The Many Layers of Hell

I can't remember who said that there are many levels of Hell, but I know that there are many and that I have been to at least a couple. The Department of Motor Vehicles, The Mall during the holidays and most recently Costco and Trader Joe's market on a Sunday afternoon.

It is common knowledge among the intellectual elite that venturing to a Trader Joe’s, home of “Two Buck Chuck” vintage wines and fine cheeses will involve solving a puzzle that is a prerequisite for entrance into Mensa. It is called parking. Some sick man/woman in their corporate office gleefully searches for store locations that cannot support the traffic that the store will bring, or so it seems.

I conducted an unscientific survey in which I drove to four stores and then polled the people there and the three dogs that were tied up in front of the stores about this. All of them agree that parking at any Trader Joe's is an exercise in treachery and guile best left to politicians or those of low moral fiber.

But food is the way to my heart, next to the miles of veins and arteries interred inside my body and I decided that my family required sustenance. As the hunter-gatherer in the household I was required by nature to dare to traverse the challenges that this entailed.

So I ask the dear reader, was I just fool hardy on this errand or is it poor customer service to ask your customers to engage in demolition derby so that they can frequent your store in hope’s of buying food. All I know is that the experience in the parking lot was merely a warm-up for what was waiting inside. As I approached the store I grabbed a shopping cart and bravely entered, armed for bear and ready for hand-to-hand combat.

Needless to say I was not surprised to find aisles packed with hungry shoppers all of whom had the same shopping list as I. Who would have thought that we all needed cheese, soy milk, crackers, cereal, chocolate, wine, juice and produce, more specifically blueberries. The same evil executive who designed the parking lot was surely chuckling as we banged and bounced off of each other’s carts and bodies. In my younger days I would have enjoyed the adventure, but now it just rubbed me raw.

After what felt like days I managed to check out and take my purchases home for deposit into the refrigerator and cupboards. But something in my skull must have been jarred during this experience, because I knew that my shopping was not done. Now I had to run the gauntlet and go to Costco.

Costco, another parking nightmare not unlike Trader Joe’s, but on a much larger scale. Costco, where I knew that the primitives would lose their minds and trample me and small children in the fight to get the free sample of the seafood dip or the greasy slice of pizza. Costco where you go broke saving money by purchasing two tons of toilet paper at a time.

The good news is that you’ll never worry about wiping, but you may worry about wiping out your checkbook. That is assuming of course that you can get a parking space without being overcome by road rage. And assuming that you manage to win the fight to maintain composure there is still the very real chance that you may succumb to some other malady, some other shopping rage. There is only so much one person can take. You can’t be bumped and pushed a hundred times or prevented from reading the description of that new fruit drink they are offering. Heaven forbid, you might miss out on taking advantage of the deep discount they offer for a trough of butter.

Why oh why do the folks in Kirkland not understand that we want, no must have parking attendants in the lot, turn signals on the carts and signal lights on the aisles. How much more bruising can a person’s lower back take before Kirkland understands that shopping carts need padding.

Because the tragedy of this is that while you can shop at both of these stores online you cannot squeeze the pears, nor smell the sausage or appreciate the scent of a good melon. There are still some challenges that technology has yet to overcome. Oh the humanity of it all.


westbankmama said...

Great post - you described the things I hate the most about grocery shopping - and that's why I leave it to the male of the species!

westbankmama said...

And Jack, I wrote my own post today before reading yours - there must be something in the air...

Shifra said...

"I can't remember who said that there are many levels of Hell,"

That was Dante- but your post is a much nicer read.

Richmond said...

And ironically, now that I have no Costco (and your description was dead on) your post made me miss it. Just a little... ;)

Anonymous said...

It's so true - and yet somehow the lure of the 20-gallon jug of vanilla extract still beckons... even though it sits there, still 3/4 full, 3 years later (but such a bargain!)

Meanwhile, I'd like to add Ikea to the list...

bornfool said...

We don't have a Costco or Trader Joe's around here but i"ve experienced more bouts of road rage in the Wally World parking lot than anywhere else. I'm getting aggravated just thinking about it. *Serenity now*

Bill said...

No Trader Joes in Canada as far as I have ever seen.

But the people at Costco Canada must have more brains, as there is a Huge parking lot capable of handling the population of Ontario around most of them here.

Michael Suddard said... should see Christmas at Costco!

I worked there at the front door once. I just wanted to crawl up on the televisions I was standing next to and hide!

Regina said...

Oh, Costco's... I have nightmares about that place. I don't mind so much the parking lots, it's the check out that drives me nuts. Here in FL, they have you all squeeze into one tiny space before you get to the bank of registers- it's horrific. Plus, when we had the hurricanes and our one and only Costco in the northern county got it's roof ripped off, everyone went to one further south- madness, I tell you. I think the Costco experience incorporates all the levels of hell into one!

Anonymous said...

MMmmmmmm.... blueberries.

At least your places have parking lots. None of those here in NYC. We get to walk and try to hail a taxi while carrying 48 rolls of toilet paper.


Anonymous said...

We don't have Trader Joe's and the Costco's here are only in the boroughs and burbs, but your post reassures me I'm not missing anything.

HDJ - If you have somewhere to keep 48 rolls of toilet paper, I am extremely jealous and impressed!

Jack Steiner said...


There is definitely something in the air.




Thank you.


I am addicted to Costco, it is a love/hate thing.


That 20 gallons of Vanilla was worth it. Ikea is on the list. This semite sticks out like a sore thumb in that joint.


I yell "Serenity Now" repeatedly throughout the day.


It could be brains or maybe it is that there are only six people in Canada and you Michael and Q make up half.


I shudder to think of it.


They always have 150 registers, but the set up seems to force people to choose from six of them that consequently are jampacked.


I love the dried blueberries. I have grown to appreciate Manhattan, but your comment reminds me of why I wouldn't want to live there.I love my car.


In spite of the chaos I love both these stores.

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