Deli (en)Counters

Dear Deli Counter,

I’m writing to let you know all the things wrong with you in the hopes that you’ll shape up and embrace changes after all these years of sameness.  It’s time…

Lose the  Take-A-Ticket concept. It doesn’t work.  Don’t you know by now that ordinary folk can’t follow direction?  Probably 5% of deli customers see the ticket machine, get the ticket and wait politely waiting for their number to be called so they can place their deli order.  The rest of the 95% ignore what you’re supposed to do and just press themselves as close to the glass display case as possible trying to get the person’s attention like their ordering a drink from a bar.  If you want people to use the ticket machine, the person behind the counter needs to actually follow the process themselves.  You wait on a customer and then advance the little digital number to indicate the next customer in the que.  What doesn’t work is me walking up to the counter, pulling number 15 and the digital display says 4.  Use the technology you’ve been given! Oh, and get rid of that stupid plastic wicker basket on the counter for people to deposit their tickets into after they’re all set with their deli order.  Most people just throw the tickets on the floor and walk away. I know…people suck.

Learn from the DMV. Now that’s a system that works for stupid people.  If someone wants to order from the deli, line up benches in front of the counter so people can sit, relax and wait their goddamned turn. NOW you can use your silly take-a-ticket machine to dispense numbers.  If you do that, customers will have time to reflect on exactly what they want to order at the deli before they actually approach the counter.  No more, “Hmmmm…..let’s see….do you have any Boars Head Spicy Elephant Ears?”  They’ll just approach the counter and order their damn meat.

Stop Playing Games. When I ask you to slice it thicker, do you slice it exactly the same way and see if I notice any difference?  ‘Cause I fall for it every single time.  How am I supposed to see if you’ve added a 1/16″ more depth to my cheese slice? I’m all the way over there behind the glass with the stacks of bulkie rolls.  I can’t see that far.  I say, “Yes, much better. Thank you very much.” because I have their weird need to please you, but then I get home and have to perform surgery on my pound of American Cheese with my best knife because I can’t separate the slices because they’ve been sliced too thin. I just want a normal cheese slice.  Can you talk to your pals in The American Association of Meat Processors and get a quorum on the width of deli cheese? Thanks.

No More Free Slices. Stop letting customers con you into asking for a slice to try before they buy it. I stand there silently hating you for prolonging the deli transaction because I’ve got to wait around for some annoying customer to decide if the ham is too salty for their delicate palate.  Enough with the taste test. Here’s another piece of free advice: don’t be fooled into thinking if you give a toddler a slice of cheese they’ll shut up…because they won’t.  They’ll just reach out their grubby little hands for more. Or throw it on the floor.

Take A Lesson From Wegmans.  I think you’ll agree that you get a lot of deli traffic crowding up your counters.  I know that’s not a bad thing, but it’s got to be annoying when so many customers are just ordering your basics like cheese, ham, salami, bologna, etc. How many times are you unwrapping and wrapping up the Polish Ham? Isn’t that exhausting?  Wegmans, my favored grocer, actually has a little refrigerated area adjacent to their deli counter and they have all the deli meat staples wrapped in half-pound packages so customers can just grab and go.  No need to clog up the deli counter at all. It’s the ultimate drive-by.

Deli Counter – I know you’ve got a tough job to do managing all those meats, cheeses and over-sized pickles for your customers.   I know the elderly can be annoying with their quarter-pound meat requests.  And I can certainly appreciate that the safety training can be tiresome just so you can guarantee that you’re people go home at the end of their shift with their ten fingers, but you’ve got to do a better job.

Because if you don’t, I might just have to go all Vegan on your ass. And trust me, if that happens, you’ll lose your best over-sized pickle customer.

Hello Kitty Cup Cakes

I know somewhere in the ADHA licensure that there must be a warning against giving sweets to your patients, but I’m sure glad my dental hygienist Andrea overlooked it.  Yesterday she gave me four Hello Kitty cupcakes that she baked just for me!

My cleaning appointment was at 4pm and she came out into the waiting room to tell me she had a little something for me chilling in the backseat of her car.  So we went outside to see and I resisted my impulse to lock arms with her and skip into the parking lot because I already knew what it was going to be!

