Sunday, July 6, 2014

An open letter to you, the consumer

Posted By on Sun, Jul 6, 2014 at 7:00 AM

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I am Grocer X.

I am every smiling face and friendly greeting welcoming you to the register at your neighborhood grocery, and I am the disgruntled, tired and tormented soul hiding underneath.

You’ve seen me before, stocking the aisles with your favorite foodstuffs, arranging apples and shucking ears of fresh corn. I’ve even guided you happily through the darkest corners of the condiment aisle in your futile search for mango chutney, mopping floors and looking for “that thing” you bought one time. I’m the one who’s been up since 1 a.m. — seven days in a row — and whose vacation was canceled due to whatever-parent’s-day weekend.

I am the teenager holding a summer job, the middle aged working-class American and the “lifer” closing in on retirement.

I know you, too. You’re one of our “regular” shoppers; chatting it up with all the employees during your daily trips to the store. You’re the extreme coupon-isseur; reviewing your receipts, item by item, making sure all the hours you’ve spent clipping paper savings weren’t in vain. You’re the poor soul sent to the store for an item you’ve never heard of, wandering aimlessly in your search but too proud to ask where it is until the frustration is too much to bear.

Our time spent together during your weekly shopping trips, your in-and-out stops and your daily routines has been civil, consistent, sometimes even a little pleasant, and I expect that will continue. I know I’m difficult to deal with from time to time with my confusing receipts and seemingly foreign pricing language and promotion rules and restrictions. And I’m sorry we stopped carrying your favorite flavored Kool-Aid packets, and that the prices at my store are so much higher than the (insert store name here) down the street.

But I forgive you too, for all the times you’ve told me how beautiful it is outside and “it’s too bad [I] have to work” (I know), for all the items you’ve wedged into any place except where they belong, and for all the times you’ve dropped a packet of blueberries on the floor and didn’t tell anyone about it.

Let’s put all of that behind us.

We HAVE to spend time together so why not make that time a little less frustrating, for all our sakes?

I come to you now not to attack or belittle you, or to beg you to make my job a little easier, but because I believe we can find common ground.

I believe we can live in a world where grocers can understand the buyers’ need to purchase five gallons of milk — to get two free — and that there may be a time when customers realize why all the clerks are unhappy during the holidays (it’s because we’re working every holiday).

In the coming posts, I’ll bring you insights from my years of experience working in the depths of the grocery aisles. I’ll walk you through your holiday and special event shopping trips, ease the suffering of those dreaded visits to the customer service counter, and help you overcome your fear of buying the ugliest of cantaloupe and pineapple (they’re the sweetest).

I am not a wholesaler. I’m not selling you clothing, toys, or electronics. I am the middleman between you and one of your most vital necessities: your groceries. Let me guide you through the aisles and help you help me, help us.

Thanks for shopping with us.

The big reveal: 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

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