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Is Grocery Service Dead?

Typically, when I'm in a grocery store, I engage in a laser-focus mentality -- pick up a handful of items, pay, and then move on. I often go twice or more each week, and being a necessary chore, I streamline this task as much as possible. However, a few days ago, I was in an unusual position of having more time. I had over an hour to kill, so I leisurely and unhurriedly walked through my local grocery, Mariano's, in Vernon Hills.

As you enter the left side of the store, you quickly find you're in the produce department. Fair enough, there's always something there that I'm interested in or will purchase. I wandered over to the grape tomatoes, looking for a healthy option at a reasonable price; I'm wired to look at the best value. Interestingly, I noticed the Roundy's brand had a message saying these grape tomatoes didn't need to be refrigerated --- something I had not seen before. Next to these tomatoes were the 'Simple Truth Organic Grape Tomatoes' without any mention of refrigeration. So I thought, "Do some of these tomatoes need refrigerating when others do not?" I needed clarification, so I sought the produce worker who tried to answer my questions. Unfortunately, he had never noticed the distinction but did reiterate that Roundy's brand did not need refrigeration. At this point, he appeared to want to get back to his produce duties.

As I was evaluating these grape tomatoes, I noticed that Roundy's variety had no expiration date. This was important because, weeks before, the purchase of these grape tomatoes didn't turn out well. Was it because I mistakenly refrigerated them, or were they just a bad batch? A question in search of an answer. He looked too for the expiration date and couldn't see any dates and merely shrugged his shoulders, so I didn't know what to think. On to the deli. (To be fair, their website states that Simple Truth tomatoes do not need refrigeration. Unfortunately, that message is not on the actual package.)

As I left the produce area, I slowly walked toward the deli counter to browse and see what interesting things they had at the delicatessen. I first noticed several large dill pickles in a large glass container in two varieties, -- a regular pickle or a spicy one. Not knowing how the spicey pickles tasted, I asked the deli worker, who said, "I've never tried them, so I don't know." Being a dollar each, I asked her to give me one of each, and to be eco-conscious, could she put them in one bag? I waited patiently as she put them into individual bags -- she either didn't hear me or, because they were different items, could not do so. I then moved on to cheese, and focused on two cheeses from Switzerland; I asked her the difference between Emmenthaler and Swiss cheese. She smiled and said, "I've never tried any cheeses we sell." (In retrospect, I should have asked for a sample to have a taste test but missed that opportunity.) I guess she just works there.

After the deli, I ended up at the back of the store. I strolled past chicken, cheese, and milk as I made my way to the egg department. Typically, if you are buying a larger container of eggs (18 or 24), it becomes a better value. However, if you purchase two dozen, the eggs' expiration date must be a few weeks. I was focused on the 'Simple Truth Organic Cage Free Large Brown Eggs' with a count of 18. Being organic, why did they mention 'Cage Free'? I'm assuming that organic also means they have the freedom to roam. Now I'm not so sure.

Back to the Simple Truth eggs, I noticed an expiration date of March 28, 2023, for that size. At first, I had to think about the date today, May 15. It must be a mistake with the date, so I looked at a few more packages, and they all said the same date, March 28, 2023. That was interesting to me for two reasons: Why would they be selling eggs way past the expiration date -- they weren't even on sale. Two days before, I noticed an expiration date of early May, which was still past the expiration date. On two separate visits, I notice they were attempting to sell eggs after the expired expiration date -- not sure if that's a big deal but annoying to this customer. I glanced around the area and didn't see any employees nearby -- there were just customers shopping. I continued to shop, made my way to the front of the store for minutes, and strolled a little more before I realized I had to go to the back of the store again to get almond milk. As I carefully selected the correct almond milk, I still noticed no employees nearby.

I typically do self-checkout, not because it's easier but because it takes less time. My groceries should be discounted when I do it myself, but that's an entirely different subject. Regardless, that day, I noticed the full-service aisle had only one customer being serviced, so I chose this option. (One side note, it's interesting that receiving full service still does occur, at least in this store. However, with more customers typically choosing this option, isn't less efficient than self-checkout.) As the friendly and young sales associate was ringing up my order, I mentioned the eggs with an expiration date of late March, as we're in mid-May. She appreciated that fact and said she'd mention it to management. I'm hopeful management will implement a better review process to prevent this from occurring again. Thinking about years ago, I never had to be so careful about expiration dates, but that appears to be changing. But then again, years ago, you didn't pay $6.99 for an 18-count of egg. Besides bagging one's groceries for the most part, even though that wasn't even a thing years ago, it appears shoppers today have to be extra conscious about expiration dates.


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