Friday, February 14, 2014

People Watching

I have a confession to make.  I've always been a people watcher. Not like a stalker or anything.(well there was that one time ... but I digress.)  I just find it entertaining to watch folks sometimes.  It might stem from my days waiting on tables.  Actually it probably DOES come from those years.  If you are going to be a good food server it's pretty much a prerequisite.  You have to be able to anticipate your customers needs.  Everything from filling drinks to clearing plates and everything in between. The better you are the more money you will make.  Contrary to popular belief most servers across the United States work for $2.15 an hour.  That hasn't changed in over twenty years either.  So a server literally works for their tips.  If you are good at it and good at watching people you can make an ok living. Oh, and it doesn't hurt to be able to shoot the bull either. *wink* 

Why am I sharing all this with you?  OH, now I remember!  People watching.  I've been known to sit in a parking lot just watching folks do their thing.  WalMart parking lots are especially entertaining.  Parking lot People Watching isn't really all that uncommon.  I've met lots of folks who do the same thing.  You would be amazed at what all goes on in parking lots.


Here's where my having a confession to make comes into play.  I watch folks in the grocery stores too. Not just the people themselves but I  watch what they have in their grocery carts.  I don't know if many folks do this too but I find it fascinating to watch what they are filling up their carts with.

I see the harried business guy/gal tired from working the daily grind with what who looks like picking a few  things up after a day sitting behind a desk somewhere.  There are what looks like fresh organic vegetables some 2%milk, orange juice,  a bouquet flowers and grass fed beef in their cart.
Conclusion:  They are watching what they eat and trying to eat healthy as well. Except for that carton of ice cream.  Gotta have a snack now and then right?  These are the folks that get snowed in and panic because they only have a day or two's worth of food in the pantry.

Then there's the little old lady with her small careful choices. A couple of banana's, maybe a small package of chicken breasts that have been marked down, one of those small loaves of bread,  half a gallon of milk and maybe some lettuce or a little package of cheese,two or three cans of cat food and a couple of small yogurt cups.
Conclusion:  She probably lives alone with her cats.  and buys small portions of her groceries at a time.  Not only to be frugal but it gives her an excuse to get out of the house if only for a little while. She's probably got food at home but likes to get out of the house and actually talk to someone, even if it's just the brief conversation with the cashier.

There's the 18-19  something guy who loads up on chips, Fruit Loops, and frozen burrito's.  He's probably never even lit a stove.

There's the pregnant woman who can't be more than 22-23  with three small screaming ill mannered children running amuck and picking up everything in their line of sight, and running down the aisle. They scream at the top of their lungs  running into folks like they were bowling pins and trying to make a strike.  All the while the mother sweetly repeats over and over "No Johnny stop running, Ronnie what did I tell you about using your "indoor" voice" yet they still run wild.  Her basket is filled with frozen pizza's, sweet sugary cereals, 2 liter bottles of soda, hot dogs, chips and all manner of boxed "meals" (think Hamburger/Tuna Helper) and other processed foods.  I'm quite sure she has no idea that her screaming children's actions are not just a matter of bad parenting but the awful foods she feeds them regularly paid with her food stamp card.


There's the older widowed gentleman who has some milk, butter, and  a half dozen eggs. I assume he know how to make breakfast but apparently that's the extent of his cooking his own food because he has a pile of TV dinners, frozen pizza and some pot pies.  Maybe he never learned to cook  because his late wife always took care of the meals.

There's the 30ish lady with a fist full of coupons and a list.  Unfortunately her basket is full of processed foods cookies and diet sodas, because it's on sale and she has a coupon for it. I didn't mention she is obese? She stands defiantly in front of the cashier making darn sure that not only does the cashier ring up the sale price but also the corresponding coupon.

I've often wondered if grocery store clerks do the same sort of thing. I'd imagine that their focus would probably be on getting everyone in their line out of it as soon as possible.  If it were me though, after hours of standing on my feet swiping item after item across the scanner I'd probably be cart watching.  I bet they have all sorts of horror stories about the people that come through their lane though.

