Grocery Store Extreme Workout

groceries

Over the past couple of years – okay, the past decade –  I haven’t really spent a lot of time at the gym….okay, no time at the gym.  At all.

I gave up the dream of washboard abs a long time ago, and settled on a tub washer with a lint trap.  Settling is nature’s way of achieving all your mediocre dreams.

I did get a gym membership once – carried that sucker around in my wallet for a whole year, but didn’t lose an ounce.  Total waste of money!

Well, I have to tell you my latest secret for staying in such great shape….average shape….I have a shape.

I get groceries.

That’s right – the geriatric crowd has kept this little exercise tidbit from us all this time. It’s probably why they go shopping every day.

capture

Here’s my routine:

‘BAD WHEEL SHOPPING CART FOREARM CRUNCH’

This exercise is simple, but you need to spend some time finding a cart with an annoying wheel that doesn’t turn properly – usually pretty easy to find at my store;  I just look for the abandoned ones.  Now, they will either constantly pull to the right or the left – to balance your workout routine, try to swap it out halfway through your shopping trip, or be sure to focus on the other side on your next trip.

The constant ‘pull’ to one side provides a steady anaerobic resistance that over time will develop not only your forearms and wrists, it might just clear up that sciatica problem in your hip.  Be sure to navigate the store in the opposite direction of the pull or you might spend the day circling the broccoli and never get to the snack aisle.

‘ DROP AND GIVE ME 10…CANS OF SOUP’

Soup cans are surprisingly heavy if you hold them long enough.  Carrying around an arm-full will get you ‘feeling the burn’ in no time.

Try getting the soup from the bottom shelf – this incorporates deep knee bends with the repetitive weight lifting of the cans.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the soup down there – this is about more than your sensitive pallet.

You can get some good aerobic exercise as well if you load up your arms then find that your spouse/training partner has moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘BOTTLED WATER WEIGHT TRAINING’

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Pick up the biggest bundle of bottled water they sell – again, preferably on the bottom or top shelf – waist height is a waste of time.

Be sure that when you try to put it on the lower rack, the shopping cart keeps moving backwards so you have to crab-walk along trying to heave the darn thing into place.

Also, as mentioned above, you can get an extra workout if your spouse/training partner has again moved the cart to the next aisle.

‘REACH FOR THE SKY…HIGH PRICED DOG FOOD BAG’

The great thing about this is that most grocery stores put the heaviest dog food bags on either the ground or 7′ up.

Haul that sucker onto your shoulder and once again attempt to slide it onto the lower shelf of the cart.  Be sure to stretch fully to extend your soon-to-be tight tendons.

Cat food doesn’t count – they don’t eat enough to give you the weight resistance you need.

Even if you don’t have a pet, you can hang out and help someone else get theirs.  That’s a double win – exercise and some goodwill!

‘BAG OVERLOAD ARM CURLS’

Just because you’re done filling your cart and are heading to the checkout, the workout isn’t over yet!

Make sure all the canned goods are packed as tightly and as high as possible into one or two shopping bags.  Take advantage of this to work your biceps by lifting them off the belt and into the cart – then out of the cart and into the trunk.

Once you’re done, give the cart forearm crunch one more good go – walk that antagonistic annoyance all the way back into the store…maybe hand it to another shopper who could use a good workout.  I’m sure they’ll thank you for it.  Eventually.

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Things that bug me (but probably shouldn’t)

Bugs meDon’t know if it’s just that I’m getting old and crusty, or I’ve been reading too much of ‘Ben’s Bitter Blog’, but there’s a bunch of stuff that drives me nuts.  Stuff that really shouldn’t:

