Remember When You Could Go To the Supermarket Without Being Offered Something You Didn’t Want?

Remember when you could go to the supermarket without being offered to enter a contest, or asked to make a donation, or join a mailing list, or solicited with anything other than the items you went there to buy?

I do.

My childhood memories of going to the supermarket are sepia-toned.  Mostly I remember buying a lot of cereal, and begging for cookies and soda to no avail. One time I found a $20 bill on the floor in the produce section and did not tell anyone.

But today it seems like every time I walk through those automatic doors I’m bombarded by people trying to get me to enter a contest or make a donation when all I really want to do is get my Mojito Mix and Vanilla Wafers and get out of there.

The other day I went to the supermarket and as the automatic doors opened a man in a shirt and tie greeted me. I assumed he was the greeter – perhaps placed through some community outreach program – and greeted him back. Then he held out a stack of green slips and a pen and asked me if I wanted to enter to win a shopping spree. I entertained a short mental film of myself running through the aisles, like a contestant on that game show Supermarket Sweep, going for the whole roast turkeys and then the medicine aisle. I shook my head and walked on, and felt bad about rebuffing him until I got to the free samples of cheese.

Another time I was greeted by a pair of high schoolers selling candy bars to fund a class on the causes of obesity. I told them that I’d sold my collection of Garbage Pail Kids to pay my property taxes and teenagers still did not seem to know anything beyond a bunch of acronyms.  And they were like, “OMG!”  And I was like, “TTYL.”

But the most memorable supermarket solicitor was a woman taking donations to pay her Verizon bill. No clipboard, no costume, no gimmick.  Just standing there with a sign that said, “I can’t make any cell phone calls. Please help. God bless.” Somehow that one touched my heart. I handed over the few dollars I had on me, and instead of snacking on Vanilla Wafers I spent the evening appreciating what I had.

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4 Comments

Filed under Commerce and Marketing

4 responses to “Remember When You Could Go To the Supermarket Without Being Offered Something You Didn’t Want?

  1. I remember when our grocery store had a running tab (prehistoric credit). My dad would say “put it on my tab” and I thought he was so cool. Now entire banks are located in grocery stores with creepy smiling clip-board people, who are conveniently poised at the end of the check-out lines to molest the customers.
    Great site!

  2. I remember turning in glass bottles at the grocery (how long has it been since pop actually came in a glass bottle?) to get enough change to buy a bag of penny candy. Mmmm, penny candy- the little cinnamon hot dog gum pieces, Smarties, Jolly Ranchers, etc. Now the kids hit you up for candy bars that cost a buck or more-and/or they hit you up for a 20 oz Mt. Dew. But they never had the option of collecting glass bottles to turn in to buy their own candy, so you have to forgive them.

    Today I have to dodge the Girl Scouts and the free sample ladies with the donuts or sugar sweetened pop (they don’t know I’m diabetic) and those guys who keep trying to sign me up for the Columbus Dispatch even though I’m already subscribed.

  3. I sometimes go to the supermarket and make a lunch out of the free samples from the free sample ladies. But they usually serve savory items like cheese on crackers and pasta in little plastic cups. I’m surprised that with all the news about childhood obesity the kids are not selling cauliflower instead of candy bars. I’m sure they would still charge a dollar per cauliflower.

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