Grocer X: Don’t be an asshole during your holiday shopping trip

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The Day of Thanks is upon us. Soon you’ll be loosening the buttons on your trousers in order to sit comfortably on the sofa, teeming with thankfulness, joy and a stomach-full of holiday cheer. Fried turkeys, butternut somethings, So-and-So’s signature whatever and that other person’s famous pie recipe are on menus across the country. Who doesn’t love the food holiday to end all food holidays?

I don’t.

There are very few things in the grocery world worse than Thanksgiving. I can tell you with the utmost certainty that each and every retail grocer from here to Plymouth Rock is sick of the holiday sprit, and has been since two weeks ago.

Go ahead and complain about not finding a parking spot, fighting for a basket and standing in long lines at the checkout; you have no idea what it’s like on the other side of the shopping cart.

Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to it signal the rise of all that is unholy about the retail holiday season. (Don’t even get me started on “Black Friday.”) It’s not the start of incessant holiday music, the volume of shoppers or the amount of goods they demand that make Thanksgiving such a deplorable event on the retail calendar. It’s the shoppers themselves.

Ever had a little ol’ lady push her finger into your chest and claim you’ve ruined her holiday because the green beans weren’t picture-perfect? I have, multiple times.

Then there’s the guy who’ll leave his car running in the fire lane to stop in and take advantage the 20-cents-per-pound turkey deal advertised in the paper. He never reads past the “per lb.” and can’t wrap his mind around the “with $50 dollar purchase of participating items” clause in the fine print. I’ve ruined his holiday plenty of times, too.

“Well, all I need is the bird. Don’t you know how much money I spend here?” he says, every year.

“I’m sorry, sir. The computer won’t let me make an exception,” I say. (That’s grocery-talk for "Not my problem.")

Worse yet are the dawdlers, those who show up well after the day’s shopping spree has passed, expecting the finest of fine ingredients, plentiful stock, and St. Nick himself escorting them down the aisles. Grocery workers are exhausted and bitter and, of course, out of the daily “while supplies last” special. That should be a given at 10 o’clock at night. Don’t you know, quite literally, hundreds of people were shopping for the same thing?

It’s that same loathsome group showing up on Thanksgiving Day saying, “I’m so sorry you have to work today.” The way I see it, you can take that apology and shove it. You don’t really care that we tired, broken souls don’t get to spend time with our families on the holidays. If you did, you wouldn’t be here, on a freaking holiday, asking me if there are any take-and-bake dinner rolls left. What the hell is wrong with you?

If — and that’s a big if — we’re lucky enough to work at a store that closes early on holidays, the dawdlers are still there. Like action heroes trying to dive through the gap of a collapsing tomb entrance, they sprint to the sliding door, begging, “Please, I only need one more thing!” (They’re lying, unless their use of “thing” means another full basket.)

I could keep going; holiday couponers, food-stamp swindlers, people who eat Tofu-rkey, the list goes on and on. As a matter of fact, I’d be surprised if there’s any kind of customer who doesn’t add to the holiday angst.

Maybe in some parallel universe there’s that perfect holiday shopper. The one whose categorized list includes a pricing index and who placed their bulk orders 24 hours in advance. One to whom promotional copy is not foreign literature, who can read every rule and regulation and doesn’t wait until the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to head to the store. It’s not likely, but a retail clerk can dream, right?

I know that it’s my job to facilitate your holiday shopping trips. I know you’re all going to show up at the store no matter what I say, and I know you’re all going to buy a whole lot of stuff you don’t usually buy. It’s that time of year.

Please, just don’t be an asshole about it.

Thank you for shopping with us.

The man behind the apron is Craig Lemley, digital content coordinator here at the Indy. The Colorado Springs native spent nearly a decade working in grocery stores across the Pikes Peak region before retiring his produce knife for a surprisingly less-stressful media career. Follow him on twitter (@_CraigLemley) or send questions/comments to clemley@csindy.com.

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