Supermarket Psychology


Sriacha Sauce


Nah, I’m not gonna talk about how stores get you to buy stuff.  This is more a report on the amateur sport of people watching.  Since I can’t get home delivery of the Toronto Sun, I go out for it Monday to Friday.  There are closer places to pick it up, but I go to a supermarket a mile down the road, because they sell it 50 cents/copy cheaper, as a loss leader.  It’s also the store which installed carts which require a quarter, and I often get the paper free, or nearly so, by putting carts away.

Since I usually have only the one item, I stand in the “Express Lane” checkout line.  This store’s express lines are 12 items or less.  Occasionally I have to remind a clerk or a customer of that.  I stood in another store’s “8 Items or less” line one day behind an entitled bitch who checked out 28 items, for just over $73.  I asked the clerk whether she had trouble counting, or just trouble saying no.  “Well, sometimes when it isn’t busy….”  “There’s me, and four others behind me, all with one or two items.  I think that counts as busy.  Do you need help from the manager??”

Watching people checking out whole cart-loads of groceries is no fun.  They buy everything.  (Almost!)  The fun comes from seeing the one or two items that people absolutely, positively, need, right now, and trying to guess why.  In my first post, I wrote of an older gentleman standing in line with a small bottle of Scope mouthwash, and a pack of Certs gum.  I still think my guess of a hot date that night was a good one.

The wife was going to brown a frozen pie shell, and fill it with instant pudding, as a dessert.  A check in the freezer revealed three boxes of frozen tart shells, but no pie shells.  Quick, over to the store for a package of pie shells – I can see that.  I understand bread, milk, eggs, meat – but some of the rest???!

A woman this week checked out only one tiny bottle of Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce.  I guess if hubby expects chili for supper, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  A man the next day purchased seven (7!) small bottles of sliced olives.  Now why didn’t he buy one large jar??  Is it pizza day at school tomorrow?  So many questions!  So many chances to be told to mind my own F…. business.

I followed a couple of women out late one Friday afternoon.  I thought they might be more than just friends.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I was disabused of my suspicion, when the manlier of the two told her companion that one of the women she worked with, hoped the same thing.  She’d had to explain that, “No, no!  I don’t like girls.  I like guys.”

I thought of KayJai, and her parties.  Each of these gals checked out two 3-liter/quart jugs of Motts Caesar Mix.  The liquor store is just across the plaza.  A 40-ouncer of cheap Vodka apiece, and it’s on to a weekend to forget.

Just yesterday, a shopper left with two, liter bottles of hydrogen peroxide.  Somebody’s going blonde tonight.  I hope it’s somebody’s girlfriend, not the dark Chicano guy who bought them.  A 9-year-old boy, all by himself, checked out behind him with 9 individual Michelina frozen fettuccini meals.  Where are Mom and Dad?  Gone away for the weekend?  Or is the scout troop coming over?

A couple of the clerks are people-watchers like me, and are absolutely mesmerized by the stuff people rush in to pick up.  It’s like a floor-show, without the $8 cover charge and two drink minimum, although one clerk told me there are days she’d pay the eight bucks, and need the drinks.  Sometimes the combinations are, to say the least, intriguing.  One can of tomato paste, and a jug of drain cleaner – Hmmm, is hubby going to make it to tomorrow??

I hope that’s for a Boy Scout baking project.  Otherwise, how many kids do you have in your house, that you need four large boxes of Corn Flakes at three in the afternoon?  Shouldn’t you be buying milk with that?  A chocolate cake, and two mousetraps??  Just what are you trying to catch, hubby stealing a slice?

I was recently up unreasonably unusually early on a Saturday morning, to take the daughter and her friend to a strawberry festival to market their wares.  I stopped into my preferred supermarket shortly after 8 AM opening, and wound up in line  with a bunch of old people.  Huh?  Whazzat?  Who, me too?

The old codger in front of me checked out a jug of orange juice, and a spray can of Pledge furniture polish.  That dust can really sneak up on you.  The white-haired winner behind me had a round loaf of Portuguese bread, and what looked like a small slab of Feta cheese.

