Super Market Index Fund

I like to play the market. Sometimes I play the Star, sometimes Stop ‘n Shop. I think of my technique as investing in a sort of Super Market Index Fund. My method is simple; I buy whichever of the major national brands is on sale that week. I figure I end up eating the average of the “top shelf” national brands for less than the store brands would cost. Just like other Market Funds, I can lower my risk while enjoying the market leaders in the sector.

So I am one cool cat when I stalk the aisles. Usually. But tonight I lost my cool in the produce sector of the local Stop ‘n Shop….

I was wandering around, in a daze as usual, my mind full of idle speculation, snappy comebacks, students’ questions I couldn’t answer in class, and the usual mental flotsam and jetsam, with three heads of garlic in my right hand, and a papaya in my left, looking for plastic bags. One, two, three of the bag dispensers were empty. Looking further afield, the results were the same; empty, empty, empty.

Since the only alternatives I could think of were stuffing the garlic in my pants pockets or dumping everything together in the cart and sorting it out at the checkout, I stood there dumbfounded for awhile. Finally, a store employee sauntered by.

“Excuse me, but I think we have a problem. There are no plastic bags anywhere in the produce section.”

The employee, a slack-jawed 16-year-old, looked haltingly around the racks of fruits and vegetables as if to confirm my accusation, and replied, “I know.”

“Well, I’m glad it wasn’t a surprise. Now when do you think you can get some more out here?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think I could speak to someone who does know? Maybe your supervisor?”

“I don’t know. I’ll try to find her” He ambled off.

Another 15 minute wait. I was becoming increasingly agitated. Even my usually reliable time-wasting supermarket woman-watching was wearing thin as the same shopping carts kept circling the piles of produce, searching for the missing bags.

Finally the supervisor, a harried and washed-out woman in her 40s, came up to me and announced, “There are no more bags.”

“So I see. Can you tell me when more bags will be available?”

“Maybe tomorrow. The manager isn’t here right now.”

I was rapidly losing it. My fingers were aching from holding the papaya. Don’t ask why I didn’t just put it naked into the cart. I can be a stubborn bastard sometimes.

“Listen, Ms. Costello” I read from her nametag, “You see all of the people milling around this section of your store? They are waiting for bags. They are not going to buy any fruits or vegetables until they have some more bags to put them in. Do you understand? This store is losing hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars every hour that there are no plastic bags.” Her blank look was giving way to one of alarm. Encouraged, I continued.

“Now I am not a food industry specialist, but if I was you I would be sending someone to the main Stop ‘n Shop warehouse, or regional headquarters, or to the nearest neighboring Stop ‘n Shop, to get more bags RIGHT NOW. Hell, if all else fails, I would send people to the Star Market down the street to rip off their bags!

Now she was examining her shoes, and looking nervously towards the mirrored window behind which I assume some sort of security sat. But I was on an indignant, didactic roll, and couldn’t be stopped.

“I assume that somewhere in the giant, megalopic marketing machine which is Stop ‘n Shop, there is, if you go high enough, an executive with enough marketing sense to understand that without plastic bags you WILL NOT SELL ANY PRODUCE, and who will applaud, perhaps reward, or even possibly promote you for taking the initiative and getting more bags in here AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.”

The other shoppers had stopped circling and were watching with the morbid interest of rush-hour commuters rubbernecking an ugly but non-fatal accident. I realized my voice had risen almost to a screech.

Calming myself, taking a deep breath, I concluded, “So, do you think there is ANYTHING you can do to get us some bags?”

“I don’t know,” she wryly allowed, “I’ll have to call the manager.”

“You do that,” I said, and handing her the papaya, left.