Why I Try Not To Shop At Randall’s

Or:  Why Safeway Sucks And I Want Randall Onstead Back

I had to stop by Randall’s last night on my way home, as we were out of milk and spaghetti noodles (two things which go way too fast in a household with only two people…hmm).  It was 6:30 and, inevitably, only three lanes were open for the dinnertime rush.  I got into the “Express Lane,” which never does quite live up to its moniker.

The cashier must have been new.  New or mentally-challenged.  I’m not entirely sure.  Either way, her consternation with the customer in front of me was hilarious.

Cashier (confusedly holding up a bag of tiny, pearlescent, orange fruit):  How you call?

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  Ah, yes.  Those are kumquats!

Cashier:  Con-kwass?

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  Yes, kumquats.

Cashier (visibly frustrated):  Con-kwass???

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  Yes, kumquats.  With a “k.”  They’re a citrus fruit.

Cashier:  Ehhhh…..  How you say?

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  KUM-QUATS.  K-U-M-Q-U-A-T-S.  KUM-QUATS.

Cashier:  I don’t know.

At this point, she sets them down and looks incredibly frustrated.  She stares around for a bit, as if trying to remember what her training manual said in Chapter 8:  When You Don’t Know What A Particular Fruit Or Vegetable Item Is, And How To Overcome This Predicament.  Her memory must have been failing her.

Cashier:  How much?

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  I believe with my Randall’s card they were $3.49 a pound.

Cashier:  How much?

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  $3.49 a pound.

Cashier:  Uh, okay.  I no have code.

Here is where it got really good.  Instead of calling a manager or fellow cashier for assistance, she proceeded to rip out the page from the produce code book in front of her and thrust it towards the kumquat man.

Cashier:  Here.  You find.

Jovial Middle-Aged Man (scanning the sheet):  Ah, let’s see…  K.  Kumquats.  Here they are.  The code is 40439.

Cashier:  Okay, give back.

As she enters the code enter her register, the kumquat man begins ruminating to her about his bag of fruit, which has now held the rest of us in the “Express Lane” for about ten minutes.

Jovial Middle-Aged Man:  You know, kumquats are of the subgenus Fortunella in the Rutacaea family.  They’re related to oranges and grapefruits.  And they’re in the Sapindales order, which also makes them related to chestnuts!  Would you believe that?

Cashier (staring at him blankly):  Ehhhh…..   You total $34.17.

These two people couldn’t have been a more perfect paradox:

Kumquat Man, the jolly, amateur botanist, eager to buy his fruits and share his wisdom with the world.

And Cashier Woman, hating her job and all of the Kumquat Men that came with it, and with absolutely no interest in learning English or checking people out at the grocery store, let alone learning about some fruit she’s never seen before and will hopefully never see again.

Save Money, Live Better? Doubtful.

As if we needed any, here’s additional proof that some Houstonians don’t have an ounce of sense when it comes to grocery shopping:

New No. 1: Wal-Mart bags top grocery spot

Wal-Mart Supercenters have overtaken Kroger as grocery market-share leader for the Houston area.

That’s according to the most recent market survey published in the January 2008 issue of the Shelby Report, a national trade publication covering the grocery industry.

According to the report, Wal-Mart Supercenter has a 28.5 percent market share, compared to Kroger’s 25.6 percent. Wal-Mart Supercenter’s market share is up 0.88 percent from the previous quarter, compared with Kroger’s decline of 2.10 percent. Third place H-E-B is up 0.26 percent.

Personally, I wouldn’t buy my groceries from Wal-Mart if they were the only store in town. Leaving aside for a second their highly-questionable business practices and the fact that they also sell motor oil and paint thinner under the same roof with their groceries, let’s talk about the quality of their produce and meats.

Quality. As in, it’s non-existent.

Have you ever seen a decent piece of produce at Wal-Mart? I haven’t. Maybe I’m just going to the wrong Wal-Marts, but every single onion, potato, head of lettuce, apple, bag of carrots, orange, etc. looks decidedly unfresh. They look either wilted or dented or bruised or past their prime. And this doesn’t surprise me. After all, when you’re dealing in bulk and when you’re also shipping boxes of sweatpants and lawnmower parts into the same store, freshness and quality probably aren’t going to be your main concerns.

And the meat? I shudder to think about the subpar, low cost facilities from which that meat originates. Certain scenes from Fast Food Nation come immediately to mind. The fish all looks and tastes farmed.  It’s not the kind of meat or fish that I want to eat, and it’s certainly not what I’d feed to my friends and family.

I know the old argument: It’s so cheap to shop at Wal-Mart!  Bullshit.  When you go to Wal-Mart, you aren’t just going to a grocery store, and they know this!

You’re going to a glorified flea market, where you feel like your dollar will go further just because that porcelain angel or candle holder shaped like a cat is marked down to $0.99.  So you fill up your basket not just with food, but with all sorts of other things that you don’t need.  And all those $5.00 picture frames and $12.99 DVDs along with your bags of Cheetos and 12-packs of Big Red quickly add up to a $100 tab at the register.  How is that saving money?

It’s NOT cheap to shop at Wal-Mart.  They just make you think that it is by artificially lowering their prices so that you’ll buy more crap.

By comparison, let’s look at a normal grocery store.  Let’s look at H-E-B. Continue reading Save Money, Live Better? Doubtful.