Month: November 2014

Nobody asked me – grocery store edition

I’m taking a break from a recent spat of striving toward positive thinking to grouse for a minute. File it under MRB Chapter 11 – If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.

It’s one of those, “If they had only asked me first…” moments. Everybody gets them, right?

Sometimes, I feel like the folks who design things must not actually use them.

The grocery store closest to my house just got remodeled. It’s been finished for a couple of months, now – just long enough to notice the things the designers didn’t seem to have considered.

1. The bakery counter. Or rather, the lack thereof. There is a beautiful display case, but no counter. The book to look at for cake designs sits on top of the display case – a good 4 1/2 feet off the floor. And it’s on a stand angled upward. I am 5’4″ – I can’t see it. Even if you do already know what you want, there is no surface on which to fill the form out. The deli has a counter for ordering party trays, and the floral department has a counter for ordering balloons and flowers – even the wine and beer aisle has someone on hand to help you pick the right stuff. You can easily get everything for a party except pastries.

2. The floor. They pulled up the dated laminate tiles, and sealed the concrete floors. It looks nice, in a pseudo-industrial sort of way, and blends nicely with the new addition. But it’s very slippery – the kids like to hang on to the cart with stiff legs, and “ski” behind it, even in tennis shoes. I also imagine that it is super hard on the knees and feet of the employees. It’s hard on MY knees to shop there! (Though I think it might be kind of fun to try the kids’ game – anybody want to come pull the shopping cart for me? We can take turns!)

3. The bread aisle. Quick – if you have to grab something quick on the way home from work, what is it? Probably bread or milk, right? The bread used to be the first aisle, but that’s alcohol now. (As I was writing this, I just now made the connection that alcohol is near the floral, deli, baker, and barbecue-needs sections. AHA! Now I know what the designers use grocery stores for!) Bread is in the center aisle now, and is not easy to get to, mostly because of:

4. Navigation. The distance between the ends of the aisles and the cash registers is tiny. The whole store got expanded outward, but the aisles themselves and the cash registers didn’t move. So there is now lots of space between the registers and the exterior walls for customers to move around each other after they’ve paid, but the space for people to stand in line is still just as cramped as it always was. Now, imagine folks trying to cross that space (to get to, say, bread?) – because, of course, there are no cut-throughs in the center of the aisles – you can only change aisles at the ends, right where folks are waiting in line.

5. The parking lot. There are two door areas, and both have a wide ramp space for moving carts onto and off of the the sidewalk in front of the store. However, after that, navigating the parking lot is up to you. The redesign included a little bit of parking lot work – they did expand outward, and that affected the whole front part of the parking lot. While they were at it, it might have been nice to include spaces to move around the parking lots without being in the driving lanes.

That being said, having only five real complaints about a place I have to go at least once a week, to accomplish a chore, is pretty good. I mean, it’s actually a pleasant place to shop. The employees are crazy friendly (I have been known to stand in a longer line, just to check out with my favorite cashier). The produce section is amazing. The freezer cases have these great motion-sensor lights (I admit, it gives me a little power trip to go in there at night, with few other customers, and the lights in frozen-food come on just for me!), the bathrooms are worlds better, and the new skylights really do give a better feel than the old fluorescent lights did.

But I still wonder if the designers ever go to the grocery store for anything other than non-pastry-centric party planning, at non-peak hours.