  • People who call water heaters ‘hot water heaters’….you don’t need to heat hot water!
  • Running out of soap in the soap dispenser and pumping the thing like crazy and finally giving up but not going and refilling it and doing it again later
  • Opening the door to let the dog out and having a swarm of flies come buzzing into the house like they’ve been waiting there all along
  • Cars blocking the right turn lane at an intersection because they’re going straight even though it’s a right turn lane and the 6 cars turning right behind it have to wait until the light turns green…
  • People who don’t have any spacial awareness with their shopping carts and block the aisles in the stores while reading the ingredients on a soup can and no one can go around them and they don’t even notice or don’t care 
  • That smudge on my glasses that I can’t get rid of and it’s dead center in my line of sight
  • Having the coffee maker shut off half way through making a pot
  • Filling the car with gas an hour before the price drops
  • People who mis-dial you and leave a message for someone else even though you clearly identify yourself on the outgoing message
  • People who leave an outgoing message on their answering machine by only providing their phone number – the one you just dialed!
  • Putting your garbage out on a really windy day and by the time the garbage truck comes, the recycling box has blown down the street then you have to go on a search mission to get your recycling boxes back
  • Nose hair….on anyone
  • Dog owners who let their pets ‘go’ on my lawn
  • E-bikes, mopeds or scooters that go too slow to follow, but are on streets that don’t allow you to pass
  • Cars parked directly across from each other on narrow streets, making it nearly impossible to navigate
  • ‘Continental Breakfasts’….bring me bacon!
  • Button-fly jeans.  I’m over 50…buttons are for shirts, not pants
  • 3 ring binders – I’m left-handed.

Ahh!  Now that feels better….

Anything bugging you?

…’With a little help from my friends’…

min·ion
ˈminyən/
noun
plural noun: minions
1.
a follower or underling of a powerful person, esp. a servile or unimportant one.
synonyms: underling, henchman, flunky, lackey, hanger-on, follower, servant, hireling, vassal, stooge, toady, sycophant;

I wish I’d thought of it years ago, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.  I need some minions.  I need unquestioning followers who will do my bidding without reservation, complaint, or hesitation.

Imagine a world where all you had to do was ask, and whatever you requested would be granted; where obedient subjects blindly take all orders and execute them without delay.

Oh sure, I had kids who I could order around for a while, but eventually you see that look in their suspicious little faces, questioning simple requests;

“Go get Daddy another beer.”

“Hold this while I start up the chainsaw”

“Don’t tell Mom I broke it.  It’ll be our little secret.”

You know, the usual stuff. That’s when you know that they know something isn’t quite right with this symbiotic relationship, and your hope of having a permanent underling to do your dirty work is done.  They’re so ungrateful, those kids!

I have lots of friends…well, a few friends, but they’re all too smart to go along with any wild world domination plans I might have.  I need to wear dark sunglasses when I ask them to get me the necessary parts to make a death-ray.  They can see the crazy in my eyes which is a giveaway that I might not be quite right.

I’m too broke to hire a personal assistant, like they do in Hollywood.  That looks like a pretty sweet gig!  Imagine having someone walk the dog, pick up laundry, cook supper, clean the pool and massage your tired feet after a long day of shouting ridiculous orders at them.

I have a dog, who I guess would be a good minion since she has unwavering loyalty to me, except that it kind of works in reverse for us.  I feed her, carry her down the stairs, walk her, pick up after her, brush her fur….hmmm.

I might have looked at interns, but big business has ruined that sweet little free labour pool for the common man.

Even Dr. Frankenstein had Igor, but you could tell that the poor hunchback would shiv the bad doctor at his first chance, given the way he was treated.

The only thing left for guys like me are ‘minions’, but where do you start?  Is there a ‘Minion Mail Order’ website?  Where do these minions come from anyway?  How do you know that they’ll stupidly accommodate every insane request you make without hesitation?  Is there a vetting or interview process?

There’s lots I need to research, to be sure.

How many do I need?  Do I start with a half-dozen and see how things are going?  Do I have to give them names?  Maybe they all get the same name and somehow can just figure out who I’m talking to, kind of like George Foreman did.

What about feeding?  Do they need a special minion diet, and if so, do I get a minion to serve it to himself?

I know they’re all ‘him’s’ because no girl minion would be dumb enough to blindly follow me around all day.

What if they unionize? I’d hate for them to be carrying me over to the treadmill then stopping halfway because of a negotiated coffee break.  I’d be stuck there for 15 minutes!

Where do they sleep?  Do they sleep?

If one gets away, do I go after it like a lost sheep, or just call up my minion supplier and order a replacement?

Wow.  This is getting to be a lot of work!  Maybe this whole minion thing needs a rethink.  Maybe I should just depend on me to do my dastardly deeds.  At least I know I would do things exactly the way I wanted them done.

Maybe that’s the fatal flaw with minions.  The movies prove it.  Every time a super villain (not suggesting I want to be one) has minions do his dirty work, something goes wrong and they end up failing in their bid to blow up the moon or detach California from the rest of the continent.

