Monday, January 18, 2010

Veggie Karma

My college friend and her kids came to visit us right after Christmas, and I won't lie: I spent a few days prior cleaning the cabin. I weeded; I sorted; I tossed; I dusted and scrubbed. You would be impressed with how many loads of recycling I generated from my paper piles alone. Or, if you came over today, you'd simply note that I left a few around for, quite possibly, posterity.

On the afternoon of my friends' arrival, I escaped to Trader Joe's to stock up on groceries. I filled the cart to overflowing and enjoyed some humorous banter with the clerks at the register. It was a gorgeous Southern California day; my spirits were high and I was excited for my snow-weary visitors.

Meanwhile, my brother and his wife had organized a cousins' sleepover at their house, commencing mid-afternoon, and my husband had the latter part of the day off. We planned to enjoy a late lunch and each other's company before our guests pulled in.

I came home to my clean house and began putting away the groceries, eventually noting that some items were missing. I checked the car. No bag. I looked over my receipt and determined that I must have left a sack of food in the cart in the parking lot.

Dang it.

I called the store. Indeed, there was a bag of abandoned groceries waiting to be claimed. Husband called to say he was on his way and I warned him we had an errand to run.

We returned to a bustling, pre-New-Year's Trader Joe's, where someone figured out who I was and to whom I had spoken about what phantom bag of groceries. Which, when it was produced and I peered inside, I quickly recognized was Not Mine.

As I sent my husband outside to check the parking lot, I clarified to the staff that I had most likely left my bag outside the store, in my cart.

"Oh," sighed the manager. "You know, a homeless person probably took it..."

"Sure!" I responded brightly. That was the scenario I preferred to the thought of a greedy yuppie snatching up my diced tomatoes, apples, and organic mayo.

As I prepared to replace the essentials among my lost items, the manager insisted that I shop around for all of them.

"Seriously?" I asked.

"Of course," he nodded. And smiled.

I thanked him and his cohort profusely and vowed to write a letter in appreciation of Trader Joe's customer service practices.

And then I walked out without paying for a whole bag of groceries.

Husband and I cruised by home to drop off the goods before our sushi date.

We got out of the car and reached into the back seat in tandem to pull out a grocery bag each. We locked eyes across the top of the car as we both lifted a sack. My husband had found my errant groceries tucked under the driver's seat. I laughed.

And felt like a Really Big Jerk.

We unloaded two identical bags of groceries (How about them apples! Four bags!), and planned to fix it with Trader Joe's later.

Today, two weeks hence, I made another trip to the store with a list of our guilty goods. I loaded the front part of the cart with stuff I intended to pay for twice.

The store was quiet so I was saved the indignity of explaining my saga in front of a line of impatient shoppers. Elzie, the clerk, was more than happy to double-charge me for selected foodstuffs and clear my conscience. As he rang me up he recounted the tale of a woman who returned to the store to contest $16.10 on her receipt for an unspecified item. No way had she paid $16.10 for any one thing, and would they please refund her. Elzie racked his brain for what it could be and why it bore no description on the receipt--he must have hand-entered the price. It wasn't until later, when another customer attempted to buy a rack of lamb whose bar code didn't work, that Elzie realized she was probably having herself a very nice dinner on Trader Joe's.

It's all about attitude, was Elzie's point. Don't be indignant. You could be wrong.

Gulp. I think I learn that lesson every day.

Anyway, now you understand why we have not one, not two, but THREE jars of mustard and bottles of maple syrup on our shelves. Come shop at our house!

After you shop at Trader Joe's, of course: They're the bomb.


fer said...

An update to report that after a dinnertime conversation about the events surrounding the elusive bag of groceries, my husband asked our daughter, "What lesson do we learn from this story?" Her response: "Look more carefully for your groceries!"

me said...

I just have to say the Elzie is the bomb! My children scan the employees every time we enter TJs because on one of our first visits there, he took the time to make my grumpy child smile. We see him running in the neighborhood and we ran into him in Starbucks one day on our walk and he sat down for a chat. Very cool person.