I Have Seen A Lot Of Crazy Shit Happen Inside Grocery Stores

grocery 1960sAdmittedly, I have an advantage. I’ve worked at several supermarkets, in multiple states. The golden years, as I call them… But I’ve seen some crazy shit happen inside grocery stores. Some as an employee, and some as a customer. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of a few memorable grocery-related events I’ve witnessed, and turn it over to you guys. How’s that sound? Let’s get started, shall we?

Kumquat Money

At a store called Fas-Chek, in my hometown of Dunbar, a woman came in one day, filled her shopping cart to a foot above the rim, and walked straight out the door.

An assistant manager named Skeeter was watching her, because she’d been acting strangely and muttering to herself. When she exited the store without paying, he came down from his elevated pen of filth, and went after her.

Somehow he wrangled her back into the store, but she was already going wild, screaming something about “kumquat money.” She looked a little like KoKo Taylor, the large female blues singer who could love you like a woman, or fight you like a man. And Skeeter weighed about 150 pounds, ten of which was mustache.

He told her he didn’t know what she was talking about — what the shit is kumquat money? — and asked one of the cashiers to call the police.

When she heard that last word, KoKo began screeching like a mountain cat, and running up and down the aisles flailing her arms. Then she balled up her fist and brought a haymaker up from Tallahassee, which connected directly with Skeeter’s left jaw. He didn’t go down, but had the thousand yard stare and wouldn’t remain upright for long.

A few of us tried to come to his aid, but KoKo had already set upon him. She got Skeeter into a bear-hug, and started spinning him round and round — his children’s department shoes repeatedly flying past our astonished faces.

She told the cops her name was Secretariat, and said she’d paid for her groceries with kumquat money — which turned out to be a nickel in the windowsill. Yeah, who the hell knows? One thing’s for sure, though: it wasn’t just another boring day at work.

The Rum Runners

Pennsylvania folk will find this amazing, but in California they sell liquor and beer in grocery stores. I know, I know, it’s difficult to wrap your head around, isn’t it?

Anyway, I was walking into a Von’s store one day, in Canyon Country, and saw some kid running toward me at a full sprint. He was way down an aisle, moving toward the front door, and carrying something like a football.

I’d say he was about 14 years old, and for a second I thought he was going to barrel into me. But he went flying past, and I saw that he was carrying a large bottle of vodka. Once he was in the parking lot he began running a zig-zag pattern, like he was attempting to avoid sniper fire. Then he disappeared.

Nobody in the store seemed to notice this; all the employees were working as normal. What the hell, man? I spotted someone who was probably the front-end manager, and told her what I saw.

“Oh, great,” she said. “Did you see what he had?”

“A big bottle of Absolut,” I reported.

She sighed. “It happens all the time. We don’t know how to stop it. We call ’em Rum Runners.”

Wow. That would take some balls. And they did it so often they earned themselves a jaunty nickname? Who says the kids of today have no ambition or drive?

A Welcome Tragedy

For several years I worked at a Food Lion store in Greensboro, NC, and it was not a positive experience. My co-workers were nice enough, but management was populated by pricks, without exception.

One old guy, who looked like Coach on Cheers, just openly hated my guts. I don’t know why, but he did. He was constantly harassing me, for various unforgivable stockboy infractions. I always wanted to say, “Calm down, fuckface. This is a grocery store in North Carolina. You’re not in charge of national security.” But, of course, I didn’t, for fear of getting my ass kicked by a grizzled old bastard in his 60s.

But one day he and some fancy-pants “senior” stockboy rearranged the entire backroom. They restacked ALL of the overstock, which took hours. They made it so there were little walkways between the stacks, and it was now much easier to find specific items. I had to admit it looked great, and was a thousand times more functional.

No way would I praise them, though. No way in hell. I looked at it, shrugged my shoulders like it was OK; nothing special, but it would do.

I was getting ready to go home, and those two guys were standing there admiring their handiwork, feeling mighty proud of themselves. And something great happened.

I heard a noise, like cardboard being crushed, and turned to see the first high stack falling. It hit the next stack, which crashed into the one beside it. All the way down the line, like falling dominoes, the giant columns of groceries collapsed and exploded all over the floor…

All three of us were speechless, as we watched this unfold. It seemed to go on for five minutes. When it finally ended, I said, “Wow, that sucks. …I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

And as I made my way to my car, it felt like I was walking on sunshine. I’ve never been a religious man, but spent the next few hours sending thank you notes to heaven.

Bored? Try Tampering With Food!

At that Fas-Chek store in West Virginia most of the stockboys were under the age of 24, and harbored an insatiable appetite for mayhem.