I think villains should aim a little lower, at least to start.  Pretty sure that if you want to vaporize a planet, a lot of people are going to try to stop you, but if you wanted to take a shopping cart past the store parking lot, you might go unnoticed.

That’s a job even the simplest of minions could handle.

My insidious little plan?  Why do I really need minions?  I haven’t figured that one out yet, and it would spoil the surprise, but you have know that being the master of a bunch of mindless followers has it’s appeal.

Regardless, I’d start out small, maybe washing the car if the weather gets above freezing.

I won’t work them up to continental annihilation until I’m sure they can follow basic direction.  There’s nothing worse than commandeering every television station in the world to give the nations notice that if they don’t comply with my demands, I’ll blow up Iceland, only to find out that the minions forgot to plug in my death ray.

Or, maybe I just need to stop watching sci-fi reruns and go outside…it’s been a loooong winter!

Yeah, forget the minions.  I’m the only one who can do things my way.  I’ll be my own master, and serve my dog mindlessly.

P.S. – I tried to warn you about winter in my last blog, but nooo!  You all thought my little petition was a hoax, and now we’re stuck digging out of another lousy storm.  Well, you can’t complain if you didn’t vote.

Design Flaw

You can stand in a field, holding a small electronic device and have a ‘real-time’ video conversation with someone halfway around the globe, but the kitchen appliance companies can’t make that stupid drawer at the bottom of the stove stay on its tracks when you pull it out.

Sometimes we simply put up with lousy design like it’s too hard for the builders of such things to make them work properly.

We can tunnel from two different points, miles apart, and have them meet up perfectly in the middle, but the lighter on the barbeque quits after about 3 months.  Instead of insisting on better design, we usually get one of those butane lighters or turn on the gas and throw matches in, hoping to not blow ourselves up.  Heck, even the stupid lighters don’t work properly.  I have one in the drawer that’s half-full but won’t spark.

Shopping carts with one wheel that won’t turn properly!  Aaargh!!  It’s a wheel, for Pete’s sake!  They’ve been around since the stone age.

How about that packaging that you can’t get in to?  Well, a company made a nifty little device that will cut right through it with ease.  The problem?  It comes in the same bullet-proof packaging that you can’t get into in the first place.  Brilliant!

My biggest complaint has to be about windshield wipers.  How is it that we’ve had cars on the road for more than 100 years, that now have the technology to see around corners, park themselves, control the climate, talk to you, give directions, heat your bum on cold mornings, but the crappy wipers are frozen to the windshield,

making the only really important thing about driving – being able to see where you’re going – nearly impossible!

I don’t get it.  Why can car makers not get this figured out? There are after-market washer fluid heaters you can install so those little jets don’t clam up with ice.  Okay, that’s a good start, but it still won’t make the frozen wipers squeegee the glass properly.  And, why does that have to be an after-market item?

Many cars have heaters that warm up the windshield, but usually it doesn’t heat the wiper blades, so they just flop back and forth, smearing the snow-yuck around instead of clearing it from view.

Maybe the car engineers are being paid off by the windshield washer fluid companies.  When the wipers don’t work properly, your only option is to keep hitting the wash button until you’ve spent the entire jug.

Where is Ralph Nader when we need him?  Why doesn’t Consumer Report mention this problem?

I made a deal with my son, who is in school to become an engineer, that his first task once he’s done, is to come up with a way to keep the wipers warm and nimble in any weather condition.

Is that the real key here?  Is it an ignorance of the northern climates by the big auto makers?  Do they think everyone lives in California?  All that advertizing showing their vehicles crashing happily through snowbanks would suggest not, but what’s the deal?

Hey, GM and Ford, Chrysler and Toyota…you gotta have about 20,000 well-trained professionals figuring out how to get the car to say ‘Good Morning’ to you when you step onto your driveway.  How about you put a couple of them on the wiper issue, eh?

That’d be swell…and just in time for summer.

Oh Service, Where Art Thou?

Because I’ve been the ‘stay at home’ Dad lately, I’ve been doing a lot of the day to day shopping, and as a result, inspiration for my rants blogs have had a common theme.  Sorry about that.  This one had been rolling around in the ‘draft’ bucket for some time, since it keeps coming across as really preachy and not ‘light’, breaking my first rule of blogging.

