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Do Grocery Cashiers Make Fun of Your Food?

Husband and I recently went grocery shopping after extending our Eat From the Pantry Month from one month to almost two and a half months. After the first month of our challenge, we realized we had enough ingredient type food to keep going and decided to try it for as long as we could.

Seeing the back of the freezer is a welcome change. It won’t last long once I start freezing food from our summer vegetable garden – one of the reasons we challenged ourselves to eat from our pantry and freezer. We still had vegetables and fruit from last summer’s garden in our freezer!

I use empty bottle carriers to organize frozen homemade stock. They are also helpful if you want to keep rolls of ground turkey from rolling out of the freezer on onto your toes!

I checked the grocery store sale circular, the printable coupon database, and did a quick skim of We Use Coupons for possible sale plus coupon match ups on the ingredient type food we buy, and made my shopping list. With my reusable shopping bags securely in the trunk of my car, Husband and I took off for the two grocery store shop hop.

Store #1. Nothing eventful here. Husband and I check out. The cashier is friendly and speedy. Sometimes the cashiers will ask how to cook something we buy because they are curious. Most of the time, we say we’ll have to tell you on the return trip because that’s why we bought it – curiosity!

Store #2 was a regional chain grocery store. I’m not naming it because my intent is not to bash the store. Also, from talking to Facebook friends this happens at other grocery stores too.

We buy fresh vegetables and ingredient stuff we can’t get at Store #1 – garlic, onions, zucchini, fennel, potatoes, nectarines (I caved to their sweet goodness when I saw them on sale), and a whole bunch of berries (good sale) to make jam for holiday gifts unless all of the homemade jam doesn’t end up in our bellies first.

Husband and I jump in the checkout line. I plunk our reusable shopping bags on the belt and start unloading our groceries behind them. The cashier looks at the bags and asks me what he wants me to with them. Do I want to buy them?

These bags are freebies from events and have company logos on them that are not from the store we were shopping. They’re clearly not new because I regularly wash my reusable shopping totes (and you should too to prevent your groceries from cross contaminating.) I’m a little amused and can tell he is a new employee. I ask him to please pack our groceries in our reusable shopping bags. He does with a slight mutter about reusable bags. I get it because this particular store doesn’t have the best set up for cashiers to easily pack reusable shopping bags. He doesn’t make a big deal out of so no problem on our part.

I want to make clear is the cashier, while new, is nice and tries to make pleasant chit chat while ringing up our groceries.  

Only in his attempt at  nice, pleasant chit chat is to tell us how much he doesn’t like the vegetables or any of the food we are buying. The only prepared item on that belt was a can of shaving cream for Husband.

  • The cashier was baffled by the roast we purchased.“Wow! That’s a big piece of meat! How do you even cook that?” Husband gave him a blank stare, “Just like you would any roast I guess, put it in the oven.” It is a rare purchase because we eat more fish and poultry than red meat. When we got home Husband sliced it into several cuts and froze it to use as a condiment in dinners over the course of several months – or longer if some of the packages eventually get buried under fresh frozen garden produce later this summer, ahem.

  • The cashier didn’t know what the fresh garlic or onions were. We told him what the garlic was. He rang up our onions as garlic because he thought they were garlic too. Fortunately, we keep an eye on the checkout menu to catch mistakes because we’re all human and sometimes the cash registers aren’t programmed with the sale prices in a timely manner. Husband pointed out that the onions were onions and not garlic.

  • Good thing we kept on eye on the checkout screen! Our cashier though the zucchini was an eggplant.

  • The cashier did not know what the fresh fennel was but we totally gave him that. It is not common and what Miss 1 of 9 called “weird food” when she was barely Miss 1 of 6.  Fortunately Miss 1of 9 is older now, denies saying it (we thought it was cute in little kid bluntness) and loves to try our “weird food” now with relish!

  • The cashier also commented on how we “must really like berries” because I had approximately 10 containers with two flats of jelly jars behind them on the belt. Apparently he did not read the sale flyer to see there was an excellent by x for $x sale on berries that week.

Actually, I’m surprised the cashier didn’t read or was made to read the sales flier for the store that week. If he had, he may have identified most of the food we purchased or clued in on us taking advantage of the berry bonanza. Husband suggested maybe a stroll through the produce department would be a good training aid since it’s his job to know what basic fresh vegetables look like.