 Maybe because no matter what line I choose to check out from something is bound to happen to make my wait longer. It gives me time to shopping cart spy, eh?   The cashier needs change or runs out of paper, someone presents a hand full of WIC vouchers, ( I didn't mention this shopper on purpose)  something has been rung up at the wrong price, a manager has to do a code override, someone forgets "one little thing and I'll be right back" or it's shift change and another cashier has to tag in and take the others place.  I've got a friend who I used to go shopping with that refuses to let me pick which lane to check out from.  If I pick a lane, she'll just look at me and say "Seriously?"  It's like that! 

So I guess my question is ...  Are you a people watcher?  A shopping cart spy?  Maybe a bit of both?


47 comments:

  1. You and me both suffer from the "wrong Lane syndrome" mine usually manifests itself as coupon lady who hasn't read the fine print and can't figure out how to write a check but other scenarios do come up as well.

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    1. Whew! And all this time I thought it was just me. At least I'm in good company.

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    2. I had to come over and add to this. I left to go get groceries at Wally World right after I commented. It was busy of course but I managed to find a shorter line and it had a guy right in front of me with only like 6 items. I was wondering why he didn't use the express checkout but figured he would go through fast.

      Every item that man had did not have a price on it nor a bar code the cashier could find. It took forever to get him through the line.

      The whole time I was thinking of your post and the comments.

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    3. lol stbu
      Translation - sucks to be us/you

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  2. My husband is the 'wrong lane king' - don't care if there's only one person in front of us, something happens to hold up the line.
    I am a people/shopping cart watcher. We live in an area that has high unemployment, high % of those over 65 and a high % of snowbirds (those that come for the winter). It's obvious to me who's unemployed - they buy with coupons, on sale/clearance with just a couple of treat items. The snowbirds, who typically have more disposable income, have lots of treats, beer & wine, more meat especially beef, more gourmet type frozen foods. The year round over 65 shoppers fill their carts like us - some fruit, some fresh vegges & some frozen, eggs, bread, milk, coffee, tea - just the basics. Many of us supplement our diets with gardens, fruit trees and receiving unwanted fruit from neighbors who are usually snowbirds. Since we shop at Walmart, we do notice that it's mainly the older shoppers that have vegetable plants in their carts and the younger shoppers & snowbirds (I presume) have annual flower plants in their carts. Oh yes, snowbirds are also recognized for wearing shorts & flipflops when the temp is below 70 :)

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    1. It's the over 65 shoppers that I find to be more thrifty for the most part here. Unless they have the grandkids with them... Grammy and PaPa feel the need to indulge in a bit of Super Sugar Rush Wind them babies up and let Mom and Dad take them home, lol
      I was at a WalMart a couple of years ago checking out their pepper plants. and saw an older gentleman picking out some tomato plants. Me being me, I told him I'd just come from the local nursery and picked up some beautiful tomato plants for $1.00 less than the scraggly ones he was looking at. He smiled and put down the flat he'd been looking at and thanked me for the information. He said he used to have a big garden until he just couldn't physically do it anymore. Times were hard for him and he was doing all he knew to do to make his dollar stretch every month. He headed off to go to the local nursery and pick up some plants. I just know he had a bumper crop that year,
      Snowbirds.... love 'em or hate 'em they do bring their money with them. (I grew up a few miles from Galveston Bay so I had to laugh with you about the shorts and flipflops
      Take Care,
      Sci

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  3. I confess. I am a people watcher/shopping cart spy. And each of those people you mentioned has at least one cousin living in my town and shopping at my store.

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    1. LOL Vicki! They must everywhere. And I didn't even mention the illegals that shop in gangs of 10 or more and block every aisle. All of whom load carts and carts full of food they get through their SNAP cards.

