Look what will keep me out of mischief for the next little while!
And look what kept me out of mischief today! (Julie, look carefully in the background.)
All this was after a quick drive up to Red Deer and back to pick up the wine kits, then bottle the white, then start the Meglioli. It's a Pinot Grigio. I've done that before and we really liked it. As always there is part of a bottle left after corking all the others, so we drank the Ehrenfelser with dinner. Very nice right out of the carboy!
So why, you are asking, do you drive all the way to Red Deer to buy wine? It's simple. Valentine's sells a ton of wine, and they don't have what you'd call high rent premises, so they can and do discount it. Significantly. I saved enough today to pay for the gas, and if I had wanted, to buy another expensive kit and lunch besides. I don't count my driving time; it's relaxing highway kilometres all the way. Plus, shopping there is a treat. I've ordered in advance so it's set aside for me. They help me collect it, get everything else that is on my shopping list, check me through efficiently, chat nicely all the while, almost always toss in an extra goodie for me since I'm a good customer, and provide good carts to help get the kits out to the car. They've always been able to help me with any questions, and have great advice about which kits are really good. Why wouldn't I shop there and tell my friends to shop there?
As opposed to some of my other recent shopping experiences. You need to know that for me, shopping is about as desirable as getting the slippery finger of life from my doctor once a year. A necessary evil. I'm more likely to put off shopping than the doctor visit. I'm a buyer, not a shopper.
Lets start at Costco. There isn't much we get there, but there are a few things. It's an ordeal no matter when you go. First you have to scavenge a cart on the way in, then fight your way past the people who have frozen in the undersized doorway because they have just realized there isn't a cart there waiting for them, or that they have to show their membership card. Why does this happen in the frakking doorway, and why does it take them so long to decide what to do next?
Typically they hand out some advertising at the door. Again, there is a whole pack of fools who stop to read it, just inside the door. They join the herd drooling in envy at the big screen TV's. Both are in the way of the people that have at least some clue of what they want and where it might be. Which is much more of a crapshoot than it needs to be. Costco, along with every other retailer like to move things around, so that you have to look for what you want, and increase the chances of looking at something else that you might end up buying.
I would certainly pay for an iPhone app (if I had an iPhone) that automatically downloaded a map of whatever store I walked into, cross referenced my shopping list, and gave me the most efficient route to get through the store, while displaying in big letters then next thing I was looking for. Then I could say to myself, up to there, get the cheese, then down one aisle past the freezers and look for nutella. And so on. I fully realize the retailers would fight such an app tooth and nail, or would burden it with forced advertising.
Instead of that, the determined shopper must weave around the people wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles, one thumb in their mouth, and the other up their ass. They've never heard of keep right, or pull over to pick up an item. Nor do they shoulder check or signal their turns. One geezer was nearly run over, and he had the nerve to tell me to stay out of his way! They are totally oblivious to the world around them, with one huge exception. They are attracted to the little kiosks offering samples of oil fried, fat laden, food-like substances with unpronounceable ingredients. Just like moths to a flame. They cluster around, blocking two aisles and the main aisle as they increase their waistlines and cholesterol count.
I must admit that Costco gets a better class of shopper than Walmart does, at least going by the pictures Susi insists on sending me. LairdTunderingJazus, as the Newfies would say. I console myself with the thought that it could be much worse. As you might imagine, there is nothing that could persuade me to shop at Walmart. I'd be afraid of catching something. While I'm admitting stuff, I'll be the first to say that Costco gets top marks for their parking lots. The spaces are huge. Pity they don't pay some homeless people a small fee to return the carts to the store rather than people leaving them all over the parking lot higgledy piggledy.
Banks do a great job of lineups these days. Does anyone remember the days of walking in and trying to pick which line up to join? With your teller bailing out for a cigarette just before you got there, or some geezer doing some obscure transaction that takes up an appreciable fraction of their remaining lifespan, and all of your remaining lunch time? Now you join one line, and you're taken in turn. Why on earth can't the supermarkets do that? In Costco the pretzel shaped checkout lines often stretch into the product aisles, making life hell for everybody involved. Bad design, and stupid planning. Or vise versa. But wait, there's always some idiot at the head of the single line setup who couldn't get off their cell phone long enough to pay attention to the clerk that wants them to come to the till.
Sometimes Costco have these helpful people with portable scanners. They zap your stuff in the line up, and when you get to the front all you need to do is pay. Way quicker, and the stuff doesn't even have to be taken out of the cart. The clerk counts items to make sure the total number matches. Why don't they do that all the time? Why don't they have a 10 or less dedicated checkout? Complete, of course, with armed guard that beheads people with 11 or more items that look like they might be thinking about joining that line, and puts their head on a pike as a warning to the others. Why haven't people figured out that the clerk wants your membership card, right effing now. I'm just about ready to throttle the people that don't have their stuff ready for the clerk. Or keep up with the line.
Co-op has these automated checkout kiosks, and I love'em. Totally love'em, unless I'm buying some of the few products they can't deal with, like magazines. But for most stuff I can put it through faster than their staff can, and now that I've got some practice, I'm usually faster than the oral prompts for the machine. The first time, however, was a different story. That was humiliating, but it was a sort of hybrid system. When they put this system in, they had people there explaining it. I can't help but think that Costco should be able to do the same thing, or something similar.
