I started noticing the grocery buggies — or more specifically, what was in these buggies — and who put them there.
You’d think that most everyone would have similar basics — milk, bread, eggs, cereal, soap, tissue, etc. After all, everybody needs pretty much the same everyday necessities, don’t we?
But I was surprised to notice in my impromptu visual survey the distinct differences I found rather than the similarities. The differences are much greater, and not even that subtle, than you might expect.
Then I started to wonder, what, if anything, these individual grocery choices revealed about these shoppers?
I started wondering if it was really possible to tell. What was most important to each shopper varied drastically, as well as their “style” of shopping.
So, I started to investigate.
Teachers and moms with school-aged kids dominated the stores this past weekend, as you would expect. Their carts were loaded with notebooks and erasers and pencils and pens, which made a lot of sense. But then, the shoppers who were obviously moms — usually the frazzled ones at wit’s end — had buggies filled with additional “necessities,” such as the gigantic-sized (not regular) jugs of milk, three types of varieties of cookies — one for each child, 18 humongous-sized soda bottles, potato chips, bologna, string cheese and hot dogs, as well as her brood.
Yep, I saw many an offspring loaded in the front seat, but also inside the buggies themselves until there was almost no room for any groceries. In addition, some moms tried to make maximum use out of the space inside the buggy by placing their purse — for safekeeping? — next to their progeny. This plan definitely allowed little room for purchases which wind up piled high looking like the hump of a camel and hanging out the side making the buggy look ever-so-much like a pack mule loaded by a miner during the California Gold Rush. And the kiddies wind up looking like items to be bought at checkout. Eventually, after a couple of aisles, the child in the cart is barely noticeable with all the new items piled on top.
Clothing and stackable crates, as well as pillowcases and comforters, could be found in the carts of young co-eds, while the fellas — usually the jocks — went more for a dozen bags of a variety of chips, as well as the obligatory soda packs, which of course, were hanging from the sides of the buggy, like ballast or water wings, in order to leave room for the listing stack of hot pockets rising the height of the buggy.
The groceries for the bachelors differed somewhat because there seem to be at least two types of bachelors. One is the clueless, no idea what to buy and little concern either other than what’s great to eat while watching ESPN, stockpiling for his mancave. His cart is filled with some of the same can’t-live-withouts as the student jock, but with the additional cookies, brats and, of course, beer. An offshoot bachelor in this category is the one who doesn’t even bother with a cart and just uses the basket he carries by hand, even though he is buying a gallon jug of orange juice and big packages of smoked meat and cheese. For some reason it seems it is more macho not to use a cart. (Maybe he does this one purpose because he is multi-tasking and doing curls at the same time he is schlepping that jug of OJ through the aisles?)
Speaking of orange, there was this one buggy that defied definition. It was “driven” by a senior lady and was piled high with orange — orange towels, orange clothes hangers, orange room decorations, orange knickknacks, orange this and orange that.
Not hard to guess there was a Tennessee Vols fan nearby. “But not me,” said the lady driver.
“It’s her,” she said with utter fatigue and a sigh as she pointed a tired finger in the direction of her sister.
Back to the bachelors. The second category of bachelor is much more particular. He goes for the generic brands to save money, but also makes sure that he has a balanced diet. (I have also noticed that this shopper — male or female — of the generic variety also can convince themselves and their tastebuds that Walmart coffee tastes every bit as good as Starbucks.) This bachelor is either newly divorced and/or between girlfriends, is my guess. This bachelor buys more wisely and more in bulk, taking more time and care than the first bachelor who rushes through the store like he’s running for the end zone.
But handfuls of coupons in hand didn’t seem to make an appearance for the more deliberate bachelor shopper. That was left to the more precise female coupon fanatic with stacks of coupons in hand, some of which went sailing to the floor periodically, and a calculator and a grocery list with items fastidiously listed and then crossed off as if she was planning a Normandy-like invasion of Walmart.
The money-pincher differs from the coupon fanatic in that it doesn’t really matter what they buy, as long as it’s cheap. The coupon fanatic will also purchase a less-than-desired item not on their painstakingly created list if there is a coupon to go with, but this type of penny-pincher will make a rationalized argument as to the efficacy of this particular purchase. The bottomline penny-pincher is just as happy eating black olives, cole slaw and Hostess Twinkies for breakfast, as long as they are on sale.
Then there are the bulk shoppers. Everything in this buggy cart is super-sized and in quantity. And, if it’s on sale they buy a dozen. They can often be found pushing and pulling multiple carts at the same time — forming a caravan through the isles consisting of two buggies of toilet paper and 100-pound bags of cat food.
(I have often thought that must be some BIG cat who needs a 100-pound bag of groceries every week!)
There’s also the empty-cart shopper who goes to the store more to people-watch than to shop. He or she will put one obligatory item in their cart — usually the first item they see that is small enough to fit in the child seat, but nothing they would ever buy because they are going to put it back on the shelf, usually in a totally unrelated department — before they leave the store. They just want to disguise themselves as one of the other shoppers rather than to be found out for their real purpose of people-watching everyone else who is REALLY shopping.
But don’t just take my word for it. Next time you’re out and about, take your own little look-see as you are shopping. See if you can spot the family of five, the young mom, the bachelor or bachelorette, the jock, the newly divorced, the health nut, the coupon fanatic, the penny pincher or the spendthrift.
Then, take a look at your own grocery list. It might just surprise you what it reveals about you!