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  4. Yep....I'm a cart watcher. And I hate to admit it, but I'm pretty critical of people's choices of food stuffs (although, thankfully, only in my head), especially when they whip out that SNAP (welfare) credit card. No, I'm not "picking" on a few....there are a HUGE majority of the people here on food stamps. And I have never, EVER witnessed a person wielding a SNAP card with anything more nutritious than a gallon of milk in their cart. Chips, sodas, frozen pizzas, frozen pancakes; I would probably fall over if I saw a bag of dried beans or rice or fresh veggies or fruit in there. Am I being a prude? Probably. But that's what I see and notice. Hey, I'm not saying that a package of Oscar Meyer wieners or bag of Cheezy Poofs have never seen the bottom of my buggy, but it never ceases to amaze me at the amount of processed & frozen crap goes into just one cart.

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    1. I won't go so far as to say I've never seen some healthy choices made using the Snap card. But they are the few among many who abuse the system. And I do think that they are abusing it. and have been for years. Shoot, I remember when they would give you a "book" of food stamps. Folks would always be trying to trade their stamps for cash. Right in front of the stores too. Since they've changed to the SNAP card I don't see that anymore but I'm sure some have figured out a way. There is a problem with the SNAP card (as far as I'm concerned anyway) They have incorporated the welfare benefits and the food stamps now on the same card.
      I hate seeing the abuse. I've got a friend on disability who's check each month is $900.00 Her food stamp amount? $15. I've got to wonder what is wrong with this picture. *sigh*

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  5. Raises hand, and says guilty of both people watching and basket spying. For some reason, I am really good at following other peoples conversations too and I can follow more than one at a time, it drives the husband crazy.

    I too have no luck picking a lane at the store, but there is this one checker that I will not go to at all. The poor man, we call him Mermaid Man because he looks the character from Sponge Bob, but anyway he is soooo slow, he's nice, friendly and everything else, just slow. The child loves him, if she's pushing the cart and he's there I have to head her off or we will be in line forever. Lol

    Have a great weekend, Sci
    Love & Hugs
    ~Fel~

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    1. I'm going to go with Catman on this one. That would drive me nuts, although it could be a great gift in the right circumstances.
      Kudo's to B's for liking the Mermaid Man! The little girl is growing into a beautiful woman and has been blessed with your compassion.
      Love ya,
      Sci

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  6. I am guilty of watching shoppers and their carts. Especially the huffing puffing totally obese women who block the aisles with their bulk and their shopping baskets full of soda and chips and processed food and lunch meats. Then there is the checker who always puts the heavy fruit on top of the delicate tomatoes. We have one grocery in this town. It makes me crazy.

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    1. Dang I forgot about them! The obese women usually use the electric carts here. They are constantly running into people with them. Bad drivers!
      I get really anal about how my groceries are bagged. I won't let them start bagging until I've emptied my cart. That way I can watch what they are ringing up and supervise the bagging. I've been known to make snarky remarks as I UNBAG my items and redo them the "right way"
      Take Care,
      Sci

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    2. This obese woman on an electric cart has a quota of one person a day to slam into. Seriously, I never run into anyone, but some do.

      I have struggled to stand and walk to rebag things. It so annoys me to have things squashed. One day a girl put 6 bananas in the plastic bag with a gallon of milk. As she lifted the bag I saw it. Noooooooo! She looked innocent and said, "But, I put them on the side, not under the milk." She did not realize there was force on the side of the bag. The manager came over. I told her to just keep the bananas and give me a refund. The manager was trying to allow me to let her get more. I told them I would just go to another store for bananas. The checker was still standing there, not understanding how bananas could be squashed when on the side of the bag. The manager just frowned, pulled her mouth together shook her head for the girl to shut up.

      I did get a terrible neck problem form two kids running with a cart, hitting me with the cart. There mother informed me her 10 and 12 year olds were just trying to have fun. Actually, the only hitting to be done has always been when I am barely moving in the cart or sitting still.

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  7. SCI,

    The people of course.....................because it's free entertainment, lol

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    1. You can't go wrong with free entertainment!

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  8. I feel self conscience checking out with hardly any vegi's and fruit as we grow our own. I feel compelled to tell the cashier this, but don't. At least I bag my own groceries so I don't squish the bananas. And when my spouse goes with me shopping he'll drop very unusual items in the cart to see if I notice before I get to the check out. I used to volunteer to drive people to the airport back when you could walk in with them and sit and wait. Airport people are fun to watch.

