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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Irene Paterka

Slot Machines in a Grocery Store?

My daughter and her family live in Las Vegas. When they shop for groceries, the first thing that greets them inside the store is a row of big gaudy slot machines. Ding, ding, ding! Spend a little money and you could win some cash and increase your food budget! 


Only in Vegas, right? I live in Michigan, and my local grocery doesn’t have slot machines. When I stroll in the door, I’m greeted by a row of carts, shopping ads, sanitary spray bottles and wipes (thank you, COVID), and a bank of coupon inserts. I’m usually at the grocery twice a week (we eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables at our house). I grab a cart and stroll the aisles, checking out what looks good, what’s on sale, how much a can of beets costs. My husband Steve and I split a can of beets in our dinner salads every night. Before COVID, beets cost $0.59. Not anymore. They’re now $1.29 per can. Simply adding beets to our salads now costs us $9 p/week. And that still doesn’t include the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, etc. The price of eating healthy, right?



Crazy! Who figures out these prices? Last week, the store where I usually shop was advertising an 8-ounce bag of “brand name” potato chips at $3.99… OR two bags for $6.00. Steve and I don’t eat chips, but we DO eat beets. I’ve yet to see beets promoted with a special sale price or a “buy 2, get 1 free” catchy jingle. Who decides what goes on sale?

 

Prices can be a challenge. Another challenge? The grocery carts. Some have wobbly wheels, some squeak, squeak, squeak as you navigate the aisles. And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about all those abandoned carts in the parking lot. Who’s responsible for returning them to the store? The customer, or the grocery clerks? I try my best, but I’ll admit that I’m not always a good Samaritan: especially in winter with the ice and slushy snow.

 

Shopping at our grocery can take time. I live in a small town and the store is a popular place for locals to catch up. The aisles are often clogged as shoppers stall out in produce, cereal, dairy, and frozen food sections, swapping stories about their families, friends, and the latest Have you heard?!? When it comes time to check out, the gridlock can get especially bad. Our grocery has no “Self-Checkout” lanes. Making matters worse, there’s often only one cashier available. As the line begin to back up, people jostle for position, trading glances at each other’s carts, scoping out the number of items inside. When does management call for back-up? How long is the line allowed to grow? Do they have a rule about this sort of thing? Is there a “magic eye” watching somewhere overhead?

 

It's a sure bet the Vegas grocery stores have plenty of “magic eye” cameras watching… all those slot machines, right?

 

Okay, so why all my questions about grocery stores? The answer is easy: Research. When I was doing research for my book LOTTO LUCY, I visited a Jaguar dealership (in Vegas, naturally!). I sat behind the wheel of that Jag... talk about sweet! (no, I did not buy the car). Meanwhile, my new book includes a main character who works in a grocery store. And while I’ve worked a variety of jobs, when it comes to grocery stores, I’m strictly a consumer.

 


But as an author, I have plenty of questions!

 

What happens if the freezer goes on the fritz? Do they throw out the ice cream before it melts? Offer a “2 for 1” sale on frozen pizzas before the pepperoni thaws?

 

Remember how COVID made shopping for groceries such a challenge? Just before the world shut down in late March 2020, I remember being at the grocery and seeing a man, panic in his eyes, steering a cart toward the check-out. The only thing in his cart? Toilet paper. Rolls and rolls of toilet paper. Our grocery finally put up a sign: "Limit one per customer". That is, when they actually had toilet paper in stock.

 

What goes on behind the swinging doors of the produce section? How often do deliveries show up? Who unloads the trucks? The driver or the stockroom personnel? And once the produce is unloaded, who decides how it’s displayed? Lettuce, carrots, fresh tomatoes; do the stores provide marketing classes for this type of thing?

 

If you’ve ever worked in a grocery store, I’d love to hear about your experience: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Please help me with my research by dropping me a comment. And who knows? Your name might end up in the "Acknowledgements" section of my next book!

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5 Comments


Guest
Mar 18

I did work at Olesons as a cashier under Leroy. I worked parttime evenings opposite Mike's work hours so we didn't have to pay for babysitter.(this was before Keith came along and Mike got switched to afternoons). I really didn't mind the job. Sure there were cranky customers and customer service is truely a thankless job BUT my biggest complaint would be standing on your feet that long(I couldn't do that anymore) and at Olesons the disadvantage of being by the door opening. Especially in the winter. BRRRRRR. I hate self checkout and personally never use it. First of all, a live person could use that job and second, I always screw it up and need a live person anyh…

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Guest
Mar 15

You might put something in your book about the unfortunate person that has to round up all of those carts in the extremely hot or extremely cold and icy weather.

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Kathleen Paterka
Kathleen Paterka
Mar 15
Replying to

Pulling live action from a grocery store offers so much interaction... from customers and staff alike.

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Guest
Mar 15

Cathy, you need to talk to Bob Borths, retired olesons manager. He would be able to answer all of your questions about grocery stores. Good luck.

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Kathleen Paterka
Kathleen Paterka
Mar 15
Replying to

That is a GREAT idea! Thanks!

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Robbd by a nun

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