Tag Archives: grocery store

When life hands you lemons

When life hands you lemons, take those lemons and return them to the grocery store. “Yeah, I just bought all of these lemons, and I want to return them.” The cashier is totally going to give you a little bit of an attitude, but whatever, just wait for the manager to come over, “You sure? You bought all of these lemons here?” he’s going to ask you. Of course you didn’t. Life handed them to you. And yeah, I know the old saying, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But is life handing you sugar? Clean water? I thought the whole point of this cliché is that when life hands you something that you don’t want, you have to turn it into something that you do want. Well what if you don’t have anything else? What if life only hands you lemons? Don’t tell me to just “make lemonade.” You might as well say, when life hands you lemonades, eat a really big steak, or buy a minor league hockey team, or win the lottery.


“I don’t think you bought them here. There aren’t any stickers on them. The lemons we sell have stickers on them. This is just a giant sack of loose lemons, I’m sorry.” That’s the grocery store manager again. But don’t worry, everything’s still going according to plan. Remember, you only have lemons. So if you want lemonade, or anything else, you’ve got to figure out some way to turn at least some of those lemons into something besides lemons. Otherwise it’s just lemons for the foreseeable future, and if you think drinking straight up lemon juice is tough, just wait until you get hungry later on. The only thing worse than drinking lemons is eating them plain.

“Yeah, well, they had stickers on them originally, but I peeled them all off.” That’s what you tell him. And he’ll say something like, “Well, why’d you do that?” And that’s it, you’ve got him. It might not be obvious right away, but you just won. Because what kind of a question is that to ask to a customer? He’s reaching, desperate to try to get the one up on you. But now that you’ve got him backed into a corner, keep inching closer, let him know that you’re not going to give him any space even to breathe, that if he wants to get out of that corner, he’s going to have to do something about all of these lemons.

“I took the stickers off because I was going to cook with them. You can’t peel the zest off of a lemon if there’s a sticker still stuck. You can’t roast a whole fish with lemons in the baking pan if there are little pieces of paper floating around.”

“OK, well, look, these don’t look like any of our lemons. I’m just saying, you can’t just walk in here with a bag of unlabeled produce and demand a refund.”

Of course you can. Now’s when you go for the kill. “I agree, they don’t look anything like the lemons that you usually sell. That’s why I’m returning them. Normally the quality is a lot more consistent. I just assumed that they’d all be the standard, premium lemons that you and I are clearly both used to. So I peeled them, washed them off, and then the first one I cut into, it was gross, way too many seeds. I want a full refund.”

And depending on how stubborn this guy is, you might have to go back and forth a few more times, but at this point the verdict is all but verbalized. It’s just a matter of how long this guy wants to stand there and pretend like he’s in charge of a situation that he’s not. Eventually he’ll give up, signal to the cashier to give you a refund, and there you go, that’s cash. You can buy whatever you want with that cash.

So next time life gives you lemons, don’t get caught standing around waiting for life to give you a pitcher and ice and a mixing spoon. Turn those lemons into money, and then buy a Coke. Because lemonade sucks. You ever drink two glasses of lemonade in a row? That’s like heartburn central. Do yourself a favor, and stay away from lemonade.

Dear Taco Bell:

Dear Taco Bell:

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Last night my wife and I planned a taco night for dinner. It wasn’t Tuesday, but honestly, I’m feeling a little over the whole Taco Tuesday thing. Why should tacos be limited to just one day of the week? Is it really that important that taco and Tuesday both start with a T? And Tuesday kind of sucks anyway, as a day, it’s probably the worst day out of the whole week. The previous weekend and all the fun that came along with it is by now a distant memory, and the only thing you really have to look forward to is Wednesday, itself only celebrated for marking the halfway point of another miserable workweek.

I’m off topic already. I went to the grocery store for some taco supplies: ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, I haven’t made tacos in a while, but I didn’t want anything too Mexican. American tacos were my goal here, crunchy yellow shells, shredded yellow cheese, you know, Taco Bell style tacos.

And wouldn’t you know it, I made a turn right down the “ethnic” aisle at the grocery store and right there, right next to the giant bags of Tostitos chips and jars of Del Monte salsa, I found a box, a Taco Bell box. It said, “Taco Dinner Kit.” Bingo. That’s what I thought at least, bingo, here’s a one-stop Taco Bell taco shopping experience.

I looked at the instructions: “Just add ground beef and toppings.” And I kind of felt a little deflated. Because what is a taco without meat and toppings? It’s apparently the contents of your “Taco Dinner Kit” box, it’s some shells, a couple of packets of Taco Bell sauce, and a spice packet. It’s nothing.