I could write a 10,000 word article on the crazy crap that happened there. But I’m almost out of time here. I’ll focus on a very specific mayhem niche: tampering with food.

A guy named David liked to open bottles of ketchup, stuff a tampon down the neck, and return it to the shelf. Can you imagine the reactions of the lucky individuals who purchased those things?

And Bill used to bite the corners off giant Hershey bars, right through the paper and foil, and put them back. Sometimes we’d see confused customers holding one, with the corner missing and big ol’ teeth marks, and everything. Needless to say, this brought us great joy.

But Rocky takes this particular prize. At one point he started taking Sharpies and writing messages across the faces of missing children, on the sides of milk cartons. They’d say DEAD, or FORGET ABOUT IT, or PROBABLY A SKELETON BY NOW. An old lady saw one, and went crazy about it. She raised a big stink, and it was touch and go for a little while. But, as usual, nothing really happened.

And I need to go now. Have you ever seen anything memorable/crazy inside a grocery store? If so, please share it in the comments section below.

I’ll see you guys next time.

Have a great day!

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Comments

  1. Jazzbone Swirly says:

    I always love the grocery store stories

  2. Brenda Love says:

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  3. Erica in Charlotte says:

    My favorite: “his children’s department shoes repeatedly flying past our astonished faces.”

  4. ashtrays at the ends of each aisle

  5. I used to put “Boneless” stickers on ground beef. That was my only level of craziness.

  6. I’m diggin’ the new format. Our Wegmans used to have a sewing department.

  7. The grocery store nearest my house, which admittedly isn’t in the greatest neighborhood, was rebuilt into a much bigger, nicer store some years back. On my first couple of visits, there were all kinds of sketchy people around and I saw two girls fighting in the parking lot.

    After that it was all clear from then on. I guess it was a wakeup call for their security manager or something, because it morphed into a perfectly normal suburban grocery store experience and has remained so to this day.

  8. I saw something called “Wacky Tac” once. I can only take its word that it was, in fact, wacky.

  9. Food lion in Franklinton severeal years back – I was in there to get Garam Masala, or all things, on my way back home from a road trip. A man and woman ‘couple’ came in dressed the the local do here (stained trucker caps, no shirt for the gentleman, ratty tee and pull-on shorts for the lady, mullets for both if I recall correctly) and reeking of barely-contained anger. Turns out, the lady’s ex was also in the store, ranting in the tomato aisle about what a dick new guy was and how he was going to kick his ass. All about about 100 dB, clearly heard by everyone. New guy was displeased, to be sure, and was balling up his fists and repeating back the ass-kicking threat while lil’ Mama was trying to hold back her man. Once the men’s faces were about the same color as those tomatoes, they were right in front of the dang spices and I had to basically reach into what was about to become a dog fight to grab my delicious Indian food addition. With that kind of floor show, I’m never going back.

  10. druglife says:
  11. Bill in WV says:

    I can recall being bored on the late shift and taking tube packages of breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean, etc) and twisting them like baloon caricatures and placing them back in the meat case. The manager the next day called me and another guy in and asked us who was taking the sausage and going “This-a-way” with it (giving the hand motion of twisting). It was all I could do to keep from blowing a chunk of snot booger out in his face, trying to hold back laughter. That job was so shitty, we constantly thought of things to do to piss him off.

  12. Phantom Railfan says:

    Saw a woman have a lengthy argument with a deli clerk because the latter had never heard of “Regatta” cheese, and had the temerity to suggest that maybe she was thinking of “Ricotta” instead. The customer raised a huge scene, and had most of the store laughing at her before she left.

  13. Eeyoresmama says:

    I did a stretch of time at Food Lion as well. I swear their management employment applications asked only one question: Are you an Asshole?

  14. johnthebasket says:

    Jeff…

    I say again, I enjoy your writing and I appreciate the site. The first three updates in the new format were new material and didn’t feel like they were written on your way out the door. And if eight updates a month and four secret ones is what you can do, I appreciate it.

    So maybe I’m one of the slow kids, but, for the life of me, I can’t discern the material differences between this format and the old one. Narrower columns. Slightly fewer references to West Virginia.

    I don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate your writing. I just don’t see what’s really changed.

    Thanks for listening….John

    • John, I said, in the last/first post, that the new site will be similar to the old one, just framed a little better. The big improvements: each post is about one subject, I’m spending some time writing them, and this site has a name that doesn’t confuse people or make them feel like it’s not for them. Also, it’s a reboot for me. I was in a rut. I’m excited to be building something new.

