Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Finding My Regular Store: Grocery Outlet

Maybe I’m a little biased about where I grocery shop because I worked at a locally-owned chain back home, but I expect a certain standard in customer service, quality of produce,  and bagging ability when I grocery shop. When I lived in Cheney, I was a regular at Mitchell’s Harvest Foods, which is a chain of small grocery stores across Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montanna. There are quite a few in Washington, but sadly only one in Oregon—in Umatilla. I loved the small, intimate feel of shopping there, especially because there was always an employee ready to ask me if I needed help finding something, especially if I was too shy myself to ask. It’s difficult to find stores like Mitchell’s anymore.

I’m on the hunt to find my regular store here in the Portland area. I don’t like grocery shopping at big chains like Walmart or Fredmeyer for my food, where I’m just another customer hustled through. I like it when the checker takes the time to ask me about my day or if I’d like something bagged a particular way. I enjoy quality service and interaction between customers and employees. We’re all people, are we not? I like to at least feel and be treated like a valued human being when I shop.

Anyway, enough of that. Last week I decided to christen my pantry (no, not “panty,” you sick perv) with the goods of Grocery Outlet for my first grocery shopping excursion in the state of Oregon. I’d always heard great things about Grocery Outlet from others, and, well, might have set my expectations a little too high. 

My list is not normally this long, but my cupboards were bare! Oh no!

I left the store with hardly anything that was on my list. The prices weren’t high or anything—the prices were actually pretty low for the most part—but I simply couldn’t find anything I was looking for. There wasn’t even a single employee who stopped me to ask, “Hey, you look confused. Can I help you find something?” Not to mention the produce was in awful condition. I’m sorry if I sound like a snob, but I’m not going to buy ridiculously bruised and puny Bartlett pears for a dollar each. I’m just not. 

I also ran into some funny things. Like bananas already packaged in a bag and marked as 1.99 for a three pound bunch. It seems to me that less produce is sold by the weight in Oregon. At Target bananas are 24 cents each, even when they’re still attached as a bunch. Strange, huh?

Not a very good picture of some pre-bagged bananas.
When I’m ready to leave, I try to make my transaction with the checker as pleasant as possible. I have my form of payment ready in my hand, I know what type of bags I want, and I group all similar items together on the conveyor belt. Example: all the cold or frozen foods together, all the cans together, produce next to produce, etc. It just makes the transaction easier for everyone. But when I got home…  well, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. With some snarky captions, of course.

Some excellent bagging choices: produce and raw meat together in one bag.
That doesn't spread bacteria or cross-contaminate or anything, right?

Fairly certain I put the chicken directly next to the
bacon so they could keep each other cold...
I spent 54.68 total at Grocery Outlet and was far from happy when I left. I couldn’t find anything on my list that I needed. There was absolutely no ground beef anywhere, not even in the freezer section. I’ve been craving homemade spaghetti for about a week and a half now, with no way to tame the hunger. It’s the saddest thing in the world, I know.

At least I was able to pick up this spiffy pumpkin-orange
mug next door at the Dollar Tree. Perfect for fall.
But who am I to complain? The checker could have been new at the job, or having an off day, etc. I'm happy I was able to find a few things that would feed me for the week, which is the most important part. But I definitely won't be going back to Grocery Outlet anytime soon.

With yesterday being the first of October, it’s time to go shopping again. Probably sometime this weekend, because it’s only the third day of school for me and I’m already crazy busy. Maybe Quality Food Center will be a better fit for me; I guess I’ll find out. Soon though, because I’m growing tired of trying to find new ways to cook chicken.

Do you have a favorite grocery store you frequent? Am I being a grocery snob?

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