Not that Co-op doesn't have it's own problems, namely the high geezer quotient. I'm getting used to it, and we've long since learned to avoid Geezer Mondays, when they have a sale on. Here, at least, I'm mentally prepared for the onslaught of the geezers; somehow at Costco, I'm not.
The Farmer's Market is a different experience entirely. It's usually crowded, lots of all kinds of different people, mainly yuppies from Garrison Woods, but geezers too. The difference is that it's so crowded that the geezers aren't slowing anyone down. Most of the booths are cash only, and it just takes a while to manipulate that much money, especially since the children doing it don't know how to count change. I want to slap them when they pile the coins on the bills, and put it flat onto my hand with the bills lined up with my fingers. That's an invitation to lose coins. They look at me blankly when the bill is 11.39, and I give them 21.39, or 21.50. I had to explain to one pimply child. One was going to get out a calculator to figure out exactly 20 dollars of change.
There are two modes of shopping at the Farmer's Market. Blitz or Bucolic. Blitz is to go in knowing exactly what you want, and where you're going. You have a list, arranged in the order of purchases. The shops rarely change, so this is possible. You look at nothing else. You have cash. You bring your own bags. Your list isn't too long. You have eyes only for the open spaces on your route. You are prepared to bodycheck adults and trample small children. You are alone. Bucolic is to join the herd, wandering up and down, looking at stuff. There is lots of interesting stuff to look at, and it's worth doing every now and then. But don't be in a rush. You will not escape the Kettle popcorn. And probably not the fudge samples. The gelato is probably the best in the city.
Shopping for clothes is hell for me. I really really hate doing it. I put it off, and put it off. I'm busy putting it off right now. I'm just big enough that finding stuff that fits nicely is hard. I rarely find colours and fabrics that I like. It's always too expensive, but spending more time to find something cheaper that I'd buy is the worst of all possible options. I'd rather work more to be able to afford it. Most of the time, if I'm looking for, say, jeans, I'll try a pair on, and if they don't fit, I'll leave the store. I grind my teeth in fury when the size numbers, my measurements, and how the clothes fit have no relationship to each other. I hate fashion changes. Once I figure out something that is right for me, I want it to always be there. But no, people want their clothes to look different all the time. I will go ballistic if two identically numbered and sized shirts, for example, fit differently. Like one fitting properly for arm length and the other shorter or longer by an inch. It's happened lots. That's probably enough to end a shopping trip right there.
I really hate the club cards. Every frakking retailer wants you to carry around a card to track points, or get air miles or some effing thing. I already have too much shit in my life to keep track of. I hate the extra step of them asking if you have their card, your reply, and them asking if you want one. I usually just look at them. Somehow they get the idea that raging seething fury is about to melt their face and they get on with the transaction. Shoppers Drug mart is really bad for this. If a retailer wants to offer a discount to people that buy lots of stuff, then keep track of it in your own database. I love it when Rogers tells me I've got enough points that the DVD rental for tonight is free and do I want to pay for it that way. That's the way to fly.
Now, I don't want you to get the idea I'm a total curmudgeon that hates the people involved with shopping as much as I hate shopping. Not so. I fully realize the clerk is suffering that hell for much longer than I do and probably isn't being paid very well. They probably hate the shoppers more than I do, unlikely as that sounds. I smile and say hello. I offer whatever info is needed by the clerk. I have my purchases in an orderly pile. I know how I'm going to pay for it, and it's ready to go. I am not talking on the cell phone. If a sales person accosts me in the store, I give them a polite 'no thank you', unless I do have a question. Which happens from time to time. Then I know what I'm looking for. I hate having my time wasted, and assume that other people hate having their time wasted too, even if they are being paid by the hour.
Occasionally I get a clerk that sees stuff I've picked out and suggests other things I might be interested in, or points out a deal if I pick out something functionally identical to what I have but might be a different brand. There used to be a guy at Megatunes that was demonically good at doing that. He'd eye your stack of CD's (back when music came on CD's) and would suggest something, or would change the store soundtrack so you just had to ask what it was. He would typically double our purchases, but we didn't mind because it was all good stuff that we might never have known about. I will nearly kiss the clerk that takes my side, and points out how I can get a better deal, or offers inside information that helps me.
I'll make a point of thanking someone who has been helpful or just offered efficient service. Several of the places I like to eat it's easy to talk to the cooks, and I'll tell them I liked their food. (Plus, I tip good.) There is nobody in the world that doesn't like to hear thank you, or that they've done good. I try to be patient with people that are new on the job or who've made a mistake.
Generally the store staff aren't so bad, (except for electronics people trying to upsell you extended warranties) especially considering what they have to put up with. Namely, the other shoppers. There are days, and you only think I'm kidding, that I want to set up a licensing system for people before they are permitted to shop. That's right, you would have to pass a test before being able to shop. At the very least the test would include how to drive a shopping cart in a grocery store, how to count change, how to line up efficiently, dynamics of crowd behaviour, purse and wallet management, how to create and use a shopping list, hygiene requirements for being out in public, demonstrated abilities to control small children, and parking lot etiquette. There is probably more I could add.