Panic! at the grocery


I still haven't mastered this whole grocery-shopping thing. I don't just mean finding the best deal on groceries, although that's part of it, because apparently our economy is run by vengeful fourth-grade math teachers.

Is it cheaper to get the 10-ounce can of bacon-scented Lysol for $1.99 or the 16-ounce for $3? The answer, of course, is look, I didn't graduate college so I could waste an hour trying to save 20 damn cents. I just want my toilet to smell like bacon, so whatever I spend, it's probably worth it.

Now, before you can say, “There's an app for that,” I'll just tell you to run along and play your Pac-Man or your Pong or whatever game you kids are playing nowadays. The adults are talking.

I'm also not going to play along with supermarkets who force you to make long-term investments. Super One, for example, will send you a coupon booklet that will include a great deal on asparagus, as long as you can hold on to the coupon until its effective date, which is sometime around April 17, 2043.

I have trouble enough remembering to bring my coupons. I can try keeping the coupon in my coat pocket, but I will most likely forget it's there. My brain seldom prioritizes asparagus deals, because it needs to remember more pressing engagements, such as my annual flossing or the date when Maddie Ziegler becomes legal.

Even if I do remember the coupon, this is Minnesota, which means I have swapped my winter and summer jackets — I can say without fear of exaggeration — roughly 60 million times. It's like a shell game, except instead of cash for my mental efforts, I get 39 cents off a vegetable I don't even eat.

I know there are some people will cut these coupons and preserve them in a drawer somewhere, along with a circled calendar marking the date when they can get 14 cents off paper towels. We call these people “monsters.”

No, I'm kidding. These people are heroes, because they're calling Super One's bluff. They're basically telling the corporation, “You may have cost us $750 in labor, but damn it, we're getting that two-for-one Cheetos bargain!” Then they leave the store with their hard-earned prize, while forgetting that they left one of their children in the produce section.

My father has also not mastered coupons, because he falls for the bait-and-switch. He presents his coupon for the 11-ounce jar of tomato paste, only to be stopped by the security guard for instead picking up the 11.001-ounce jar, which is located on the same shelf in a similar container, except the non-coupon item also features, in tiny print, the word “Gotcha.”

Let's agree that, if you ever fall for this trap, you simply have to suck it up and buy the more expensive item. The store beat you. Just admit it. To put the item back while you're at the checkout line is a sign of weakness and will encourage lions to attack you in the parking lot.

There's also the hazard of parking your cart. At some point in the shopping experience, you are going to have to park your cart to reconnoiter, collect your forces and check off 18 different bags of cheese from your list.

It doesn't matter if you park your cart in front of an item that nobody buys, like Necco wafers. I guarantee you that, at that very moment, someone will come looking for a bag to give out on Halloween because they hate children and the law prevents them from giving out arsenic. And now you are in this barbarian's way.

Even worse: He has a coupon.

I'm done.