Anyway, with all that rambling and apologizing, here goes…

We all have horror stories about lousy customer service.

I spent some time in the Customer Service world, initially in the hotel business, then in sales and working with retail stores.  I don’t know if this qualifies me as an expert; in fact, anyone who ever sat in a restaurant or bought something at a store is as much an expert on the topic.

You’d think that given the poor economy, businesses would make a special effort at trying to improve the customer experience.  You’d think.  The economic slow down has not only not improved customer service, but it’s also made the average shopper a lot less patient.

We, the almighty discretionary spenders, have short fuses, expect more for our dollars, and demand a better interaction with staff.  We’re not looking for perfection – even mediocre service is often considered acceptable, so it shouldn’t be that hard to please us.

So, why is it that  we’re regularly met with apathetic, un-knowledgeable, and downright stupid retail and service experiences?

I had an awful experience at a major retail store which is now closed, not surprisingly.

It was just before Christmas, and I was out shopping with my wife and 2 kids who were young, but school-aged.  While in the store, I saw some small gift items that I decided to purchase for my staff as Christmas gifts.  I’m such as swell guy!

this particular store was in a mall, but was one of those large anchor stores that had multiple floors – quite large.

I needed a number of these gifts – too many to carry, so along with the stuff we were already buying and towing two kids behind, I needed to get a shopping cart or basket of some kind.  I headed over to one of the entrances where they corralled the carts.  Keep in mind that this was a fully enclosed store, and shopping carts would not fit through the exit barricades.

When I got to the shopping cart area, I found that they required money to ‘unlock’ them. 

The idea behind forcing customers to ‘rent’ shopping carts so we can buy things in a store, just so they can ensure the carts are put back is a whole other blog, and one of the stupidest things ever invented.  The really ridiculous thing about this was that the carts in this particular store couldn’t physically be taken out in the first place, so why would they need a quarter for me to get one?

I reached into my pocket and found out that I only had 3 dimes.  My wife didn’t have any change either.  In fact, we had no other cash with us at all, planning to use debit cards for our purchases.

Now I had to stand in line at the only cashier aisle that was open – there were 4 aisles, but only one cashier on duty, another issue with lousy service.  By this time my patience was wearing thin, my wife had this look like ‘please don’t make a scene’, and the kids were starting to get fidgety.  Fidgety kids are bad!

Finally, I got to the cashier, and told her that I needed to exchange 3 dimes for a quarter (and an nickel) for the shopping carts that shouldn’t require any money in the first place.

Oh, our carts require a Looney“.

For those of you not from Canada, a Looney is our $1 coin, which replaced the $1 bill a while ago.  It’s called the ‘Looney’ because it has the image of a Loon on it.

Exasperated, I gave her a look like I was about to go postal.  The elderly couple who had just made their purchase and were picking up their parcels offered me a Looney.

No, thank you“, I politely said.  “I want the store to get me a shopping cart, so I can buy things from them“, loudly enough for everyone within a 100 yard radius to hear.

The young lady at the cash register was starting to look nervous.

I turned my attention back to her. I don’t have a dollar.  I want you to give me a shopping cart so I can put things in it.  That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

I did feel for her – it wasn’t her fault, and I was trying hard not to blame her.

Customer Service can unlock them for you, if you like.  Okay, then.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

Good.  Get Customer Service to unlock one for me, then.

You’ll have to go and ask them to do it for you“.

I have to go ask them?”  I was furious by this point.  Normal people would have just walked out of the store, but  as you probably know by now, I’m not normal.  I had an axe to grind.Where is Customer Service, then?

The Customer Service desk is up on the second floor, at the far end of the store“.

Insert an appropriate expletive here.

Let me summarize;  I went to the store to buy things.  I needed a cart, but the store had them locked up, and were charging money for me to ‘borrow’ one – one that could not possibly leave the store anyway.  Then, after having to stand in line to get change, finding out that I was lacking the cash on hand, I was then forced to leave everything, go up the escalator to the complete opposite side of the store just to ask for a cart.

What would you do?

There’s an old marketing rule that explains the economics of customers;  It costs 7 times more to get a new customer than it does to keep the customers you already have.  That means that losing a customer costs you big time.  Keeping a customer is dirt cheap.