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    1. OH YES!!!!! Airport people watching is pretty amazing. You get all sorts of drama too. Folks saying goodby to loved ones is cool but I think I like watching folks who are coming off the planes and all of the sudden seeing their eyes light up as they find the person they've been waiting to see.
      Does it make me weird that I make up all sorts of stories while watching people at the airports?
      Thanks for stopping in!
      Sci

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  9. Honey, I am a shopping cart spy from way back! It's one of my top 10 hobbies.

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    1. LOL!!!!!! I never thought of it like that. But I'd have to say it's in my top ten now.

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  10. As a kid, I was a bit of a misfit. I became a people-watcher then because I didn't really fit in anywhere. I saw no need to drop the habit once I gained a little confidence; it was too interesting!

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    1. So you go way back on people watching. I would never have thought you were a "misfit" as a kid. It IS interesting. It can also help make wise choices about people you come into contact with.

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  11. yep i am a people watch from waaaay back...lol, several of us navy waves used to catch a taxi and ride into washington d.c and then the airport just so that we could watch people-cheap entertainment for sure, but can be very interesting and educational. these days, years and years from that time i still enjoy watching people and what goes on around me and my homestead. and it remains interesting, educational, and entertaining too.

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    1. Man.... I bet you saw some real doozies in DC

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  12. A very clever and entertaining post. I'm still smirking. You are right about eating healthy. It's hard to manage a food storage program when eating fresh is a huge part of a healthy diet. Being inventive helps though. :-)

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  13. Yes, I watch what is in shopping carts some of the time. Especially at Costco - I marvel at the things people are purchasing. I like to think about what they are going to do with all they have in their carts. Maybe a party, maybe a family gathering. I often learn about items that I would not otherwise see (or would not buy) because I get in and out quickly. Sometimes there are some folks that I would sure like to go home with!

    My dear mom is 85 and we swear she plans to die with empty cupboards! Maybe I will be the same way when I am that age....

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    1. I'm starting to think there are many more cart spies than I knew. It makes me feel like I'm not a nutcase after all.

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  14. As a part of a large internet group, I commented that I saw people who bought all processed food with maybe a gallon of milk and a roast. The balance of the $200 worth of groceries was just processed with no fresh fruit or vegetables, just canned ones.

    I was called a snoop, nosey, busy body, judgmental, was told to tend to my own business and stay out of other people's carts. There was a firestorm of name calling aimed toward me. Two weeks later, a dozen people admitted they noticed what others bought because the carts were in front of them, for no other reason.

    I never said anything to the shoppers I observed!

    I think all your observations were legitimate and did not harm anyone, not even yourself. I am amused.

    I am not so much a people watcher unless I just happen to observe something while I MUST wait. I never decide to go somewhere to watch people. I get too upset or angry because of what I observe: man fondling daughter's breast, parents dressed warmly with children barely dressed in cold weather, shoplifters fleeing, insults/abuse to mostly women and children, talk of cheating of some kind.

    I was waiting in an airport to pick up friends when a foreigner was yanking his wife around, talking so mean, and shoved her as he twisted her arm. I jumped up and objected to her treatment, and told him if wanted to stay in the US, he had better stop hurting her. He was so angry at me, she started crying and running, the family looked frightened, and about 50 people gathered around. The man calmed down because he thought he was in trouble. Maybe it was none of my business, but I could not bare to watch this 3 feet from me without objecting. (They may be citizens, but they spoke a foreign language amongst themselves.)

    Oh, I can pick an item off the shelf and find that I picked up the only item without a price, a tag, or a barcode! I only bought three things one trip, and neither one had a way to determine the price.

