Attention Kosher Shoppers

I’ve spent the past week or so working at a kosher grocery filling in for someone on vacation. This isn’t the first time I’ve been working retail. I used to work in PC Services for a Circuit City and would sometimes help out on the sales floor, besides dealing with my own customers and their computer woes. This is however, my first time dealing with exclusively kosher customers. Most of you are at least decently polite, some even nice, but sad to say the best kosher customers pale in comparison with the best non-Jewish customers. (Someday I hope to find that guy who offered to buy me lunch, and the guy who’d come in to talk books with me and thank them for being so awesome.)

The customer is always right? No. No you’re not. Do you really think that you’re an omnipotent figure in the store just because you came in to buy some yogurt and Bisseli? Treat the staff with respect. And stop being stupid and semi-arrogant. It hurts worse if I’m genuinely trying to help you. I deal only with the fridge products, but when no-one else was around and a woman who made alliyah came to me asking her to find some beef powder stock that they apparently don’t sell in Israel and she wanted to stock up, I headed to the storeroom to find some more for her. There were two on the shelf and the system said we had twenty four in stock. I check the computer and start climbing shelves looking for that elusive little box. Suddenly someone shouts my name. Seems Mrs Alliyah had gone to the checkout and paid for six packs telling the girl that I’m just getting her some more. Now I’m being shouted at because it’s my fault the line is held up because she’s waiting to bag her cubes. Who goes to pay before they have every item in hand? It’s the equivalent of going to the register empty handed then sending you kid to go find each item on the list while the line builds.

To the parents of the kid (I assume and hope it’s a child) who puts his fingernail through the foil seal on the yogurt: can’t you do the honorable thing and pay for it? It must be pretty noticeable that the kids playing with yogurt. That gets thrown out even though the rest are okay because it’s sold as a pack of six. So I guess you’re over the issur of wasting food as well as stealing.

Please stop assuming that everyone who works in the store knows everything about everything and every product in the store. We all have our sections. I know as much about the snacks as you do. I hope you read this, hambeast female who waddles over to me and says (verbatim) “can you get me a bag of plain chips?” My polite “sorry?” was because I wasn’t sure if you were asking A. if we sold plain chips. B. If you were asking where the chips were. C. If I could physically go and get you a bag of chips. After you responded with a simple “bag of chips?” I pointed to where the snacks were. (Right next to where we were standing. Then you looked at me as if I were an imbecile and repeated “bag of chips?”. I explained to you that I knew what a bag of chips was and tried to explain that I didn’t understand what specifically about a bag of chips you wanted to know. Turns out they’re all sold in big bags of six (Jewish shop, of course snacks are in bulk. Who’s ever only got one kid?) and you wanted me to find you a single, as though I hid them somewhere far away from the other chips. On the same note, when you see me working putting things in the fridge, I would think you could safely assume I’m not a chef. I’m wearing jeans, a tshirt and have Sublime leaking from the headphone hanging loose from my neck because I can only keep one in in case someone has a question. I wouldn’t have thought I gave off the impression of being either a chef or butcher. But that doesn’t stop you from asking me how best to cook a brisket or whether those hot dogs are good for a barbecue. Wrong part of the food chain really. That’s like asking a Realtor their opinion on how best to block-pave a driveway.

Do I have that brand of humus? No. So what’s the closest thing to that? I responded with “every other type of humus”. It’s just chickpeas you know. It’s all the same until you get to the fancy ones with toppings.

We put a type of yogurt on clearance. To anticipate possible stupidity I printed three sale and price signs and put them in front of the whole shelf so as to avoid people asking if the yogurt is still on sale because it “wasn’t right in front of the sign”. Is it the exact same thing as what appears to be on sale? If yes then it is too. Besides which, every single flavor of that brand was under the same sale, and they were all blanketed by signs. The signs say simply “Yogurt Brand. Was 1.49 Now .99”. That didn’t prevent me from having this conversation with a frum woman: “So these yogurts used to cost 1.49?” “… Yes” “And now they cost .99?” “Uh, yes.” “Okay!”. And I thought by doing this I would avoid what happened to the freezer guys when a single flavor of ice cream cake was on sale and everyone kept going to the register with the different flavor, that was not behind a sale sign, and indeed even had a regular price sticker in front of it and getting indignant when it rang up for full price. This either led to them running back to the freezer to get the right one or leaving it there to melt.

Which leads me to… why can’t you put it back if you don’t want it? I can understand if you’re at a Wal-Mart and the section it came from is several zip codes away, we’ve all been there, but it really isn’t a big shop. More to the point, you usually pick it up, examine it, then put it on whatever the nearest surface your hand finds is. The right shelf is right above! Maybe a few inches to the right! You don’t even have to walk, just rotate the arm and you save me a hassle! See, what you did there is mess up the arrangement of products, also, you probably just pushed something else back into the shelf so no-one can see it until I pounce on the unwanted item and return it to where it was, usually the next shelf. It also makes me lose track of stock if it gets pushed somewhere because I didn’t see it in time, messing up my next order of it because the stock system reports we still have some stock, but I can’t find it. Don’t even get me started on putting frozen/refrigerated stuff on a regular shelf.

The expiration date is the expiration date. Do you really have to point at the date printed and ask if it’ll keep until then? I’ll let you in on a secret: to the contrary, many things are fine for months past the expiration date. There’s a reason it says “Best Before” not “Edible Until”. Besides the point, do you imagine I have access to the secret knowledge bank of REAL expiration dates, because the ones printed are a farce and a mass retail joke on you, the consumer?