And to make matters worse, I looked at the instructions printed on the side of the box, you’re telling me I need eight ounces of Kraft shredded cheddar cheese, one container of Breakstone’s sour cream. I’m sorry, Taco Bell, but if you’re not going to provide me with the tools I need to get the job done, you’ve ceded any position in which you’re going to tell me what brands I should buy to make my own tacos.

Look, I’m not suggesting you try to make your product something it’s not. I’m trying to imagine the logistical hurdles of including shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, grated cheese and sour cream to your box. You’d have to keep some of the ingredients refrigerated, and would the corn tortillas lose their crunch in the fridge? Like I said, it sounds like a lot of work.

But to call what you sold me a kit, it just comes across as disingenuous. How about just calling it, “Taco Shells.” The sauce? Don’t bother. You give that stuff away for free by the fistful every time I visit a Taco Bell location, and so there are always some spare Milds or Hots floating around my kitchen somewhere. The taco seasoning, what is it really, salt? Cumin? Just throw it in for free and don’t mention it.

And I get it, you put everything in a big box, you make it look really official. I just feel a little duped, is all. I can’t see inside, and so how can I tell if my crunchy hard taco shells are intact inside of that box? These particular shells actually made it to my house OK, but that’s not the point. How was I to know? I had to take a leap of faith, just kind of taking your word for it that the shells had made it in one piece from production to my kitchen, and I really don’t need that type of low-level stress when all I’m trying to do is prepare a really casual Taco Thursday.

In closing, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. I’m a Taco Bell guy through and through, I stand by your products and, in the future, if I’m ever thinking about making tacos again, I want to let you know that Taco Bell brand taco products are still on my short list of preferred purchases. Having said that, I see plenty of opportunities for improvement. Get rid of the whole misleading “Taco Kit” verbiage. Maybe make the shells a little bigger. Maybe offer me some Doritos Locos taco shells. That would be awesome.

Taco Bell, I love you, your restaurants stand as a model for what American fast food strives to be. Your grocery store offering, however, well … just think about it, this is just something to consider, is all.


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Rob G.

Rotten mushrooms

I went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of stuff to make dinner. The centerpiece of the meal was going to be a steak topped with sautéed mushrooms. I didn’t go out thinking, steak, mushrooms, but while I was shopping, I saw this package of mixed fungi, names like shitake and hen of the woods printed on the label, I thought, OK, those look cool, how can I incorporate them into a meal? And it kind of just took off around that thought process.


And then when I got home, I started taking care of all of everything that didn’t need to be cooked right away. I boiled some small potatoes, blanched the vegetables, stuff like that. And then while I set my cast iron skillet over the burner to get nice and hot, I wanted to take care of those mushrooms.

Only, I opened up the packaging and immediately I knew that it wasn’t going to happen. A really bad smell hit me in the face, and I automatically recoiled. But not wanting to deal with the reality of the situation, I tried to think of ways in which what I was perceiving might not have been as bad I was making it out to be.

Maybe these are just funny smelling mushrooms, I thought, and brought the package a little closer to my face. Nope, they smelled like fish, like rotten fish. And then I picked through them with my fingers. With an absence of any visible mold, I tried to get myself to think that, maybe it’s just the packaging, maybe this will all correct itself during the cooking process.

But feeling them in my hands, they were slimy, like oozy and wet, in a way that mushrooms never are. I got pissed. I knew I shouldn’t have fallen for such a stupid grocery store trick. Usually if I want mushrooms, I always just pick them loose out of this giant mushroom container. They’re always dry to the touch, not brittle or anything, but definitely not like these gross mushrooms were, covered in a funky slick.

I never buy vegetables that come preselected and wrapped. I don’t know why I changed my behavior this time around. And that was it, it was done, I’d exhausted all sort of justification that may have tricked me into thinking that there was some way to still make use of those mushrooms.

They were like six bucks. It’s not like those six dollars are going to break the bank, but it just sucks because, the best part about going to the grocery store and making your own food is calculating how much your dinner winds up costing, noticing that it’s significantly cheaper than going out to a restaurant.

But not when you’re just throwing money in the garbage, six dollars at a time. I briefly considered going back and getting a refund. But I don’t have a car, I live in the city, and so I’d have to carry this open package of rotting mushrooms seven blocks down, all while I’ve got most of the dinner ready to go. I guess I could just wait until after we eat, but then what am I supposed to do, save them? Keep them out? They stunk.

