This Grouch was Singing the Windy City Weekend Shopping Blues

Boy did this past weekend spawn my inner grouch shopping blues. Bad experiences all the way around with clerks who didn’t know the first thing about customer service. Let’s start with our visit to Hobby Lobby on Saturday morning. I buy art supplies there because with the 40% off coupon, they tend to have decent prices. In this case, I was looking to buy an inexpensive picture frame for a photo of my daughter’s that was juried into an art show. I certainly don’t shop at Hobby Lobby for its atrociously gaudy selection of home furnishings and giftware – but back to the matter at hand. I gave the clerk a $10 bill and she ripped a $5 bill in half as she took it out of the register. When I asked her for an intact bill, she stubbornly refused and told me that she always rips bills in two when taking them out of the register! Then she called over another clerk to help tape the bill up, as the line grew longer and longer. All of this because she refused to give me an intact bill. What difference did this make to her and wasn’t it my right as a consumer to ask for an intact bill as change?

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You Should Need a License to Drive a Shopping Cart

I’m going to tackle one of my pet peeves – bad behavior of other people in grocery stores. Certainly some of these behaviors apply to other types of stores. The mentality and skills of searching through racks of clothes, pegboards with hardware and shelves of toys are somewhat different. But only in grocery stores have I seen such blatant violations of what should be deemed common etiquette. Personally, I use a hand-held basket in most of my grocery visits. Only when I’m buying large bags of apples, a gallon of milk or cat litter do I need a cart. I really like those smaller carts you can find at some stores like Meijer and Marianos. When I use a cart I always “park” it somewhere out-of-the-way while I browse.

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Boy, I Know How to Pick ‘Em – Blasted Grocery Store Lines

Why does it seem to be the case more often than not that I pick ’em wrong? A perfect scenario to illustrate my point occurred at Dominick’s in the South Loop last week. There were only two lanes open on a weekday afternoon at what happens to be one of Dominick’s largest stores – a very nice store, actually. I had to choose between the “15 or Less Express Lane” that had at least nine people in line or another lane that had just two people. You can almost guess what happened next. Well, I chose the lane with just two people … unfortunately, the 70ish clerk was totally inept and it took her 10 minutes to do what anyone else would accomplish in 60 seconds. It didn’t help that the lady right in front of me had 15 coupons and paid by check, both of which totally threw this clerk for a loop. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for hiring workers of all ages, but train them properly – young and old alike – so that my precious time is not wasted. My daughter was not bothered by this as much – she was so engrossed in reading one of her celebrity rags that she barely noticed that we were waiting in line for 15 interminably long minutes. In the meantime, all nine people had been rung up at the Express Lane and were on their merry way. I cannot count how many times I have stepped into a grocery line that looked promising only for the customer in front of me to have an item ring up wrong – price check! Or had a customer in front of me search for pennies in her purse only to come up short and make the clerk take an item off her order. Or had a customer in front of me…

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Windy City Memories … of the Way Department Stores Were

I have been thinking a lot lately about all the department and discount stores I frequented over the years … going back to my earliest memories as a young child through the 1990s. I have always had a knack for sniffing out bargains and some of my fondest memories fall into that category, while others are more dramatic. Of course, being a native Chicagoan, I too bemoaned the demise of the iconic classic department store Marshall Field’s and will begin there. Everybody has their own memories of Field’s (I am not talking Frango Mints), but among those that stand out for me: My dad getting really annoyed with me because I was afraid to go down the escalator at the Old Orchard Field’s – he had already descended to the bottom and had to come back up and fetch me, age 7 or 8. My mom taking us to see Santa Claus at State Street (despite being Jewish) including lunch at the Walnut Room – and that awesome Christmas tree, age 8 or 9. My mom taking me shopping at State Street after my eyes were dilated by an old stodgy ophthalmologist – everything was a big gorgeous blur of color, age 10. Witnessing an old lady with blood pouring down her stockings – her leg had somehow gotten caught in the moving escalator. This happened at the Old Orchard Field’s and again I was shopping with my dad, age 11 (good thing I had not seen that at age 7 or 8 – would have caused a permanent escalator phobia). That glorious bargain basement and all the wonderful things bought at a steep discount. Fast forward to 1981 – registering for wedding presents at Old Orchard 14 years before the demise of my marriage. Exchanging baby gifts at Old Orchard with my newborn baby and nursing her in the ladies’ room, July 1987. My now 2-year old stepping out…

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San Francisco Grocery Shop Made me Salivate

I just returned from a brief 2-day stay in San Francisco. I was there for a job interview, and as usual, during my free time, decided to explore areas I had not frequented during my last two trips in 2010 and 2006. I discovered an amazing grocery store – like no other – at least in the Midwest. On my way to The Mission, I stumbled upon Rainbow Grocery. I started to salivate the moment I walked into this cool grocery store – I think my mouth was actually hanging open in disbelief at the sheer quantity and quality of the drinks, teas, bulk foods, produce, cheese, etc. Good thing Jeff was not with me – he could have easily spent $100! Given that I have been unemployed now for more than 3 months, I have gotten cheap and try to cut corners wherever and whenever I can. I was tempted to buy everything, but spent less than $4.00 on a very small sampling of bulk dried mulberries, date nuggets, and two natural chocolate mint patties by SunRidge Farms.

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Corner Health Foods in Mundelein, IL

Ok, not every post here is going to be grouching about something. Sometimes I come across an exemplary example of a business that is a gem among many lumps of coal. Well, a little grouching. Generally, health food stores are among my pet peeves. I’ve become somewhat of a health-nut as I’ve gotten older and this has led me to search for many things that usually can only be found at “health food” or vitamin stores. My opinion of most of them is that they are run by rude people and are way overpriced. But there are two such stores I’ve found that have reasonable prices. One I’ll talk about another time. The other, which also has a bonus of nice, down to earth proprietors is the Corner Health Food Store in Mundelein, IL.

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Notes From Saturday’s Shopping

Almost every Saturday we go to a number of different shopping venues in one or two trips. Garage and estate sales as well as thrift shops and grocery/produce markets are our favorite vices. When we get more diligent at blogging and taking pictures, there will be better reports on individual visits, but here are just a few memories from our travels on 9/10/11. The Rolling Meadows High School Music Boosters had a Community Garage Sale in the high school parking lot. They have this once a year every September and we usually visit. I assume part or all of the proceeds go to the RMHS music program. There were more tables and merchandise than previous events and generally prices were good with some great bargains to be found. I purchased a few old Transformer toys for my daughter’s husband who collects them and a Marvel Comics graphic novel originally priced at $19.95 for just 50 cents. As I said, the prices were reasonable, however there was one woman who had a two tables of things that were priced out of this world. We first noticed a small aluminum bowl. You see these everywhere. It’s one of the most common items to be found at garage/estate/rummage sales. They usually sell for a buck or less. This one was pretty beat up and it was priced at $9.00. What??? I immediately moved on to the next table down the line, but couldn’t shake off thinking about that woman. I was tempted to go back and politely ask her how she determined her prices. I wasn’t that bold this time and didn’t, but I went back to look at what other things she had to sell later on our way out. Children’s books, well used for $6 to $10 that everyone else was selling for 25 or 50…

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