Grocery Shopping or Night on the Town?

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I love grocery shopping. Recently though, it has become a headache. Let me share my experience the last few times I went to Whole Foods:

First I drive around the parking lot for 10 minutes, only to finally have to park near the back. Once I’m in the store, I find myself thinking “This place sure is crowded for Friday at 8pm.” Looking around, instead of the laid back, casual shoppers, I see women with salon style hairdos and men dressed in perfectly pressed khakis and ties. Many have wine glasses in one hand and napkins with bites of wild salmon or locally grown salads in the other. As I try my best to navigate my wobbly cart (yes, even upscale stores like WF have yet to master grocery carts that go where you want them to), I see signs on tables that clue me in to the fact that these people aren’t like me, trying to find something healthy to go home and make a late dinner with. Instead they have forgone their regular Friday nights out at the local bars to hanging out in a grocery store.

In addition to trying to make it through long lines of people who look at me like I’m the odd one in this situation, I also become increasingly frustrated as I am trying to get something off the shelf that is blocked by the two women in skirts and full makeup chitchatting in the aisles. “Excuse me” I say, only to be met with that same look that says I’m in their way. They move about 2 inches, only to give me an even more disgusted look when I ask them to move again. The whole experience has left me frustrated, more tired, and ready to leave the store without buying anything.

If you think this is only something that goes on in stores like Whole Foods, think again. The grocery store in my neighborhood, a Giant Eagle, where you can buy everyday things like soda and Oreos, does the same thing. They do wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, grocery store tours (who wants, or needs, to take a tour of a grocery store?) and they do them during the times when people are less likely to be working (weekend afternoons, evenings), which is also the time when most people have to shop.

I get why they do it, I really do. What I don’t get though is why they feel the need to alienate customers who simply want to do their shopping without feeling like they are the outcasts. Is it because people need groceries and they figure they’ll come back anyway? Because I have to say, if this is their line of thinking, it doesn’t make a lot of sense in a day and age when we have more options than ever. I have 5 grocery stores within 2 miles of my house, and that’s not even counting the Wal-Mart, where I refuse to shop. I love Whole Foods, and the Giant Eagle is the closest grocery store to my house. I’m also fortunate enough to be able to arrange my schedule to do my shopping during non peak times, but the fact that these places seem to not care about the customers who are actually shopping makes me not want to go at all. In fact, I’ve made a conscious decision to go to one of the other stores in my area the last few times I’ve shopped. I’m all for a night out, but not in the frozen food aisle.
This is what makes me yearn for summer months, when I can do most of my shopping at farmer’s markets.

When did grocery stores become a destination instead of just the place you go because you need to get milk and bread and other household goods? What do you think of this trend? Have you spent a Friday night at Whole Foods learning about local wines or a Saturday afternoon in front of the meat case watching a demo on how to cook the best rack of lamb? I’m interested to know you’re thoughts, because I can’t be the only one.

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