No, not at all worth the six dollars. It sucks, but I’ll never see that money again. You buy bad groceries, it really does feel like you just got ripped off. Because you did. I remember one time I bought a bunch of steaks at the grocery store and kept them in the fridge for a couple of days before opening them up and realizing that something wasn’t right. I actually did make an effort to go return them, and the people there were just like, “Nope, sorry, no refunds on meat bought more than twenty-four hours ago.” And what am I going to do, stand there and argue with someone about how that’s a ridiculous policy, that that’s why you guys put expiration dates on the merchandise, so it doesn’t have to be cooked all on the same day of purchase?

It’s like one time I remember I was coming home late at night, and I knew I needed milk for cereal and coffee the next day. So I stopped at one of those corner groceries, not a grocery store, but just like one of those places you’d buy a bottle of soda and a scratch-off.

I bought the gallon of milk from the refrigerator in the back. I woke up the next morning, poured myself a huge bowl of cereal, and then as soon as I twisted open the top from the gallon of milk, it was that gross, rancid, spoiled milk smell. I looked at the date printed on the side, and it told me that this thing should have been sold no later than sometime last week.

And I was just pissed, like I’m pissed right now. It’s like, you’re just an asshole at that point, you know that the milk is clearly bad, but you’re just hoping that some jerk is going to walk in and buy it without looking. Me. I’m the jerk. I didn’t look. I’m the guy that walked into a store and just kind of assumed that all of the food there would have been edible.

Whatever. It’s six bucks. I’m getting bent out of shape about nothing. But still. Part of me won’t let go of the anger steadily building up inside. I hope I can get over this someday.

Semi-seedless sour grapes

I bought some seedless grapes at the grocery store the other day, and I’m not even kidding you, they were at least fifty percent not seedless. As in, seeds. And whatever, I’m not a farmer, I don’t know what it takes to get seeds out of grapes, but if you’re going to advertise a certain product, fine, I can see maybe one or two seeds slipping past inspection.


But this was ridiculous. And even worse, the grapes that had seeds, there were like three or four seeds in each one. That’s like, at that point, you’re eating more seed than fruit. And I don’t necessarily mind seeds. Sunflower seeds? Fine. Pumpkin seeds? I’m not a huge pumpkin seed fan, but if you’re enjoying pumpkin seeds, that’s cool, do your thing.

But you never see anybody eating just grape seeds. Why? Because you take one accidental bite of a grape seed and the entire inside of your mouth gets really astringent. “It makes everything taste gross!” this was me, I brought the half-eaten bag of grapes back to the grocery store. Which, yeah, it is a little petty, like who goes back to the store to return grapes?

And like I said, maybe if it were only a few grapes, maybe even like ten or fifteen seeded grapes, maybe I could have let it slide. I would have been pissed, sure, but I’d have gotten over it, eventually. But this bag, it was like every other grape, sometimes two in a row, seed after seed.

“What do you want me to do about it?” the grocery store manager said, and I didn’t know, I didn’t think this far ahead. Now that I had this guy’s attention, it became painfully obvious, the grapes, the store, the money in my pocket, I had no idea what I was doing here.

But then I got a crazy thought, I imagined this guy in the back of the store, like a drug dealer cutting his Colombian snow with flour or baking powder, he was carefully measuring a select amount of seeded grapes to sell alongside the premium products. He’d run some numbers on a really old-fashioned calculator and, after figuring out just how much he was squeezing out of us, the unwitting customer, too meek to even challenge his little grape ring, he’d start to laugh, slowly at first, but increasingly more menacing, until somebody from the floor had to check in on him, to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong.

But how to express concern about such a potentially legitimate albeit highly unlikely scam? So I just said to him, “I don’t know man, but these grapes were terrible.”

“Yeah, well, how long did you keep them in the fridge for?”

And I was like, “I don’t know, five days? A week?”

And he just shook his head, “Nope, sorry, no returns on produce after three days,” and he held out three fingers, just in case I wanted to count along.

“Hey man, I didn’t say anything about a refund, OK, I just …”

And what did I want exactly? Again, a refund would have been nice, but after denying me one before I even had a chance to suggest restitution, now it wouldn’t make sense to argue for my money back. And yeah, I did eat like half the grapes.

“Well, can you at least get rid of these for me?” and I handed him the bag, pretending to then storm out of the grocery store. But really, I was watching him from the outside. I wanted to see if what I thought was going to happen would actually happen, that he’d take my rejected seeded seedless week-old grapes and mix them in with the fresh produce. Then I’d storm in and go, “Ah-HAH!”

