Dear Underpaid Grocery Store Employee

First I would like to say “Thank You” for the job that you do and explain that I feel that your job is worth way more than what you are paid.

I am just one of many moms who come into your store every day that you try to please.  On any given shopping day I may or may not have my children tagging along with me.  Let me assure you that they do not enjoy grocery shopping and REALLY do not want to be here any more than I do.  There are days when I would rather go to the dentist than the grocery store; no joke!

It’s probably past nap time and in addition to not wanting to be here my kids are probably tugging at the last nerve in my body – the only sane one that remains.  Don’t get me wrong, they are really very sweet but I’m sure today they have annoyed the shit out of me and I’m dreading this trip more than I can express.

I have my list in hand and if I’m lucky I’ve remembered my reusable shopping bags, my coupons, my wallet, and pray to God that my keys aren’t still sitting in the front seat of the car.

The first place that I must stop without question is the bakery.  You see, those sweet lovely ladies have what my kids need to attempt to make this shopping experience a little more enjoyable for them – COOKIES!  I’m sorry to the rest of the grocery store employees but these ladies are our favorite.  I almost wish they were handing out glasses of wine (beer, vodka, or other mind calming drugs) to us moms so that we too could have something to look forward to at the grocery store.

My personal favorite section of the store is usually the first place we visit; the produce section (unless you have one of those really lame grocery stores which I won’t shop that places the produce at the end of the store).  Why do I love the produce section?  Because my kids are quietly stuffing their mouths with that sweet little cookie that your bakery ladies have provided them.  It usually lasts a few minutes and I can make it through the produce section without them begging me for some pre-packaged, high fructose sugar, fake, chemically engineered, junk food.  If it’s a really good day my kids will actually ask for lots of nice, healthy, organic fruit (which will probably go bad once we get home for reasons I’ll later explain).

Ahhh, this isn’t so bad!  I think I can actually do this, why do I always dread about grocery shopping anyways?

Next we’ll visit the meat department while trying to avoid those inner aisles where all the junk food resides.   Of course by the time I’m picking out all the organic fruits and vegetables and worrying about finding the grass-fed beef that is highly over priced I have now entered the “oh crap, how much money is this trip going to cost me?” mode.  I make sure we have enough meats to last the week and quickly move to the rest of my list.

Now it’s time to brave the inner aisles – the ones I dread the most – the processed foods!  As I find the aisles with the next item on my list I surf the shelves and read labels carefully to make sure I don’t get anything that is “packaged in syrup” (AKA high fructose corn syrup) or anything that contains artificial colors, flavors, or ingredients.  Of course the kids are now starting to run up and down the aisles playing freeze tag or if I’m lucky they are hanging off the side of the cart making it completely impossible for my to steer because it is now off balance.  Or they are pointing to all of the toys and un-approved foods (packaged with their favorite cartoon character to make it even more tempting) and begging me to pick that item instead of the healthy one.  These next few aisles are going to be very challenging – but I know I can be strong and I’ll survive – after all, we’re almost half way!

Up the canned food aisle we go.  Down the baking aisle.  This isn’t so bad!  Next up, oh NO!!!  The cereal aisle, do I really need to go down this aisle?  I look over my list and sure enough, we’re out of cereal.  Take a big deep breath, the kids are still happy and laughing (and running into everyone else in the aisle).

We only suffer one meltdown in the cereal aisle as I firmly explain that no, we’re not going to get the Fruit Loops with Marshmallows today because a) they are not on sale, and b) because I feel bad enough about giving you Fruit Loops – I absolutely draw the line on the marshmallows.

The next aisle is just for me – beer and wine!  Oh, Moscato is Buy 1, Get 1 Free – I think I’ll take 4 please!

Now I’m refreshed and rejuvenated (although I really wish the wine tasting girls were working today) and I’m ready to move on.  We stock up on eggs, bread, and milk and we head off to the dairy section.

