The Shopping Achievement

I hate going to Wal-Mart. It's not so much the store as it is all the people; the ones that pretend to shop but are really just hanging out, or rotting standing up, or whatever else they've decided to do rather than select goods from the shelves and move to the front to purchase them. Their dead weight transforms the entire experience from one of neutral necessity to one of pure hell.

You see, when I go to Wal-Mart I go to win. I arrive with a game plan. I commit the store layout to memory. I take the time of day and date into account to predict concentrations of shoppers to avoid, and if I'm really on top of my game I will even lay out a path through the store in my head.

As I get out of my car and start to walk toward the store it's like the long parking lot is a loading screen while my life caches Wally World. During my walk I can hear a voice over in my head detailing my goals:

Primary Objectives:
1. Obtain 2 weeks worth of Bagel Bites.
2. Acquire 3-pack of SOS dish sponges.
3. Secure bread.

Secondary Objectives:
1. Investigate Marvel Action Figures.
2. Do not kill any civilians.

Bonus Objective:
Complete all Primary and Secondary objectives in under 10:00 minutes.

When I grip the cold steel handle of my shopping cart the game has begun. I zigzag through the isles like I've just won a Nickelodeon shopping spree, tipping the items off the shelf into my moving buggy. Sometimes a brief pause is permitted when choosing between Wheaties or Frosted Flakes but most of the time I am racing with a purpose. My buggy rocks back and forth as I use a controlled slide to take the hairpin turns connecting the isles. Red sparks fly from behind my wheels setting the toilet paper and tissue boxes alight as I ride away cackling maniacally.

Well, ok no, that last part doesn't happen. What actually happens on my attempted Supermarket Kessel runs is a lot more frustrating. I start out fast enough, obtaining anything on my list located in good flow or low traffic areas. Antacids, candy, vegetables (the vegetable section is a freaking ghost town), and anything else that's a sure thing is collected first. Then comes the boss fight: the frozen food and bread isles.

One does not simply walk into the frozen food section. Its screaming children, angry rednecks, and grotesquely obese zombies make the simple act of moving forward 20 feet seem nigh impossible. If Wal-Mart were alive this isle would be the dangerous blood clot in its leg.

The whole time I'm trying to circumnavigate this excess deposit of human beings the timer in my mind is counting down reminding me that if I don't get a move on the whole mission will be a failure. Sometimes I want to stand on my buggy and scream, "You sorry bastards are making me crazy! You've already lost at Wal-Mart! Don't bring me down with you!"

I wish, like a little girl wishing for a flying pony, that Wal-Mart was a game. If this were a video game there would be some mechanic built in to subdue or overcome the masses of warm bodies in front of me. I could freeze beam them or upper cut them through the roof or maybe even jump up and smush them flat. But no, this is the real world, where leaping off a stack of dog food to hop on someone's head has been deemed by the establishment as "illegal."

The biggest frustration is that these people just don't get it. If you get yourself into a race you want to come in first. If you storm into Dr. Robotniks' Chemical Factory you want to make it past the checkpoint flag at the end. If you jump into the ring with Piston Hurricane you better be ready to kick his ass, because if you aren't ready you are going to get pummeled into the canvas. The same thing should be true of the American store and it makes me furious that there is no penalty for poor performance.

When these people walk into Wal-Mart and aren't ready to shop the hell out of that store they are failing a basic everyday human activity. You can't beat the supermarket? It's got to be one of the easiest levels! What else do you suck at? If you managed to accidentally buy this food and get it back to your house would you even be able to figure out how to eat it? Would the police break down your door a week from now finding you dead from starvation on your kitchen floor, the fork still in your hand from where you were shoveling mini-ravioli into the open tape slot of an unplugged VCR?

Honestly, if you can't decide between Sprite or Barq's in the span of 60 seconds maybe you should reevaluate your priorities. Do it away from me, though. Examine your values over by the fish tanks. I hardly ever go over there.