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    1. Knowing how some forums are it doesn't really surprise me when they got all up in your face. I'm sorry you had to go through that.
      As to awful things you've seen while people watching well, I've seen a few bad things but generally speaking most to me are quite amusing.
      Mars got me into people watching in a kind of strange way. Or it might seem strange to other people. We used to sub contract jobs and traveled all around the Austin area/ At lunch time we would take a break for lunch and pick up a bag of ice for the water cooler. If we hadn't made lunch we'd find a grocery store and pick up some things that we could make while sitting under whatever shade we could find. and while eating lunch we would just watch people.
      Once while I was sitting in the shade to finish smoking a cigarette I saw this really old couple, I kid you not they had to be in their 90's. She was riding an electric cart and he was pushing the regular cart. He helped his wife into the car and went around back to the trunk to start unloading his groceries. He was having a heck of a time trying to unload his groceries. I jumped out of my car and asked him if I could help him load his groceries. The look on his face was priceless. He said that I was an angel for helping him. I've never told anyone that story before today.
      I remember a sermon I had heard once. Mind you I'm paraphrasing here but the gist of it was this. It please the Maker for you to go out and do good deeds without expecting some sort of recognition. It is more pleasing to him to do a deed and not brag about what you have done for anyone. I've tried to live by that every since that day.

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    2. That is wonderful you helped the elderly couple. They were problem trying to remain independent and not getting shipped to a nursing hope by incapable by doing things. You were an angel!

      The moderator thought she could moderate 10,000 members. That one group and one member in particular is the reason I began to blog. I am much happier.

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  15. Former cashier and total people watcher here! I have seen all you guys mentioned and more...much, much, more, lol!
    The slow lane? Been there, lost my mind there more than once, lol!
    Worst time ever...I had 4 kids. #3 was sick. I ran from the doctors office over to the Krogers in my town to get his prescription. Decided to grab maybe 6 items (juice, milk...that sort of stuff). Got the prescription and went to the express lane (in those days you couldn't pay for groceries in the pharmacy section of the store). There's this old lady in front of me. I am sure she was a sweet old lady...but that day...well. One sick kid that had thrown up twice since we had gotten into the store. One more with bad cold. A baby that needed to be nursed. And the oldest one doing her "Mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY! Can I get this?"
    The old lady had coupons. Half of them looked older than I was. And she had pulled out a checkbook. AND cash. AND A FREAKIN' CREDIT CARD! I knew how this transaction was going to go....PLUS she had about 30 items!
    I am so sorry.
    I snapped.
    I yelled "Stop!" and grabbed the old lady's cart, loaded her stuff back up in it, pushed it over to the next lane, unloaded it on that conveyer, grabbed the coupons, quickly sorted out the expired ones and slapped them down for the cashier, went back to my lane, swiped through my purchases (sort of shoved a very bemused cashier out of the way) and paid. Grabbed my bags, my kids and headed for the door after yelling "THAT'S how you do it!!!"
    It was a bad kinda day....

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    1. Sweet!
      Now that story sounds like something straight out of the Twilight Zone. I sure would have paid good $$ for a front row seat to that one.
      You are my Hero! :-)

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  16. Now I don't feel so bad, what really ticks me off is when I get treated like less of an American citizen than the people in front of me that are illegal...that's when I will fire off a letter to corporate as fast as I can get home. I do enjoy trying to figure out the lifestyle of some people by spying on they're cart. I find that when I'm really hungry and only going to pick up a couple of items, my cart is embarrassing..crap that I have no business dragging home...Oh well! all in a days shopping trip.

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    1. What I want to know is why is it that illegals must have at least half their family with them when they shop? OH and what is it about stopping right in the middle of the front doors????

      I always try not to shop while I'm hungry too. If not I usually do the same thing. Usually I'll come to my senses (sort of) and put back all but the one that is calling my name the loudest. In other words I guess I compromise myself....

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    2. I figure it is custom the do things go together.

      It is not just non-Americans who just stop in from of the doors, congregate in aisles. It make me crazy to have to ask people to disband the family unions so traffic can proceed in the aisles. In Walmart this sometimes every four feet.

      Today, a woman was walking in the aisle all only but holding the cart to her side. There was not enough room to get on either side of her or the cart.

      When a mother, father, two teens all walk side by side, NO one can pass. It is all too much for me some days!

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  17. Hahahaha enjoyed the comments and article very much. Thanks. I am a lurker

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    1. Lurkers abound here. Just help yourself to some cookies. They are in the jar on the counter and pour yourself a cuppa coffee and sit a spell.

