whiskey tango foxtrot, over?

I don’t know if this is a California thing or what, but I’ve come across some appallingly ill-organized stores since moving out here. The Blockbuster within walking distance is so bad I’ve pretty much vowed never to set foot in it again: not only are 3/4 of the DVDs stacked in haphazard piles rather than laid face-out for ease of browsing, but there are L’s in with the A’s and C’s among the S’s, to the point where I had to search the entire section to be sure that if the movie I wanted was anywhere in the store, it was too thoroughly lost to be worth my while.

And the grocery store! I thought for a while they didn’t carry Near East couscous, because it’s shelved two or three aisles over from the rest of the couscous. (Which is in the aisle labeled “natural foods,” including such natural foods as Powerade.) Hunting for taco seasoning, did I find it among the Hispanic foods? Among the spices? No, it’s in with the stuffing and gravy packets. Or at least some of it is; either Safeway doesn’t stock the most stereotypical brands of such things, or they’ve hidden the Old El Paso god knows where. In with the pet food, maybe. The cheese, sour cream, and yogurt aren’t in with the milk, eggs, and butter — no dairy section for you! — they’re clear across the store, along with the lunch meats, which are likewise nowhere near the rest of the meat.

Srsly. Is the state of California too busy being hippies in the sunshine to think about how they set up their stores?

Maybe I should hire myself out as a consultant.

0 Responses to “whiskey tango foxtrot, over?”

  1. j_cheney

    So, does the term “Hispanic Foods” strike you as being….well, weird?

    Like they have an ethnicity, but not a geographical affiliation….

    • dsgood

      So they should rename it “The Latin American, Iberian, Southwestern US, sometimes Oregon, sometimes Chicago, sometimes…” section?

      Hispanic foods in my local supermarkets (South Minneapolis) include: tortillas made locally; tortillas made in Oregon; canned squid and canned octopus from Spain; Taco Bell sauces; bread made by the Mexican company Bimbo in Texas, including what seems to be a close imitation of US white bread; and pasta made in Texas.

      • j_cheney

        Being from El Paso, I definitely think of it as Mexican food….however, I can see how other parts of the country might not have that bias.

        Minneapolis? Not so close to the border….

      • Marie Brennan

        As far as I’m concerned, tortillas are Mexican* food regardless of where they’re made, just as Italian food gets that label anywhere I find it. I’m concerned with where the food genre originated, not the specific product I’m holding. Likewise, I want my bread in the bread aisle, even if it’s being made by a Mexican company, unless it’s a characteristically Mexican style of bread. So that argument doesn’t persuade me much.

        I think a better argument for the Hispanic label would be that it allows the section to include components for Cuban food or Panamanian food or, y’know, anything else south of our border that isn’t Brazil. (And you could probably toss them in without most people noticing.) But on the whole the label doesn’t bother me, unless I see evidence that it offends Mexicans or other Hispanic people.

        *Obligatory footnote to acknowledge that I’m not sure which, if any, other Hispanic cultures use tortillas as a part of their native cuisine.

        • icedrake

          I’m getting a crash course in Central/South American dietary differences due to two factors:

          1) We do communal lunches at work, on a rotating basis (one person makes food each work day)

          2) We currently have two, and are about to have three, interns from Earth University in Costa Rica, but which are rather spread out in terms of countries of origin. So far: Panamana, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are all represented. I’ve now learned that plantains (platanos) are a popular dish in Panama, but are almost unknown in Mexico.

          More updates as they happen, because I’m sure you’re dying to know 🙂

          • Marie Brennan

            You get platanos in Costa Rica, too. Also more cilantro than you can shake a stick at.

            Which is a problem if you, like me, can’t stomach the stuff.

  2. dsgood

    It might easily be a local thing, rather than statewide. And by “local” I mean there might be differences between neighborhoods in the same city.

    • Marie Brennan

      Quite probably. I’ve also been in perfectly sane stores here. It’s just the recurrence of “wtf?” that made me want to rant.

  3. danielmc

    there is this odd california thing call micro climates.
    go one county over, and completely different flora/fuana, etc.

    perhaps there are micro neighorhoods too.

    • Marie Brennan

      Heh. “If you go two blocks that way, it’s twenty degrees warmer and the alphabet is in order.”

      • icedrake

        It’s not the alphabet that changes — it’s the space-time continuum, which to the native residents of your neighbourhood makes the A-L combination appear perfectly sorted.