Here’s some free advice for business owners and managers that will easily and inexpensively help you keep your customers, and grow your business – take it or leave it.  I’m sure you all have many more ideas:

  • Train your staff.  We shouldn’t have to track down a store employee to ask a question, only to find out that they don’t work in that department, don’t have a key for that locked up display case, or don’t know enough about the products they sell.  I had a business owner once tell me that they didn’t spend time training their staff because the turn-over rate was too high.  So, in essence, he was saying he didn’t train his staff because they might leave.  What if he never trained them but they stayed?
  • Empower your staff.  Make each employee the manager of the moment.  Give them the power to make things right with the customer if there’s a complaint.  Don’t make us wait for the manager all the time.
  • Hire the attitude, train the skill. Almost everyone can learn how to run a cash register.  That’s a trainable skill.  What you can’t train is the attitude of the employee.  Find people who want to work with people, who have an upbeat attitude and have a passion for their work.  You can train everything else they need for the job.
  • Make it easy to shop.  Hand out baskets or carts when customers arrive.  Why do you think Walmart is so successful?  They hand you a shopping cart as soon as you walk through the doors.  Make your staff park away from the store front – give the premium spots to the customers.
  • Improve your image.  Keep aisles open and uncluttered, replace burned out bulbs, keep the business clean.  By the way – vacuuming at the end of the day, while customers are still shopping is just rude.  Stop it! Enforce appropriate, consistent attire for your staff, and for Pete’s sake, don’t let them stand outside the front doors on their smoke break!
  • Stock and Price your products.  Few things are more frustrating than finding an item, but having no idea how much it costs, or not finding an advertized item at all.  A major US grocer did a study on abandoned shopping carts – carts that had items in them but the shopper left the store.  They looked at where the carts were abandoned in the store. There were 2 main reasons people walked out;  1- the item they were looking for was out of stock, and 2 – the items were not priced.
  • Be a gracious host. Think of every shopper as a guest in your own home.  Say ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’.  Offer a welcoming environment.  In restaurants, offer water or coffee, give them the menus and ask if they would like anything to start while they’re deciding.  When they’re finished, thank them for their business.
  • Hurry up!  Don’t ever make people wait to give you money.  Speed up the cash lines, or get back to the table in a restaurant to pick up the check payment – once people have made their purchase decision, or have eaten their meals, they want to leave.  Don’t make them wait.
  • Follow up.  If you sell big ticket items like furniture or appliances, send a thank you note to your customer. They sell thank you cards in bulk at the dollar store.  We purchased custom made furniture for our house that cost thousands of dollars – no follow up, no thank you note, no anything.  At the same time, we bought an inexpensive coffee table from another place and got a nice letter in the mail thanking us, and a discount coupon for our next visit.

I think you’d agree that these are simple enough to do.

Now that I’ve had my little rant about service personnel (mostly management), I have to point out how poorly we, the customers, treat the front-line workers.  We too often treat these hard working people as ‘non-humans’ with angry rants, rude conduct, and complete disrespect.

At what point did it become okay to treat other human beings like pieces of garbage?

I was waiting in a service center, where they rented vehicles.  A man and his wife came in from the pouring rain, to be greeted by a nice, young, very pregnant woman behind the counter.  Turns out, the man booked a rental, but at the wrong location, and had to now drive about 20 miles to the other location.  It was completely his fault, but he was so angry, that he threatened to kill the lady behind the counter if he drove all that way and his rental wasn’t available. She handled the situation like a pro, though.

Anyone who calls themselves a good person, then treats a service worker like a piece of trash is a hypocrite, and needs to have their moral compass realigned.  I’m sure there’s a lot of you out there who would like to do the realigning.

How about we all treat each other a little better.  Your waiter, server, customer service rep, cashier, or whatever, has their own share of junk going on in their lives.  Let’s give them a break if they forget to bring the glass of water you ordered, for Pete’s sake – it’s not the apocalypse.

For the service staff, and in particular, the service management, think from the perspective of the customer more often.  Make notes of what bugs you when you are being served less than professionally, then adopt the fix in your own work environment.  Conduct business with the focus on the 98% of the great customers, and not on the 2% that will rip you off.

Maybe then we’d all relax and enjoy work and play a bit more. We could all use a huge dose of that, right?

Sorry about the rant – sometimes you just can’t avoid it.

Oh, by the way, I did end up buying the Christmas items, but I wrote a very direct note to the executive of the company.  I never did hear back from them, though.