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  18. My daughter is a server in Cincinnati. I'm sure she would agree with your thoughts 100%.

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    1. Waiting tables is far from an easy job. But if you can roll with it and make it look easy ,your customers will almost always be generous. I did a post a couple of years ago about waiting. Hmmm.... I just might try to do another one.

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  19. Also long time lurker, but thought you would like to hear about a shopper we frequently get at our local grocery. The store gets really busy and packed, so some women just get in line with their cart and have the five kids they brought in sprint through the store and get things from the shopping list, toss it in the cart, and go back for more. So you have all these kids, running, darting between carts...I know I should be annoyed, but after awhile I'm interested to see if they get their shopping done on time. They usually do. Only once I had to wait while Mom had a few items delivered up to her. The kids are adorable, but I'm concerned that Mom isn't instilling any values in them. Nobody can help but see what the kids bring to the cart. Normally, everything in the store except fresh fruit and veg. I admit, I love to see what people buy and I'm totally cool with catching people checking out my cart. When it comes to paying, I keep a polite distance and allow the person ahead of me some privacy in that regard. My biggest pet peeve is the person who will lean right over me while I write a check or punch in my debit number. I usually give them a really stern look (the kind only an old curmudgeon can-hee hee) and they back off quick. People watching is always fun, but it is alarming how good manners and common sense seem to be disappearing.
    I also want to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy this blog and appreciate all I've learned from it. Please just keep doing things your way. I admire people who have a vision, like wanting a more self-sufficient life-style, and instead of just talking about it, do it and stick with it through the good and the bad.
    P.S. All the other shoppers mentioned in this article shop in my store too. Especially, the extended families that walk side by side instead of single file. The only ones cheek enough to push right through them are the wild kids running all around grabbing things for their lazy Mom.

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    1. Anony I can just see it. Almost a circus atmosphere with the kids. running around like its some sort of game. I'm sure it isn't so funny when they are playing defensive linebackers though.
      I have the same pet peeve about people getting all up in "my space". That and the people behind you that keep bumping you in the butt with their carts. I DO go a step farther these days. If the cold hard stare doesn't work. Just a couple of weeks ago I was unloading my cart and the chick behind me first bumped me in the a$$ (insert "the look") Then she started moving MY groceries around and putting hers on the belt (Excuse me + "the look".) Then while I was emptying the last of my groceries she got right up on my back and actually bumped into me. I gave her "the look" and told her "Is there something you don't understand about personal space?" I stretched out my arms and made a sort of circular movement. "THIS IS MY PERSONAL SPACE AND YOU NEED TO BACK THE HELL UP" Folks behind her started laughing and the poor cashier was doing all she could not to laugh.
      She backed up and shut up. I guess I'm getting old enough these days not to give a flying flip about standing my ground. (It IS after all MY personal space) lollllzzz
      Thanks for visiting and the kind words about this blog. Come back anytime. Coffee's on the stove and cookies are in that jar on the counter!

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  20. My favorite place to people watch was the Disney World parks when we lived in Florida. Oh the stories. Folks from all around the world. One poor guy was dumped by his wife one night at the hotel on Disney property. The wife took the kids and was meet by other family members and left him at 1 am. (I was picking my son up from work.) They had to call security and the sheriff to calm him down.

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    1. Rob,
      I never thought about some place like Disney World. I'm betting it's probably one of the BEST placed to people watch. So much diversity ya know! LOL

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  21. While in Winn Dixie, there were two huge black women in the back of the store with a child in the cart. They started throwing food out of the cart at each other because one of them wanted sliced cheese, and the other woman said she needed her nails done, and wasn't going to pay for sliced cheese.

    Everyone ran when they started grabbing food out of the refrigerated section, throwing it at each other.

    Joe came up behind me and tugged my shirt to get me to evacuate the premises: NOW.

    I wanted some popcorn. It was too good to leave. I was behind a barrier of Cokes, but.....I still feel bad for the poor store clerks who had to restock all that food, and the girl in the cart.

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  22. LMAOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for the laugh, I love a good one to start my day. Now I'll be thinking about taking food fights to the next level.

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