Some of us, probably mostly gamers, are actually trying to accomplish something when we are in a store. We want to be able to complete our objectives in a quick efficient manner so that we can leave and get back to our lives. The ultimate goal on my list is to get back home as quickly as possible so it doesn't feel like I've spent a substantial percentage of my life in the florescent glow of a store, but there are some that would rather stay here and keep me here with them for company.

You know who you are. People bringing whole newspapers into the market so they can read the coupons while they shop. The troglodytes that don't fill out their antiquated checks until the teller is finished ringing them up. Or, the high functioning chimps that park their buggies diagonally in the middle of the isles. You all need to be collected in a big sack by Superman and thrown into the sun like a batch of Russian nukes.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to shop; nothing like a "one strike and you're out" policy. I just think that when someone is bogging down the system they should be called on it. It can be sensible too. You don't have to look at an old woman sticking her whole head in the milk refrigerator and spout off to your wife, "Look honey! A mannequin made out of dead spiders!" Something more subtle will work just as well, if not better.

This year I'm going to start carrying around a sheet of stickers featuring sad faces instead of the traditional happy face. If someone cuts me in line or turns their buggy sideways in the cereal isle I'll just lean over and stick a sad face on their shirt. I'll add in a disappointed shake of the head, like the kind you get when your Dad sees you shoot the kid next door in the butt with a BB gun.

Be safe these next few weeks everyone, and if you get a sticker on your shirt don't panic. Just stop and look around you and try to figure out what you are doing wrong. I promise it will make your life and mine a lot more enjoyable.

Comments

Secondary Objectives:
2. Do not kill any civilians.

It's where I always go wrong

Preech, brother, preech!

Seems like it doesn't matter where you are, the shopping experience is the same. I suffer the same grief on the shopping trips in a small city (35,000 people) in Australia.

Chiggie I play your game, but I only knew I dod because the SO pointed it out to me, shopping is a specific goal oriented experience...

But of course if you want to look at the shopping experience another way, we're playing a linear game going from a to b to c on the rails, while the people picking up your sad faces are enjoying a non linear experience.

Ya know, this is exactly why I don't shop at Wal Mart anymore. Zellers and (the newer, larger, wider) Superstores have everything that Wally World has and not nearly as congested.

I avoid the older Superstores like the plague though. Think Wal Mart on a busy day with bad lighting and narrower isles. It ain't pretty.

I have the same experience everytime I visit any kind of store. I haven't thought of it the way you have though, its more of a natural instinct: get in, get your stuff, get out. My mother is one of the people who feel the need to stand and decide on basic items for minutes at a time, its maddening, almost embarrassing with me constantly having to adjust her cart position for maximum manuverability while she stares blankly at the stacks of bread.

Save your soul, make the switch to Target.

I always tell my son that going to Wal-Mart is like a free trip to the circus except with more freaks.

When I leave I'm always left with the thought "MY GOD, where do these people come from?" "Please don't let them live in my neighborhood"!

Sprite is clear and refreshing on a zesty wavelength. But Barq's has bite. It's a tough choice for $2.99 and I will take my time deciding. Go around me.

Asz wrote:

I have the same experience everytime I visit any kind of store. I haven't thought of it the way you have though, its more of a natural instinct: get in, get your stuff, get out. My mother is one of the people who feel the need to stand and decide on basic items for minutes at a time, its maddening, almost embarrassing with me constantly having to adjust her cart position for maximum manuverability while she stares blankly at the stacks of bread.

My mother is the exact same way.. and I have to move the cart for her, too! She always manages to block entire isles with it.

Shazam wrote:
Asz wrote:

I have the same experience everytime I visit any kind of store. I haven't thought of it the way you have though, its more of a natural instinct: get in, get your stuff, get out. My mother is one of the people who feel the need to stand and decide on basic items for minutes at a time, its maddening, almost embarrassing with me constantly having to adjust her cart position for maximum manuverability while she stares blankly at the stacks of bread.

My mother is the exact same way.. and I have to move the cart for her, too! She always manages to block entire isles with it.