They were simply gorgeous: four red velvet cupcakes with pink-tinted cream-cheese frosting topped with fondant-designed Hello Kitty faces.  Just look at those delicate little black whiskers.  Amazing.  Andrea explained she used one of her special cake tools to get the whiskers placed just right which was an improvement over the last time she made these for her daughter (another Hello Kitty obsessed adult – see? I’m not the only one) because she had used a tube of gel-based frosting and didn’t get the same effect.

The kitty is in the details.

So I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest patient of Boylston Dental Associates.  Dr. Scanlon has done lots of good things for my choppers over the years, but he never baked me Hello Kitty cupcakes.

Farewell Pomegranates…It’s been POM-Wonderful

I thought it would be appropriate to officially document the end of my Pomegranate season.  Boy, it’s been one hell of a juicy ride.
I’m afraid to even consider how much money I’ve spent this year on my Pomegranate habit, but it has to be at least $200 bucks or more.  The average price I paid at the supermarket this year was $2.50/each or approx. $20 per visit just on this fruit alone.  My best deal was found just a few weeks ago up in North Conway, New Hampshire when we visited a Hannaford Supermarket during a minor snow storm paying a mere $1.99/each for soft-ball size Pomegranates. 
My co-worker Carrie sent me this infographic a while back from that awesome site GraphJam and I think I told her at the time that I was going to print this one out, nicely frame it and hang it in my kitchen.  (Note to self: DO THIS!)
I suspect my digestive system is in tip-top shape and really I’ve only ruined a couple dish towels and t-shirts with the juice splatters.  My thanks go out to all my friends and family who have supported my unnatural habit by purchasing me pomegranates or pomegranate-related merchandise since mid-October. 
I begin 2011 with ten stained, but well-worked fingers and many pleasant memories of seeds gone by.

Spogs…Who Knew????

Happy New Year to ME! I have, just moments ago, hit the proverbial jackpot and/or discovered my Holy Grail: I finally found those little liquorice-flavored jelly buttons that are part of the Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts.

My good friend and former co-worker Jillian has family in England. She visits them a couple times a year, but one of the best things about her trips is she gets to bring back Cadbury chocolate.

What you may not know about Jillian is she has a Celiac food allergy which prevents her from eating Gluten. Britain is much more progressive than the United States in labeling the ingredients on their food packaging so she’s become quite the connoisseur on what she can and cannot eat. If you know Jillian then you know she can eat lots and lots of Cadbury chocolate, but only if it’s made in the U.K. In fact, she buys so much Cadbury chocolate when she visits England that she’s actually paid a penalty of $50 at the airport for having exceeded the baggage weight limit and once threw her back out lifting a piece of luggage out of a cab coming back from England.

Jillian first brought me back Liquorice Allsorts from England that tasted amazing because they were extra chewy and very fresh. (Ever snack on Good ‘N Plenty’s that have gone stale? If so, you’ll understand why freshness is very important when it comes to eating liquorice.) Another time she brought me back a Cadbury Curly Wurly which is the British version of the now defunct Marathon Bar which was available in the United States in the late 70’s.

One time she brought me back Walker’s Nonsuch Licorice Toffee and I ate the whole bag in one sitting because I had never tasted something so infused with rich flavor and creamy texture. So these ended up being my two favorite treats that she always brought back for me when she visited her family in England.

Back in October I sent myself an email with links to a few online retailers that sold the toffee because I was loving it so much that I didn’t want to have to wait until Jillian’s next trip to England. (She had recently accepted a new job and I didn’t think she would be traveling anytime soon which meant I was on my own to fend for my British sweets.)

As I’ve been on Christmas break this past week, I’ve had lots of time to catch up on emails wasting away in my in-box. It was only this morning that I decided to do a little web surfing for a state-side supplier of Walker’s Liquorice Toffee after reading that reminder email I sent myself three months ago.

Scrolling through a list of Liquorice candy, I suddenly and quite unsuspectingly came across a listing for SPOGS on this site called Sweetstall.com. I nearly missed it. I was sweeping down their list of available liquorice and was almost to the very end of the page when I spotted the candy I’ve been looking for years. Instantly my mouth watered seeing those little blue and pink jelly buttons and yeah, you could say my heart skipped a beat. The description was as follows: Spogs, an aniseed flavored jelly sweet with a coating of tiny balls of aniseed flavored candy. Spogs can be confused with Jelly Buttons, but Spogs are a better quality. These sweets are the ones found in the Liquorice Allsorts mix.