  4. wadam

    I can’t speak for Blockbuster, as I’ve never rented from there, but in terms of groceries, I’d take a California Supermarket over a Bloomington or Philly supermarket any day. I have never found the organization of California groceries any worse than anywhere else, and their location means better produce.

    As to designations like ‘natural foods’ or ‘hispanic foods,’ this has always confused me. Those sections didn’t exist at the market where I usually shopped when I lived in Berkeley, and moving out to Bloomington, I was perplexed at it for quite a while.

    If I may suggest, perhaps the answer to many of your problems is skipping the Safeway. Of all the chains I’ve ever shopped at in California, they are clearly the worst.

    • Marie Brennan

      The Safeway is the nearest real grocery store to me (where “real” is defined as “general, not catering to a niche”). If I want anything offering equal or better selection, my only other choice is a rather pretentious yuppie mart that’s further away.

      I have no complaints about the produce so far — but it’s valuable to me to be able to find stuff. I will grant that this is likely problem with this store, though, and not California in general.

      As for specialized sections . . . as with book genres, they have their uses and evils. If I decide to make Mexican food, it’s handy to have all its non-perishable components in one place. (Which this place obviously fails at.) If I were dedicated to eating organic and natural foods, it would be nice not to have to root through all the processed stuff. But it also does lead to confusion on occasion.

  5. d_c_m

    Srsly. Is the state of California too busy being hippies in the sunshine to think about how they set up their stores?

    Maybe I should hire myself out as a consultant.
    Ooo yes!!!!

  6. mindstalk

    No dairy section? That sounds odd, and I lived off a Safeway.

    There’s often two cheese sections — Kroger has this. Cheap cheeses by the dairy, fanciers in a gourmet island. Possibly a third location of cheese slices and low quality yogurts in a lunchables aisle.

    • Marie Brennan

      We’re not talking two cheese sections; we’re talking half your dairy products at one end of the store, half at the other. (And possibly more elsewhere, that I haven’t found — who knows.)

  7. kurayami_hime

    As loathe as I am to come to the defense of Safeway, at least in The City, they’ve been renovating all of them, so the admittedly poor organization is more whack than usual. Perhaps this is affecting your store.


  8. diatryma

    My HyVee is kind of the same. I group my food– baking things, things ending in roni and other boxed food, the PB&J aisle– and HyVee does not do the same. They have kind of a handicap with a weird layout, but still. I have never found the stuffing by thinking of where it should be (“Goes with the gravy! No… goes with the box food! No… goes with the oatmeal! No….”).

  9. clodfobble

    While I can’t explain the “natural foods” or seasoning debacles, there is sometimes a slight justification for splitting up the various dairy products. (This comes from my short stint working in a grocery store which, being brand new, was giving crazy informative tours on its high-tech equipment.)

    See, those refrigerated cases are really, really, really expensive. What’s more, they suck a lot of electricity, and can’t just be thrown on any old circuit. So when a store starts expanding its selection, and cramming more and more products in the same building, the new refrigerated case they have to add can’t just be put in anywhere. Sometimes it has to be put on the other side of the store for electrical purposes. (You may also notice a significant preference for the open-style cases to be around the entire perimeter, while the kind with doors can go anywhere just like normal aisles.) Ideally, you can neatly break it up, with meat on one side and dairy on the other, but, well, sometimes it doesn’t always work that way. Or, sometimes you just have a retarded General Manager who has no sense of logical product layout. 🙂

    • kurayami_hime

      I think the latter might explain why the milk, cheese, and butter were in three different places at a Safeway I went to not too long ago. The cheese and the yogurt were together, and the milk was along the wall. The butter? The butter was with the wine. No, I don’t know why. I only found it because I was trying to find the cheese.

      I never thought anything could make me miss HEB. Safeway does. Did I mention that I went to another one that had NO CHEESE. The case was there, but the cheese…wasn’t.

    • Marie Brennan

      I had figured they couldn’t just rearrange, since obviously the cold cases were in a variety of locations. I hadn’t thought about the wiring requirements.

      I still think it’s dumb. <g>

  10. squishymeister

    um…as for it being a CA thing, I don’t think so…I’ve not experienced things any more organized or disorganized in CA than they are in IN

  11. querldox

    Eh, just go to Trader Joe’s like real Californians do. : -)

  12. mythusmage

    My neighborbooh Ralphs has things sensibly laid out, far as I can see. It’s my neighborhood Borders that has items in odd places. Such as Skeptic and Sceptical Inquirer in with the astrology mags.

    On the other hand, they now have a horror section.

  13. sora_blue

    I don’t know. When Trader Joe’s changes their aisles around, I get lost.

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