IMAGE(http://members.shaw.ca/rbogdan/blog_images/woman/woman4.gif)

I love you, Edwin.

The only time that I don't follow the "Oh God hurry the hell up and let's get out of here!" motto is the post-Christmas shopping. When you were a kid you always had a little bit of spending money to use thanks to grandma. I don't care if you hated me or not on December 27th -- I took my damn sweet time in the action figure aisles deciding how to squeeze out purchasing Wolverine, Cyclops, and Spiderman with only $16. And I loved it.

Is Wal-Mart the only place in your locale that sells Bagel Bites and SOS sponges?

Shazam wrote:
Asz wrote:

I have the same experience everytime I visit any kind of store. I haven't thought of it the way you have though, its more of a natural instinct: get in, get your stuff, get out. My mother is one of the people who feel the need to stand and decide on basic items for minutes at a time, its maddening, almost embarrassing with me constantly having to adjust her cart position for maximum manuverability while she stares blankly at the stacks of bread.

My mother is the exact same way.. and I have to move the cart for her, too! She always manages to block entire isles with it.

I too have felt that embarrassment of lifting the front of the cart and moving it sideways. We may need to start a support group.

I can personally attest that Chiggie does often put his cart into controlled slides while pretending it is the Millenium Falcon and the people are meteors. If the wheels aren't too screechy you can hear him humming that bit of the soundtrack.

One does not simply walk into the frozen food section.

Man, as a single guy, I haven't been to Walmart in a while, and the times I've been there, I don't even take a cart, I can usually carry all my stuff in my arm.

Danjo Olivaw wrote:

I can personally attest that Chiggie does often put his cart into controlled slides while pretending it is the Millenium Falcon and the people are meteors. If the wheels aren't too screechy you can hear him humming that bit of the soundtrack.

So, when he rounds a corner and is faced with a meandering mass of shoppers as impenetrable as the second Death Star's shields, does he swivel his eyes like Admiral Ackbar and gurgle out "It's a trap!"

Farscry wrote:

So, when he rounds a corner and is faced with a meandering mass of shoppers as impenetrable as the second Death Star's shields, does he swivel his eyes like Admiral Ackbar and gurgle out "It's a trap!"

No it's more like:

Chiggie - "I'm gunna move in closer to one of the big ones."

Danjo - "You're gunna do what?!?"

The article itself was fun enough, but this just keeps getting better.

Please proceed with more of the stealthily inserted Lord of the Rings quotes and comparisons of the wal-mart shopping experience to intergalactic war.

LiquidMantis wrote:

Save your soul, make the switch to Target.

I agree. The extra few dollars you pay really keeps out the riff raff.

Chiggie, is this why you refused to consider any coffee mug suggestions from Wal-Mart?

You all need to be collected in a big sack by Superman and thrown into the sun like a batch of Russian nukes.

For some reason I laugh every time I re-read this line and imagine all the problem shoppers being disposed of this way. I'm thinking they whine and complain as they sail sunward even though there's no air in space.

My wife and I are convinced that most people don't realize that there are other people in the universe with them. You see it in the aisles at grocery stores, when they stop with their carts diagonal in the aisle next to a floor display, and then give you the stink-eye when you're trying to get past. Also when they're pushing their purchases back to their car in the parking lot, going straight down the middle of the parking aisle with three cars moving slowly behind them.

When we shop and need to stop and look at something, I immediately pull the cart over to where it'll be least obtrusive, taking into account what I'm parking in front of, floor displays and people coming down the aisle. And when we go back to our car, we stay out of traffic and if we must cross the aisle, we do it quickly and shortest point-to-point, not a long, lazy diagonal because it's easier.

The problem is that people mostly don't consider others. Next time you're at a restaurant, watch when someone's about to get up from a table. See if they look behind them before they slide back their chair. I'll bet they don't.

