Saturday, March 14, 2009

Going Grocery Shopping

The days of the small grocery store have mostly passed away, although niche retailers like Trader Joe's appear to be bringing them back in a somewhat upscale form. As a kid in 1960s Rochester, I trailed along with Mom while she did her grocery shopping in town. The groceries my parents patronized were the Food Center on South Main near the bridge (now FedEx Kinko's), and the A&P on North Main near Paint Creek (now the Rochester Athletic Club). These were grocery stores as opposed to supermarkets, and they only sold food. Neither store had a bakery department, deli department, florist, pharmacy, salad bar, gourmet coffee shop, bank or wine shop. In the Food Center, as I recall, if you wanted wine you had your pick of the inexpensive and jug wines that were stored on top of the butcher case in the back of the store. There was Gallo, Mogen David, Manischewitz, Inglenook, and that ever-popular favorite of the high school set, Boone's Farm.

Checking out at the register was a bit different in those days, as well. Mom insisted that our items be placed on the cashier's conveyor belt in categories – meat, dairy, frozen, produce, bakery and general grocery items had to be organized together, all with the price tags facing up. The cashier had to key in each item's price and department on a mechanical cash register with actual keys that had to be depressed – no touch screens, scanners or keypads in those days. Produce had to be weighed with an old-fashioned mechanical scale. And when the total was rung and payment was tendered, the register didn't tell the cashier how much change to refund to the customer – she did the arithmetic in her head!

Shoppers didn't save money by having the cashier scan a customer card on their key rings, but they could collect S&H Green Stamps or Holden Red Stamps with each purchase and paste them into books until they had enough for redemption. The grocery stores also ran occasional promotions that allowed shoppers to collect points toward purchase of inexpensive glassware, towels, or even encyclopedia sets.

Today, as I stand in line at the self-checkout, I wonder how our parents found the time to shop the old-fashioned way!

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