Ever nosy tactful, I asked, “Is that breakfast?”  “Oh yes!  Toast and cheese.”  Oh, great, something else to look forward to, not being able to think about things like eating, until hunger pangs hit.  Then they all go to the McDonalds across the street, and nurse a coffee till lunch time.  People-watching is fun.  Just ask the folks who watch me.

21 thoughts on “Supermarket Psychology

  1. 1jaded1 says:

    Haha…my favorite is when someone goes into the express lane and buys 3 items of one thing, 10 items of another, 8 items of a third and 14 individual items and says to the cashier, “hee, i only have 17 things.” And the store is busy….


  2. BrainRants says:

    My people watching dies quickly in the light of supermarket anger at these kind of antics.


  3. The 2 large bottles of hydrogen peroxide is not that odd. Maybe his dog got sprayed by a skunk, and he already had the tomato juice in stock. Although, come to think of it, you probably would have known from several feet away if the gentleman had been anywhere near a skunk-sprayed dog.


  4. Jim Wheeler says:

    One interesting thing I’ve noticed about grocery shelves is the trend toward larger and larger sizes in packaging. There are amazingly large sizes of stuff like pickles, jalapeños, mayonnaise (Miracle Whip), cereal of course, and even meat. Who needs two gallons of pickles?

    There is the occasional reason for larger, I know, but the supply seems disproportionate. The wife yesterday bought 4 pounds of ground beef because with the approach of cooler weather she intends to cook and then freeze spaghetti sauce and also her special chili.

    I have tried of late to buy milk in the 1 quart size and sometimes have trouble finding it. Only use it for cereal in the mornings and it fits the refrigerator nicely. Lasts a week, which is pretty much its shelf life. When I find the size, I’ll buy more than one and freeze the rest. Must be driving the dairy manager crazy. 🙂


    • Archon's Den says:

      I also am seeing more of the bigger and bigger sizes, and it doesn’t seem to correlate with smaller families. At least my local stores are large enough to stock all sizes, including the small, but a little old lady took out a box of Raisin Bran that was as tall as she was. I hope I never need that much

      We sometimes stop into the Canadian Wholesale Warehouse, which will also sell to individuals. They have sizes which make Costco look like an amateur. I’m sure I saw a steak with a hoof on both ends. The oriental ahead of me the other day had his corporate discount bring his total down from $3375 to only $2978. 😯


  5. My husband is a people watcher, and is always saying ‘did you see him/her’, I am not a watcher, thus an argument ensues.


  6. aFrankAngle says:

    The grocery is a place for amusement and frustration … both of which you captured (although focusing on the amusement). Cheers to your humor via your twisted mind. 🙂


  7. Sightsnbytes says:

    years ago when my mom still worked in a department store, my dad used to wait for her to get off work and bring her home. While waiting, he invented his own game to pass the time away. he called it the ‘fat – thin game’. he would count the number of fat people vs the number of thin people. Fat always won…he would say.


  8. Nan Falkner says:

    Supermarket psychology is funny – I love to people watch too! Sometimes I stay in the car while my husband goes in to get milk, bread, and eggs. I will stay or just watch on the bench inside the store. It is fun – I agree.
    Nan 🙂


    • Archon's Den says:

      Like your husband, because of the wife’s increasing mobility problems, I have had more of the shopping chores devolve on me. I could always walk and chew gum at the same time. Now I can shop and people watch too. (Snicker, snicker, tee hee!) 😆


  9. shimoniac says:

    Yeah, we watch you, but mostly from a sense of morbid curiosity. 😛 People watching generally reminds me of a bumper sticker I’ve seen, “Too many freaks, not enough circuses.”


  10. Kayjai says:

    Yeah, we don’t buy the Ceasar mix…we do buy the Vodka though…;))


  11. benzeknees says:

    Back when I used to grocery shop I loved trying to figure out what people were doing with the items they were buying too! Of course, my purchases were always perfectly reasonable (TIC)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s