I find fluid evasion footwork to be very useful in crowded situations. "Cartmom+3kids at 1mph vs. oldladychair crossing at 0.5mph... compensating for random kid movement, move in at the specific angle, then pivot either left or right depending on the kid error correction... WHOA surprise cartdad behind the corner, shift posture, reverse direction ! Catch the Pepsi that I decked with my shoulder !"

However, when I start moving like this, the person I am with starts pretending they don't know me.

The grocery store level I visit recently got an expansion pack. Five plus years of developing my own speed run strategy guide gone. I once could decide at a glance if I needed to go down an isle. Now the twenty minute in-out-done-for-another-two-weeks trips have become hour long scavenger hunts. Some of the isles are deceptively similar to the old ones, others are complete mysteries. And to make navigation even more fun, the isles aren't of even width. They go from a comfortable two and a half carts wide to "you will be required to maneuver down this trench" claustraphobic. (Instead of gun towers and structural supports the store has isle displays and those annoying coupon dispensers that stick out.)

The bright side: I haven't been to a Wal Mart in years.

I miss Fort Collins, Colorado. Drive to mall + shop entire mall + eat dinner at mall + drive home = 45 minutes. Beat that, koreans!

EDIT: Koreans referring to those guys who finish Super Mario Brothers in something like 46 seconds. See, they play the game over and over until they can go so fast that they... oh never mind.

Another great article!

Honestly, if you can't decide between Sprite or Barq's in the span of 60 seconds maybe you should reevaluate your priorities. Do it away from me, though. Examine your values over by the fish tanks. I hardly ever go over there.

This made me cry with laughter. Chiggie, I can totally relate with your article. I always view my Wal Mart trips like a mission. You forgot to mention one hazard, though - the old lady in front of you at the self checkout lane. There's nothing like being so close to completing the mission in record time only to be stymied by that final roadblock!

shihonage wrote:

I find fluid evasion footwork to be very useful in crowded situations. "Cartmom+3kids at 1mph vs. oldladychair crossing at 0.5mph... compensating for random kid movement, move in at the specific angle, then pivot either left or right depending on the kid error correction... WHOA surprise cartdad behind the corner, shift posture, reverse direction ! Catch the Pepsi that I decked with my shoulder !"

However, when I start moving like this, the person I am with starts pretending they don't know me.

When I lived in NYC, I think I made a secondary profession out of this. If I remember right, I even realized that if I increased my speed going north on Lexington, I could time all the lights properly between 34th and 45th streets so I didn't have to stop. Once, after a particularly bad day, I decided to deal with the fat lady who oozed into my path by going through her purse, which probably had her thinking I was a purse snatcher for a bit.

If I try to do that stuff with my wife in tow, she just rolls her eyes and gets irritated. I guess she considers it rude. Me, I think the oblivious people who are in my way are rude.

I've started thinking about driving this way. Turns out people are terrible at that game too.

I also think that ramming into carts that morons leave in the middle of the aisle while they wander off to stare vapidly at something should not only be allowed but federally mandated.

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:
Farscry wrote:

So, when he rounds a corner and is faced with a meandering mass of shoppers as impenetrable as the second Death Star's shields, does he swivel his eyes like Admiral Ackbar and gurgle out "It's a trap!"

No it's more like:

Chiggie - "I'm gunna move in closer to one of the big ones."

Danjo - "You're gunna do what?!?"

You go shopping with a committee?

Chumpy_McChump wrote:

I've started thinking about driving this way. Turns out people are terrible at that game too.

I also think that ramming into carts that morons leave in the middle of the aisle while they wander off to stare vapidly at something should not only be allowed but federally mandated.

Better to swerve around them and hit the moron, I think.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Chumpy_McChump wrote:

I've started thinking about driving this way. Turns out people are terrible at that game too.

I also think that ramming into carts that morons leave in the middle of the aisle while they wander off to stare vapidly at something should not only be allowed but federally mandated.

Better to swerve around them and hit the moron, I think.

Depends on if the person. Some people in the world would serve us a huge favor if they stopped existing.