When one moves into a new neighborhood, the first thing one must do is find a local grocery store.  That was me – 8 years ago when we moved east.

There’s actually quite a few grocery stores around me, and I tried them all.  First one was the Acme in Strafford, just a few blocks from us.  It was old, dingy, and had some pretty surly employees.  Two shopping trips there convinced me I should go elsewhere.  Right down the road was Fresh Fields.  The place was attitude-central.  The staff AND  the customers seemed to be competing to see who could be the biggest food snob. (Not that *I* would know anything about being a food snob…) The store just felt oppressive.  Another two trips convinced me that I just didn’t need to spend a bazillion dollars for groceries and attitude every week.

Being a Main Line neophyte, I was pretty much limited to Lancaster Avenue.  I headed east and one day happened upon the Genuardi’s in St David’s.  I had found my store!  They could be a bit pricey at times, but I’m usually a pretty good shopper.  Good products, friendly staff… I was happy.  And then Safeway took over and I was not happy.  I left and haven’t really done much shopping there, since.

I was out exploring one day when I happened upon Super Fresh on Swedesford Road in Berwyn.  I pulled in, got a couple of things, and then went back.  And went back, again.  I definitely had found my store!  Staff was friendly, products plentiful, a store layout that was logical… and the prices were good.  Who could ask for more?!?  I became a regular.

In the ensuing years, the Acme’s have all upgraded and remodelled, Genuardi’s has become less Safeway-like, and Fresh Field’s became Whole Foods. Whole Foods deserves its reputation for being called “Whole Paycheck.”  They have some great products but their prices are just a bit too over the top for me.  The Strafford Acme has been totally remodelled, but the employees still are miserable to be around.

And a few months ago, Super Fresh was rebranded to PathMark.  A new layout, some new products, and the same great staff.  Works for me.

So… the reason for this missive in the first place?!?  I’ve been taking Victor’s mom shopping for the past few weeks since her car has been in the shop – at the Paoli Acme (which is maybe a mile away from her.)  Right off the bat, the staff is surly as hell.  I have yet to see a cashier even remotely smile, and last week, the cashier was downright rude.  Seems she was upset with either her boss or a coworker (or both) and couldn’t help but take it out on my 82 year old mother-in-law.  (We’ll just say that I voiced my displeasure with her attitude and leave it at that.)

This morning’s shopping trip was yet another excercise in masochistic behavior.  Because of the snowy weather this morning – and the impending doom later today – we called mom and got her shopping list (we wouldn’t want her to break a hip and have to shoot her.)  I was just going to go up to PathMark and shop for all of us. Damned if she didn’t need a prescription picked up – at the Paoli Acme.  Oh well.

We both went shopping.  Victor took a cart for her shopping, I took a cart for ours.  First thing I really noticed was just how much more expensive the Acme is over PathMark.  Produce is more expensive, canned goods are more expensive, meats are more expensive.  And the customers.  Either on a cell phone and running through the store knocking everyone over, or just cranky and surly.  I’m not sure if the cranky-and-surliness starts with the cashiers and infects the customers, or the other way around, but it’s just not a pleasant store.

I got my coffee, got out my list, and started trying to find things.  (Canned seltzer is not under the sign that reads “Seltzer.”  It’s not even in the aisle that is headed “Seltzer.”  It’s in the “Soda” aisle.)

Deciding that we really didn’t need much, I got the basics and headed to the self-checkout.  (There were ridiculously long lines at the registers.) Victor had gotten there first and I got to see the woman running the section tell him “you’re doing it wrong.  Now they won’t open at all” when he was trying to get the plastic bags opened.  (The PathMark employees almost always have the plastic bags opened and ready for you at the self-checkout!)  Nor are they rude or try to make you feel stupid.

I had two types of potatoes, some russets and some creamers.  Neither, of course, have plu’s on them, so I hit the item lookup and start scrolling through.  I found the russets and then went to the creamers.  There were two creamer choices so I picked the first one. “Poduct not found” came up along with a notice to put the item aside and wait for help.  As the woman was chatting away with someone up at her stand, I tried again.  I went through the process agian, and chose the second option.  This time, it said the product had been recalled and to put the item aside and wait for help.  I went to the potato secion again, looked at every option available, and could not find anything that even closely resembled my potatoes – other than the creamers that they were.  I went up to the desk to ask her what kind of potatoes I had.  She pulled up her list (“They’re not yukon gold’s are they?!?” “Uh.  No.”) and then gave me a code for – russets.  Whatever.  At this point I just wanted to leave.

I usually go out of my way to be a pleasant customer because I’m usually on the receiving end.  I know that shopping can be frustrating at times (both from the customer and the employee point of view) and when I’m shopping, I usually start out by getting a cup of coffee and entering my Zen-Zone.  I really do try not to let things bother me.  But I won’t put up with a rude or surly staff member.  I’m really sorry you’re having a bad day and that all of your customers have been total jerks. 1) it’s not my fault so don’t take it out on me, and 2) maybe if you changed YOUR attitude, they would tone theirs down a bit.

So… hopfully Mom’s car will be fixed soon and I won’t have to shop at the Acme, again.  Better yet… maybe I can convince her to transfer her prescriptions to PathMark and we can go shopping there!