Mind you I’ve mentally mapped out my entire cart so that there is room for everything and it’s in the same order that I will place it on the counter to be scanned and bagged.  This way all of the produce will be packed in one bag, all of the meats will be packed in one bag, etc. (yes, I actually do this intentionally)!  There is just enough room left in my cart for the butter, cheese, and frozen food.  <<Unless of course I had to buy toilet paper, paper towels (recycled of course), and pet food or litter – then my cart is a little heavy and overstuffed.>>

I’m just finishing up the last aisle by getting some frozen fruit when I realize that the ice cream is next – oh shit!!!  How did I forget about the ice cream aisle?  Quick let’s sing a song so they don’t look into the ice cold cabinets stuffed with all that sweet gooey ice cream that we all scream for!

I’ve only said “No” about 20 times this trip and my nerves are now officially shot by the time I finally make it to the checkout lane.  I’m actually hoping that there is someone in front of me in line so that I can unpack the cart before you start scanning so I can actually pay attention to the prices that ring up and make sure they are correct.  This never works in my favor because by the time I get up to the monitor I’ve missed half of the items that sitting at the bottom of the ramp waiting to be packed.

I quickly hand the bagger my reusable shopping bags and explain that I really REALLY want all my produce packaged separate and gently so not to damage them.  I also remind them that I don’t need a bag for the container of milk, the dog food, the bag of potatoes and other heavy or over-sized items.  I’m trying to pay attention to 2 kids, who at this point are now begging for candy or balloons, the monitor to make sure my cereal rang up Buy 1, Get 2 Free, and to the bagger to make sure that my bananas and tomatoes make it home without any damage.

I’m deeply sorry to these poor checkout employees because you don’t stand a chance with me.  As much as I try to be nice and sweet to you I do not like my reusable bags to weigh 100lbs, nor do I like my frozen food packaged with cardboard boxes and PLEASE don’t squash the bananas!!!  “Oh, just hand those here – I’ll take care of the produce for you,” I say as you kindly attempt to place my bananas with the canned foods.  I mean really, the tomatoes can come to me because you are about to put them in with the sharp edges of the boxed foods (probably on the bottom of the bag as you try to stuff just one more thing in the bag).

Oh crap!  I forgot to hand you my coupons.

“No, you may not have an overpriced pack of Tic Tacs that will be gone before we get home.”  I say sweetly to the kids who continue to beg for everything on the candy aisle that is placed there to drive me completely insane!

Did you just place the bag of canned foods on top of the neatly packed produce that I just worked so hard to perfect?  My poor bananas don’t stand a chance, they will surely be rotten by morning.

Meat?  Where is the meat?  What do you mean you placed every individual package of meat in it’s own plastic bag (double wrapped of course) and then inside of my reusable shopping bag?  Didn’t you know that I’m already feeling guilty that I didn’t get the grass-fed, organic ground beef (that was $3 more a lb)now I have to feel 100% more guilt for the 6 plastic bags you just wrapped my meat in!!

Oh yes, you’re waiting for me to swipe my credit card.  It’s how much again?  Did you take off all the coupons?  Did everything ring up correctly?  I have no idea!!  Here, just take my money!

Quietly, I collect my breath and my sense after remembering to say “Thank you” to the kind employees at the checkout lane (trying really hard not to yell at you for squashing my bananas) as I look over the bill making sure that everything is correct and my kids are now crying because you didn’t offer them a free balloon or sticker.  I ask the kids to hold hands as we cross the street and make our way to the car, fill up the trunk with our food, and drive back to our house to assess the damage.

The kids are happy to be home and are fussing with one another in the next room but that’s OK because it gives me just enough time to unpack everything and put it away.  I open up a bottle of warm wine and pour myself a glass as I realize that my tomatoes are slightly scratched (which will probably rot before I eat them anyways).  Then it happens…

…my husband came home and asked one (or all) of the following questions:

  • You spent how much at the grocery store?
  • What did you get?
  • Where is (insert his favorite food)?
  • How did you forget (insert his favorite food)?
  • What’s for dinner?

As I sit here in the psyche ward of the local mental hospital I can’t help but think that next week will be better.  I was being too hard on you and you must think that I’m a total bitch.  It’s OK, I already know that you dread seeing me just as much as I dread seeing you.  We don’t have to pretend to be nice to one another.  Just take my money and for God’s sake – please don’t squash my banana’s!