I want to stress that the guy thought he was being nice. He was pleasant so it was hard to get mad at him for telling us over and over he didn’t like to eat this or that as he rang them up. I really wanted to smile and say, “Then that’s all the more for us!” but I didn’t want to be rude, he was trying to do a good job.

Not being able to identify basic fresh vegetables like garlic, onions, and zucchini amused but baffled us. It also made us sad. (It also made me think I'm a little bit of a food snob since I was weirded out about someone not knowing that a yellow onion looks like.)

How many people are growing up not knowing what fresh vegetables look like? Why is there a growing segment of our population that is downright convinced that all vegetables taste bad and should be avoided at all costs? How did we get this way? How do you politely convince someone that cooking from scratch isn’t gourmet, tastes good, is just as speedy (sometimes more), and is a whole lot cheaper than buying processed food even with a coupon? (I'm not knocking coupons. I use them too.)

Has this every happened to you? Have you ever tried to convince a vegetable phobic person that while they may not like one type of vegetable or how it has prepared that is no reason to hate on all vegetables? How did you do it? Did it work?

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Jane said…
Wow, that is crazy!!!! Not knowing what garlic looks like? And I must say .. using bottle carriers to organize your freezer is ingenious!! I hate trying to organize flat bags of stuff because they never stack! I have gotten treated kind of like that at grocery stores .. . I try to use the self service aisles so I don't have to answer questions! And once, at Whole Foods, the cashier said "Wow, you're buying lots of vegetables", I mean at a health foods store? Personally I think it is sad that cashier could not recognize vegetables. Shows where are society is spending their time -- drive throughs!
Mary said…
Sadly, yes, this has happened to me more than once as far as grocery store cashiers not knowing what some basic vegetables are when ringing up my purchase. I also think they ought to at least be familiar with what the store is selling as part of their job training.
Sara said…
I love your bottle carrier idea. I'm going to implement that TONIGHT! I, too, think cashiers are funny. there's hardly a trip where I don't have to tell the cashier what a certain vegetable is. (Yesterday it was bok choy.)
Bok Choy is something we buy that stumps cashiers too. Although I don't fault them for not knowing what the stranger veggies like bok choy, fennel, etc. are or can't tell the difference of kale, mustard greens, dandelion, spinach, etc. Half of the time I can't tell which greens are which on the display without labels because greens look so similar.
ff said…
Haha I used to be a cashier during one summer, so I was the other side to this equation. I grew up where there wasn't a lot of Mexican influence, but this town I worked in had a large one. I was introduced to vegetables and meats that I had never known existed. One day I asked a lady how to prepare cactus leaves because I just couldn't figure it out. She was happy to tell me her recipe.
Traci said…
Okay that's just nuts. My 4 year old knows the difference between garlic and onions. If I had to guess I would say the cashier probably didn't spend much time in the kitchen growing up. And I agree with everyone that the empty bottle carriers is an excellent idea. We use a lot of those rolls of ground turkey and I have suffered many bruises because of them :-)
Kathryn said…
Sounds like the fella was young,inexperienced and ignorant. Sadly, kids today grow up with so much pre-processed food they don't know what it looks like in its original form.

Even so, it is now his job to know what the store does and doesn't have for sale and should be knowledgeable about what items are on sale (but sadly, more times than not, they don't).

Many grocery stores now have a website and want feedback and if the store offers has that, you might want to indicate what you have in the post as on opportunity to improve his performance and the store's performance as a whole.
Azaria said…
I live in the country, so it's not often that someone asks me what something is. Though a couple of times at a Meijer just north of us someone asked me what an avocado was, and every time I buy starfruit they seem baffled that it exists! I have to point it out to them in the little manuals every time.

I have one question though-how do you get the cashiers to use your reusable bags? I've only had a few do it and it's for 1-5 item purchases and I stick them in the bag myself! Though, at Meijer I don't have this problem, I do at places like Save-A-Lot.
Azaria said…
I live in the country, so it's not often that someone asks me what something is. Though a couple of times at a Meijer just north of us someone asked me what an avocado was, and every time I buy starfruit they seem baffled that it exists! I have to point it out to them in the little manuals every time.

I have one question though-how do you get the cashiers to use your reusable bags? I've only had a few do it and it's for 1-5 item purchases and I stick them in the bag myself! Though, at Meijer I don't have this problem, I do at places like Save-A-Lot.
I put my reusable shopping bags on the belt first and unload my groceries behind them. When they get the pile of bags first I tell them I have my own shopping bags. They use them every time.