Going back to my original, “customer is always right” thing. Even if that were true, you’re not more important than other customers. It’s late on Friday and the place is packed with people being sent by their wives to get whatever they forgot until now. I’m helping out at the menial job of bagging because I’ve finished topping up the fridge and the cashier is cute and nice to talk to. At my place we let you wheel the carts to your car so you don’t have to carry your bags. But you sir, wanted me to take it to your car for you. I told you I couldn’t and you insisted it would “only take a minute”. I eye the growing line warily, as making the cashier bag as well slows the process down by two thirds. The combination of my desire to get you on your way and out of here, combined with you nagging and tugging my arm led me to be wheeling your cart for you up the incline that is our parking lot. Oh, you drive a Land Rover. Nice, maybe I’ll get a tip for this one. We get to your car where you coerce me to load it all in your trunk. I throw it all in there, at which point you wished me a cheery “Good Shabbos” and went on your way. Back at Circuit City, if I carried your computer to your car for you (as I’d sometimes do if you were old, frail or just nice and I wasn’t busy) I could often expect at least a dollar from sweet ladies driving old Mazdas. Did I mention how much I like your Land Rover?

Lady today, around 5.30: I like how it’s alright to shout “he’s just a man, he doesn’t have any seichel” at me when I asked that older woman if she wouldn’t mind walking the other way around the aisle as I had three pallets of meat I was putting out that would be a pain to move for every customer coming through. You said I had “chutzpah” and a lack of respect for the elderly. If I had been that older woman, I would have been offended at you for implying she couldn’t walk herself. She seemed to be doing alright until then, she wasn’t exactly in a motorized wheelchair. Oh, and that other lady next to you apologized to me for what you said. I didn’t consider it worth my job, but I did want to retort how you were a woman, so obviously you lack the emotional and mental strength to shop by yourself. And of course, you ended your diatribe with the golden words “don’t you know the customer is always right?”

17 Responses to “Attention Kosher Shoppers”

  1. I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Your post is one of the main reasons that I stopped my career in “communal work” (for now). Well said.

  3. Could you please email me? I’d like your permission to sent this to a local Jewish paper. Brilliantly said!

  4. It is rude to both the store and to one’s fellow shoppers to not put something back where one found it. If time does not permit that, if there are “stuff to be reshelved”-type carts at the front of the store, dry good can be placed in one of them. There is no excuse for putting an unwanted refrigerator/freezer item not back in a refrigerator/freezer, even if it’s in the wrong spot. There’s no excuse for wasting food like that.

  5. Yo, that was a bitchin’ of a post!

  6. dude, about the expiration date, when have you ever seen cholov yisroel milk that was still good, not on expiration date, but 3 to 4 days before?

  7. Hi there,

    I worked “customer service” for a very long time. It got me through college and through a post grad degree. But I sure don’t miss people who think us measley workers owe them something.

    My husband and I LOVE going to kosher markets. We do keep kosher afterall, but there are some we just can’t and won’t go to. I hate to say this, but the worst one for us is more Ashkenazi than Sephardi and it’s quite black hat, not modern Yeshivish black hat, but Chabad and whichever Hassidic group that wears the knickers and white socks, and the dudes with the long curly peyos.

    We find this market to be the most pushy and rude. The men expect the women to move out of THEIR way even if it truly is the other way around, the Israeli cashiers are never happy, the best people there are the Latino workers! Go figure. 🙂 Oh, and one more thing, this store has no fracking prices on a thing! There’s ONE scanner that you can bring all your items to if you want to know the price. Needless to say, there’s always restockables there waiting for the poor guys who work there.

  8. If you replace food with books, this is EXACTLY what it’s like working in a library! Good job.

  9. Frum Librarian…That’s not funny but funny at the same time 🙂

    That’s also what it’s like living with some husbands :), or roommates, or children, 🙂

  10. Frum Punk: I agree with you about paying for things your kid ruins and not putting it back, that is plain stealing.

    I never realized how bothersome it can be to put stuff back on the wrong shelves, I think I always put it back in the right place out of habit, but next time I’ll make sure its the right place.

    That’s horrible that they don’t tip you for carrying and unpacking the bags in their car, especially if they asked you to do it.

  11. i bet you sum up the frustration of all supermarket workers with this post! i hate shopping in the grocery store near my house from wednesday night through friday becuase it’s full of rude pushy people. i once accidentally ran over the back of a woman’s foot becuase she stopped short-i think it was to listen to someone else’s conversation. she was ready to throw her carton of eggs at me! and it was the homogenized no growth hormone type too!

  12. Dude. Deal with it, your working retail and food retail at that. What do you expect? People are hungry when they go to shop and not on their best behavior. But hey, If you don’t like it you can always quit.

    I think this goes back to your post on Hemishness. What you are so upset about is the core values of Heimishness. Congratulations on experiencing it firsthand.

  13. Dude that was an awsome post now I will have more respect for you guys. I cant believe that guy didnt give you a tip who does he think he is?

  14. Well…I understand what you mean but when I used to work at Publix, it was our policy to smile, say “Have a nice day!” and automatically offer to wheel groceries to people’s cars. Whenever I shop there, the service is friendly and efficient. Maybe things are different in non-Jewish grocery stores.

  15. KT: Most other times I’d be fine with it, but Publix doesn’t have Shabbos rush hour, nor are we a corporation which mandates its employees to bend over backwards. Since I wrote this post I’ve found myself being more assertive to people which seems to net me more respect from shoppers. Also I’ve never worked (or heard of) a place that required employees to wheel groceries to peoples cars. Publix used to be my main food shop and in 10 years I never saw an employee wheeling someone elses carts for them. Maybe its changed.

  16. Though I can see myself getting frustrated with awful customers like those you had to deal with, prob. a matter of huge supermarket vs. small market with weekly rush hour

  17. ברוכים הבאים צי היימיש שמועסן איו טעלפון שמועסן זייט היימיש שעם זיך נישט

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