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  1. says

    OMG – can SO totally relate to this! When did something simple like grocery shopping become so hard? Oh yeah, when the food companies started filling 99% of what’s out there with crap. It is SO frustrating to have to scour labels, etc. when your kids are running around. I actually had an employee at a store tell me my kids had to stop screaming because it was disturbing the other customers. They were not screaming. They were in fact laughing hysterically – my daughter has a SUPER high-pitched laugh, but there isn’t much we can do about that. Any other day I would have stormed out just to prove a point (which I would probably be the only one who got), but with 50 items in my cart, there was no possible way I was about to start over in another store. It’s too much work to get that far!

  2. melissa says

    love this post i am actually on both sides of this i am a mom during day and work at grocery store at night. And because i shop with my kids with coupons and reusable bags i know how these customers feel and want there groceries. i typically have 3 people in my line to other cashiers 1 just because the regulars know that im quicker and more accurate than the rest, not to toot my own horn or anything. there is nothing i hate more than to watch some of my co workers bag! When i go to walmart (gag) i seperate my groceries with the bags to give them the hint that i want those items in that bag ect and they still get it wrong could i make it more obvious , one girl wrapped my bananas in plastic bag and put in my bag i took them out and handed her the bag. Oh well i could rant forever great post :)

  3. Carla Garcia says

    LMAO… I *so* get it. This is why I plan my shopping trips around when my husband can watch them during the summer or when the older 2 are in school. baby goes into an ergo on my back and usually passes out…. or just wants yogurt bites shoveled into his mouth. I do *not* attempt real shopping trips with all 3 boys. I will run in for 1 to 2 items, but that is my limit. I have very little sanity left as it is.

  4. Traci C. says

    This is exactly like me!!! I have to read labels as well as check the sale and coupons. I like to buy on sale and use a coupon too for the same item. Then I have to check to see if the small size with coupon is cheaper than the large size per ounce or lb. Which means I have to do math while the baby is crying and my toddler repeats endlessly “Mama I want to go home…” Sigh… And my husband wonders why I want to get groceries by myself on the weekends… :)

  5. says

    Ha! And this is why I only shop at Trader Joe’s. Most the food is good and I know what I want so I don’t have to read labels anymore, the people who work there are all kind and awesome, and — most importantly — they KNOW HOW TO PACK REUSABLE BAGS. They put my cold stuff in the cooler bags. They neither under pack nor overpack. They only wrap meat in plastic if I request it (I don’t). I have to pack my own bags now whenever I go anywhere else. TJ has spoiled me.
    Lisa @ Organic Baby Atlanta recently posted..what not to do when your preschooler is on school breakMy Profile

  6. says

    I load and unload my cart the same way and it amazes me how it never gets bagged up that way. And I hate them squashing my bananas almost more than when they squash the bread.

  7. says

    Very funny post, Calley! I have to say, though, that I don’t mind going to the grocery store. But I also only have one kid, and he’s my little shopping buddy.

    He rarely wants something that I don’t want to give him. And he’s used to me using coupons — I make him help me find certain things. I call it our treasure hunt :)

    Great seeing you at BlogHer!
    Dagmar ~ Dagmar’s momsense recently posted..Wordless Wednesday — Mammogram and MoreMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks Dagmar! Yes, it was much more fun to shop with my son at that age. When it was just the 2 of us shopping it was easier to do treasure hunts and have him help me with the list. He still likes to help but these days the 2 of them together are toxic! :)

  8. Elyse says

    LOLz. I can totally relate to ALL of this! I distinctly remember there was a day when baggers knew exactly how to bag groceries. I remember because my mom would tip the baggers based on whether they bagged them correctly and were careful packing them in the car (we were military and its custom to tip baggers at the commissary). I swear its a lost art now. I would rather brave the self checkout with my wriggling restless toddlers so I can bag EVERYTHING myself and bag it right than have my tomatoes and lettuce squished.

    Thankfully my hubs does most of the grocery shopping so this is a rare anxiety trip for me.

    My perfect grocery store: no gross over-processed foods (or at least hide them in another building), no TV characters, no checkout candy, trained baggers, and of course, free wine and cookies.

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