But he didn’t. He just threw them in the trash and then started yelling at some box boy for stacking the boxes on the shelves the wrong way.

I’m feeling blessed

I’m feeling so blessed lately. It’s more than a feeling, actually, I am blessed. Blessed be my name. I think it’s from last week, I was at the grocery store, this lady and I were heading toward the cashier at the same time and, even though I knew exactly how it was going to play out, her with that little granny-cart filled to the brim with produce, I smiled and waved her on through. Even though it would’ve taken me maybe a fifth of the time have just my dozen or so items scanned through, I’d have paid with my credit card, swipe, done, see ya.


But it was even worse than I could have imagined, everything she had in that cart, there was some sort of a corresponding coupon, somewhere in her hand, if only she could just match them up one by one. If she wasn’t such a sweet looking old lady, I might have started tapping my feet impatiently, like you know how people do it, right? They fold their arms and they tap one foot on the ground really aggressively, a very quick, constant tapping, and they look right at you.

And this whole process just kept snowballing, it was more and more unbearable to watch, the item got scanned, “Wait, wait, wait, I have a coupon.” And the cashier would be like, “I know. I know you have a coupon. You gave it to me already.” And the old lady would be like, “Really? Well, why does that only say twenty-seven cents saved? I though my coupon was for thirty-two cents.” And they’d have to go back and double check that, yes, unfortunately it was only a twenty-seven cents savings, all the while the lady was just shaking her head, unable to process why the grocery gods had forsaken her, those five extra cents.

But she was really old, maybe she reminded me of my grandmother. She kind of smiled at me when I let her go ahead, even though, like I already said, I would’ve been much, much quicker. But I guess statistically speaking, she’s the one with less time. If I make it to be an old man, I certainly don’t want to have to waste any of my precious minutes left waiting behind the younger generation at the grocery store.

That half-smile she gave me as she waltzed on through to the cashier, I couldn’t even tell if she was smiling, not a conscious smile, it could have been one of those etched-on smiles that old people sort of settle in to after a whole lifetime of smiling. Or frowning. It could go either way. Have you ever seen an elderly person trapped under the weight of a lifetime of scowling? No, this lady had clearly been I’d say at least generally happy, maybe a little confused, like she was at that moment, studying the screen as each item popped up after being scanned, like, is this right? Did I really pick this stuff out? Weren’t there supposed to be more savings?

And then as she was counting out the exact change needed to pay for everything, that painstaking process of taking out her really, really big wallet, getting her fingers to pry apart the leather insert that separated her cards from her cash from her coupons, I probably could have stood to maybe mind my own business a little better, but I couldn’t take my eyes away, I swear, it was like that wallet was ninety-five percent filled with cut out pieces of paper.

But like I said, somewhere in this eternal process of paying in exact change, she knocked the quart of milk off of the conveyor. And I guess that it was a good thing I was paying way too much attention to every little detail unfolding in slow motion right before my eyes, because I was ready, I saw that quart go down, maybe I could have even stopped it from getting knocked over, but I was locked in, I wanted it pushed over that edge.

I swooped down, maybe a little too dramatically, I caught it with one hand, returned it to the counter before the old lady even had a chance to register what was happening. But thirty seconds later, it must have sunk in, because her perma-smile got just a little bit smilier, like remember how I was saying before how I couldn’t tell if her smile was really a genuine one? This one was definitely genuine. And she said, “Bless you!” which I thought, ha, bless you, what an old-fashioned thing to say.

But after she was done, when it was my turn to run my groceries through, it turned out that there were all sorts of savings that applied to my purchases, discounts and promotions that I was completely oblivious of. And then outside the store, I found a five-dollar bill on the ground. I started to think about it, that blessing business from before, could it have been more than just a polite gesture? Did this lady actually bless me?

And I’d have to conclude that, yes, I’m feeling really blessed. Like I went to work the next day and my boss said, “Hey Rob. Nice haircut. Looking good.” And I said, “Thanks boss.” But I hadn’t gotten a haircut in weeks. I’m telling you, blessed. I’m not sure how long this blessing is good for, but I’m just raking in all the good karma. I’m telling you, it pays to be nice, especially to little old ladies. You never know what sort of lifetime supply of blessings and good-wishes they have tucked away in those giant old-lady purses, just ready to bestow upon whichever good looking young lad happens to let them ahead at the grocery store, or saves their quart of two-percent from making a mess at the register.