And the Winner is: A Tale of 3 Stores

Our social engineers like to chop us all up into neat little categories, don’t they? They do it by age, ethnicity, sex, etc… But they have missed a major social marker: where people shop! It so happened that in the course of essential business (family, church, and secular employment) I found myself in 3 stores over the course of about 36 hours. Below are my observations:

yellow shopping carts on concrete ground


Walking into Walmart on a sunny April day felt like people were getting ready for a family reunion in Alabama. Despite some apocalyptic fencing, it was difficult to tell that anything was other than normal. Now, the Walmart I went to tends to be very crowded, so I would say that based on the availability of parking spots they clearly had fewer people than normal. They also had employees stationed at entrances/exits doing the obligatory math. But inside the store, aisles were crowded, shoppers were large and loud, and masks were few and far between (full disclosure…I don’t wear a mask). In short, Walmart was the delightful center of redneck congregation that it has always been. There was a wonderfully helpful lady in the garden section who exhibited both patience and efficiency with a twinkle in her merry eye, so kudos to her for letting her light shine.

Harter House

For those who are not local, this is an older establishment grocery store that occupies a neat little niche market in Springfield. It is known for its high quality cuts of meat and is frequented by yuppies who enjoy the charm of small aisles and a local experience. I must have some yuppy in me, because I enjoy shopping there myself, not least because they almost always have boston burger in stock. But coming from Walmart it was like culture shock. Due to size they only allowed one shopper per family, and almost everyone was wearing a mask. These were clearly more affluent folks.

As I only needed one thing I kept my hands in my pocket while entering but was stopped and told to grab a cart. I said that I didn’t need a cart because I was only grabbing one thing. He said I had to take one because that’s how they kept track of how many people were in the store. So I smiled and obliged, grabbed my cart, and was about to enter when he asked, “Do you want me to wipe that down?” Logic fail. You forced me to get a cart and then inform me that it hasn’t been cleaned from the last person?? Come on HH, you’re better than that.

Price Cutter (freebie)

Someone recently asked me if Price Cutter was a knock off of Price Chopper, and I wittily retorted that Price Chopper is a knock off of Price Cutter! I have no idea which, if either, is true. I will not currently comment on the state of Price Cutter as it is the glory of a man to overlook an offence.


I became an Aldi shopper late in life after a “meh” experience with it while I was in college (in the Ozarks this is not to be confused with a “meth” experience as that is a horse of a different feather). A friend told me that she never shopped for staples at Walmart because they were too expensive, which kind of blew my mind as I thought Walmart was usually cheaper than others. So I visited Aldi, couldn’t find a quarter so didn’t have a cart, wandered through their aisles and then left for 10 years. But now we have children who eat all day, and I have become an Aldi fan. Actually, my wife became a fan and won me over.

Here’s the thing about Aldi: all kinds of people shop there. You’d think it would be the destitute, but last week I saw someone walk out with a bottle of red wine and a package of prosciutto and cheese. Old and young, families like mine or (obviously) single guys getting off of work. It’s a budget model that fits a huge cultural cross section. I was skeptical of going there when the stay at home order limited the number of people in a store as I thought the lines might be out the door. Forgive my doubts, Aldi, you rose to the challenge. Carts were wiped down and waiting for shoppers (no quarter necessary). A 30 second delay between shoppers left me outdoors for about 60 seconds before going in. Check out lines were manageable and Aldi had their employee plexiglass screens in place before any other store. It was as if whoever runs the Chik-fl-a drive through came over and figured the whole thing out. Well played, Aldi, well played. They may call you a budget grocery store, but you’re high class in my book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s