Talk about an OMG moment! I instantly added several packages to my shopping cart and proceeded to check out, but there was a problem: I couldn’t figure out how much the shipping was going to cost to send my goodies to the United States. Sadly the site didn’t have a conversion applet from U.S. dollars to G.B.P (pounds) and I would have had to enter my credit card so I could find out the estimated shipping charges. This made me uneasy because of a past experience buying a Little Britain birthday card for Spencer which cost me an enormous amount of money to ship and I simply couldn’t make that same mistake twice.

I began looking for an online retailer in the United States. I searched for quite a while and could only find one retailer that sold Spogs, but they were out of stock. But I couldn’t give up and was determined to buy those Spogs.

In the end, I found several international sellers on EBAY. (I really should have checked there first and I’m not sure why I didn’t because you can find practically anything on EBAY. That’s what makes it such an amazing site.) I found a seller named Recycled Radios located in The United Kingdom who was selling three packages for 1.10 GBP which is approx. $1.72 each. All totaled, my purchase cost me $17.75 including shipping from the U.K.

Obviously the shipping was the most expensive part of the purchase, but this is my test run for SPOGS. If they are exactly as promised and taste as amazing as they do in the Allsorts collection then 2011 is already off to a great start.

Happy New Year everyone.

Attack of the Killer Trader Joe’s Tomato

Spencer and I took a quick trip to the Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury, MA tonight and I just had to write about the woman in front of me in line.

It’s worth saying that I’ve never been a fan of Trader Joe’s.  It’s not the store, it’s simply the type of people who shop there.  My general observation has been these people eat Granola, have food allergies, don’t wear socks, embrace the cuteness of cow bells clanking at the registers and somehow balloons are occasionally involved with these people’s kids.

However, I’ve completely warmed to this particular Trader Joe’s location because they took over a now defunct pool supply store which has allowed them to nearly double their retail space. More space in the aisle means Kim doesn’t have to kill anyone.  Those sandal -wearing neo-hippies can make love to their nuts and berries while leaving me to peruse the insanely cheap flower bouquets and the fresh produce.

So tonight we went there to buy six bags of broccoli that are packaged for steaming in the microwave and I scored 4 more Pomegranates for $1.99 each.  I chose the register where the cashier was sporting his tropical Hawaiian shirt along with a salt and pepper beard.  Unfortunately he was in the middle of ringing up a woman who quickly turned into one of those super annoying customers that I always seem to have the pleasure of standing behind in every check-out line!

Apparently she bought some plum tomatoes the other day for $2.16 and they were simply awful.

Cashier rings the cow bell and presumably the front end manager promptly appears to credit the lady $2.16 no questions asked.  (Mind you, she didn’t have the offensive tomatoes with her nor did she have a receipt for the prior purchase!)

This is what burns me up.  After she’s pleasantly credited the $2.16, she just has to remark to the cashier, “Well, I know I won’t be buying my tomatoes from Trader Joe’s anymore!”

As Seth and Amy from SNL would say, “Really? Really!”

Was it entirely necessary to make that remark after she was completely taken care of by Trader Joe’s?  Wasn’t it enough that they gave her money back without any hassle at all?  Did she have to say that she would be taking her tomato business elsewhere?

I’ve purchased hundreds of dollars in Pomegranates over these past few years.  I’ve had my fair share of rotten ones, but I’ve never once returned fruit to a grocery store because it’s just not something I would ever consider doing.  I know some would say I’m entitled to a refund. However my philosophy is buyer beware when you’re buying fruits and vegetables.  There’s a reason why I see people knocking on watermelons and sniffing cantaloupes in the local supermarket…picking fresh fruit is a skill that is developed over time.  You’re bound to choose poorly sometimes-it’s just the way of the world.

Tonight I left Trader Joe’s with a healthy respect for their excellent customer service. I guess Trader Joe’s customers are probably like any other customers out there in the land of retail: there’s always going to be one rotten tomato.