I don’t know how grocery stores work in other parts of the world, but if they work anything like the ones around here do, you’re familiar with the concept of a club card. A store’s club card is your way of telling the world that you’re too smart to pay $47.99 for a jar of pickled beets and would prefer to be charged $2.99 like everyone else on planet Earth. And then when you pay for the beets, they make a big deal about the money they “saved” you, as if that fools anyone over the age of two.
Cashier: Thank you for shopping at BlobCo, Mr. Perlman. You saved $47,000 today.
Me: My name’s not Mr. Perlman, and I didn’t save shit.
Cashier: Excuse me?
Me: You can’t pick an arbitrarily high number you never plan on charging people, then use that number as a basis for ‘great savings’. Only car salesmen can do that, and they’re so hated that killing them isn’t even a felony any more.
Cashier: Oh, but your BlobCo card is…
Me: Besides, the price you wound up charging me isn’t even that great of a price. It just sounds like it is because you’re claiming that you could have charged me the GDP of Ecuador instead, but opted not to because I’m such a ‘valued customer’. It’s as if I threatened to beat the simpering poo out of you, but lit your hair on fire instead and then had the balls to tell you that I saved you an ass-kicking.
Cashier: Ok, so would you like help out to your car with that?
Me: No, I’ve got it. Thanks.
The real reason that they do the club card thing is because they want all of your personal data. They meticulously track all of your purchases so that they may tailor your shopping experience in such a way that you’ll find it not only reasonable to spend an entire paycheck on beer and heavily salted “foods” with names like “Chub Snax!”, but downright enjoyable as well.
Your kids may not like your purchases, but do they know the pressure of having a coupon in their hands that expires the next day? No, they do not. A free case of beer when you buy ten at regular price is a fucking deal, and you ignore it at your peril.
“Daddy, did you get any fruit? The school doctor says my teeth are falling out because of scurvy!”
“I’m pretty sure Chub Snax! are a fruit. Listen, go get daddy a beer.”
It’s this data mining/shopping personalization experience/Satanic pact with otherworldly forces that is why Safeway thinks my last name is Perlman, but before we get to that… Have you ever looked down at your purchase and realized that what you’re buying makes it look like you’re a sick fuck? For example, long-time friend, and some-time commenter Squatch once looked up to see a cashier giving him the stink-eye because he happened to be buying sandwich bread, soft cat food, and nothing else.
Another example: One time I went to the store to get the makings for a salad and when I got home, I realized that I had forgotten to buy a crucial ingredient.
Me: Shit, I have to run back to the store. I’ll be back in a few.
Girlfriend: Oh, hey, can you pick me up some Vaseline? I’m out.
Me: (weird look)
Girlfriend: What? I use it to take my makeup off.
Girlfriend: What? Why not?
Me: There is no way in hell that I’m going to go to the store to buy a cucumber and a jar of Vaseline.
Girlfriend: Oh. Yeah. I guess I can see why.
Digression #1: I’ve told this story to numerous women over the years, and roughly half of them stop me and ask: “Wait. She used Vaseline to take her makeup off?” The other half don’t even blink an eye at that. What I don’t know about women’s makeup would fill a grocery store, so if you’re as mystified at the whole makeup/Vaseline thing as I am, don’t ask me.
Digression #2: I’ve referred to this a couple of times in this blog over the years, but I have a patented Grocery Store Revenge Scheme that is related to the above, and it works like a fucking charm. I should point out that I rarely have occasion do this, as the vast majority of my shopping experiences are confrontation-free. But if you need a go-to shopping revenge move, it doesn’t get any better than this. Here’s how it works:
- Some random asshole pisses you off
- Casually walk to the produce section and select the largest cucumber you can find
- Place it in a plastic produce bag, but do not close the bag
- Get a large tube of KY Jelly or any other “personal lubricant” and put it in the produce bag with the cucumber
- If the asshole is a man, put a tube of lipstick in the bag as well. If it is a woman, a large box of condoms
- Tie the produce bag in a knot so that it cannot be easily opened
- Drop the bag in the asshole’s cart when they are not looking
- Get behind them in line at the checkout register
The crucial steps are the addition of the lipstick/condoms, and tying up the bag. The lipstick/condoms make it virtually impossible that this is some sort of misunderstanding. Tying the bag ensures that the cashier will have to stop what she’s doing to slowly untie the bag and bring out each item for everyone to see.
When you pull this move off, it is a thing of goddamn beauty. It works even better in a small town when the humiliated asshole leaves and the cashier says to you, sotto voce, “That’s my son’s science teacher!” Not for long!
Anyway, sometimes you need to buy things at the store which, all by themselves, are entirely innocent. But put them together and they paint a very disturbing picture. Ever have a sick tweener daughter and some weekend shopping to do? Trust me, you get some odd fucking looks when you buy a large bottle of vodka and a couple of copies of Tiger Beat magazine.
One time, while I was shopping, I realized that I’d forgotten my club card, so I gave them my phone number instead and it turns out that their system links that phone number to a person named Mr. Perlman. So now, if my purchases are the kind of thing that just looks… wrong, I make sure to give them my phone number instead of my club card.
“Gee, Mr. Perlman… I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone buy that much gin in one trip.”
“Well, you know how thirsty Boy Scouts are! See you next time!”
Even if he has somehow avoided arrest, Mr. Perlman probably gets some pretty interesting coupons printed out when he goes shopping. “Ok, Mr. Perlman, you saved $23 million, and here’s a coupon for 10% off a subscription to Whiskey Gulpers Quarterly.”
Mr. Perlman, if you’re out there and haven’t been beaten to death by an enraged Den Mother yet: I’m sorry. But, uhhh, can you have Whiskey Gulper’s Quarterly forwarded to my house? I’ll trade you for a couple of copies of Tiger Beat.