with lighter traffic – like right in front of the Hot Pockets (and yes, I mentioned Hot Pockets just so I could embed this video).


Aisle 3: The Banana Feel
This person has to practically molest every. single. piece. of. fruit. before making a selection. When I walk by someone inspecting melons, I have the sudden urge to yell “GET A ROOM!” That’s not wrong, is it??

Solution: Wash every piece of fruit thoroughly when you get home.


Aisle 4: The Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk
Remember the Three Stooges movies where Curly would drop to the floor and start spinning around in circles? (and then re-done by Homer on “The Simpsons”). Well, kids do that all the time in stores. Never mind that the floor is dirty, wet, and/or sticky. Sometimes a kid goes ballistic when he doesn’t get his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-shaped macaroni.

Solution: Tactfully step over the kid as he’s spinning. Make sure not to step on the kid – apparently, parents don’t like that.


Aisle 5: The Meat Hugger
This is the kid who gets a little too emotional about cold cuts and decides to hug every package of deli meat like it’s his long lost teddy bear. You might not see any harm in this. But more often than not, the kid who’s a Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk in one aisle will become a Meat Hugger in the next. Think about that the next time you grab a package of meat and wonder if it’s 100% sealed.

Solution: Just like my wife says, you never choose the package at the front of the shelf. Maybe it’s a good idea to reach back and grab a package that hasn’t been hugged.


Aisle 6: The Mannequin
The Mannequin just doesn’t move. He stands in the middle of the aisle, carefully considering his choices. Should he buy the regular or light version? The small bag or the extra-large jumbo economy size? Pepsi or Coke? Which one does he pick? No one really knows. If you come back 20 minutes later, he’ll still be weighing his options.

Solution: Grab one of the items he’s looking at and throw it in your cart. He’ll probably copycat you and choose the same one.


Aisle 7: The Announcer
Here’s the great thing about cell phones: you can use them without yelling into them. That’s fine if you want to have a conversation on your phone in the middle of the supermarket. But I really don’t need to know that YOU FINALLY GOT THAT PUS-FILLED BOIL LANCED OFF YOUR BACK. Indoor voices are always wise choices.

Solution: Join in the conversation. His decibel level will go from rock concert to church mouse in no time at all.


Aisle 8: The Purse Nurse
The Purse Nurse will park her cart in the middle of the aisle and nonchalantly walk away from it, even if her purse is in it. But if you even take one step in the cart’s direction, she will magically dart back to it to make sure that her purse is okay. Even if you didn’t get anywhere near the purse, she’ll hover over it and give you the stink eye because you fit her mental image of a purse thief.

Solution: Apparently the only solution is to avoid being a male shopper aged 18 to 108. Easier said than done.


Aisle 9: The Kid Wrangler
The Kid Wrangler description is the same as The Purse Nurse’s; just replace “purse” with “child.”

Solution: Same as the solution for The Purse Nurse. I completely understand that parents need to be protective of their kids. But here’s the deal with me: I don’t want children of my own, so I certainly don’t want yours either.


Aisle 10: The Blueberry Pop Tart
This is a kid who knows a word or two that he probably shouldn’t know. The name “Blueberry Pop Tart” requires a little explanation. Last year, I was in the cereal aisle when I saw a mom having a conversation with her son, who couldn’t have been more than five years old. The conversation went like this:

Mom (in an excited tone): How about we get some Pop Tarts? Mmmmm, those would be really good. Do you want some blueberry Pop Tarts?

Solution: Do what I did: run over to the next aisle and start laughing uncontrollably.


Aisle 11: The Michael
This guy wants to get in and out ASAP. He makes a shopping list beforehand and arranges everything on the list according to where it is in the store. He is known to throw things in his cart without coming to a complete stop. He’s been known to weave in and out of people traffic in the aisles, narrowly avoiding all of the other characters listed above. But more often than not, he gets slowed down by crowds….. and by reading package labels….. and by long checkout lines.

Solution: Maybe I just need to learn how to slow down sometimes?


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