      • johnthebasket says:

        Jeff…

        Thanks for clarifying. Lord knows I’m familiar with ruts, having spent years of my life in them. I appreciate the response.

        John

      • Bill in WV says:

        The next update needs to be on the subject of shitting and/or farting. Can’t get enough of excrement comedy!

  15. squawvalleyskip says:

    One more paragraph and my wife would most likely have had me committed. I laughed my ass off, especially at the first story. The wife occasionally works on the nut ward, and KoKo sounds amazingly like some of the “patients” she bitches about when she comes home. On another note, I once worked for a floor service in a large chain grocery store in the foothills just south of Yosemite. Remember turkey bowling? Or there was the drunk couple in the parking lot at 3AM (without a car), arguing right up until he just up and knocked her out. When she woke up he decided maybe he didn’t want none of what she was about to dish out. The way he took off I’d guess she lit him up once or twice before. And there was the night a father/son duo stole a pickup and backhoe from a local construction site, drove the tractor through the closed and locked front doors and proceeded to try to load the safe into the truck. The hoe had a lift capability of about 3 thousand pounds, the safe weighed about 5K. All they succeeded in doing was making a giant mess, part of which involved an entire liquor section being smashed into the floor. They were finally arrested in Arizona months later.
    And for the record, I like the new format. Not that I didn’t like the old one, but sometimes a change is needed. Although I did like the sense of exclusivity the old WVSR name gave us.

    • I agree, I miss the old name. But I’m so happy about the regular updates that I’m willing to overlook it.

  16. madz1962 says:

    I did a stint at the A&P and we had a customer who smelled so bad we called him Barnyard Bill. Wackiest story was when mike was cleaning a shelf and found a loaded folded Pamper wedged between the Rice a Toni. Stunk to high heaven

  17. madz1962 says:

    On another note. Just got back from a Yankee game. Slingblade was sitting to my left. He was sitting with an Asian man who pulled out an ear of corn wrapped in tin foil and proceeded to eat it typewriter style.

    • Wow, Yankee Stadium – I haven’t been there in a hell’s age. I remember going to Bat Day as a kid. This was when they were still handing out real, full-size bats. There are guys walking around selling beer, and tens of thousands of people with baseball bats. What could go wrong?
      .

  18. Never worked in a grocery store. I do shop in one, though. On a weekly basis it seems.

  19. When you walk into a grocery store in canada, you walk right in the fresh fruits and vegetable section. It’s the law, so there is no going around it.

    I did a US east coast trip last fall and was shocked about entering right in the doughnuts and fried chicken section. I did not mind (the doughnuts and chicken were good), but could I just couldn’t get used to it.

    I also bought fried chicken in a gas station in Virginia (the island part) which was probably the best fried chicken I have ever had. Note: don’t ever do that in Canada, or you’re asking for trouble.

    I was also surprised about the number of churches down south, and the signs they put up in front. I should have taken pictures cause some of those messages were priceless. Such as: “God answers knee mail” LOL

    Unfortunately, the thing that surprised me the most was to hear about a KKK meeting 10 miles from where I was camping in Maryland (holy shit), but aside from that the US was great!

    • Reminds me of a randomn gas stop I made somewhere in Ohio, had a family restaurant inside the door (vs the typical gas station/conienients store), best damn eating I ever had. Wish I knew where the hell it was because I’ve been craving it ever since, and I’ve made countless stops along the way to try and find it again, but there is a fuck ton of gas stations along the I75 corridor…

  20. I doubt anyone can top this for weirdness in the grocery store. Clean up on aisle 2!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G0HPofcr6E

  21. Oops…didn’t realize this video had already been posted. Sorry for the duplication.

  22. My brother and I were running wild in an HEB in Waco Texas one time. This fat lady at the end of the isle grabbed my little brother by the arm and spanked the hell out of him. My mom thanked her. Probably wouldn’t happen today, huh?

    • johnthebasket says:

      Depends. How old is your brother today?

      • 35

        • I usually have the urge to spank a bunch of kids crying in the isles at the HEB at Wooded Acres and Bosque. Maybe I should give it a go and see if Waco still appreciates discipline from a stranger… It takes a village!

          • I’ve been to that very HEB Adam. Whoop them. Nobody will say shit, promise you.

  23. Today’s post reminds of the olden days – the story about the convenience store. The one where the dudes use to take gas and grill outside the store.

  24. Lew in Bama says:

    Being that I live in Alabama, I’m quite used to seeing shenanigans in the grocery store, so nothing really stands out anymore. Mullets, exposed buttocks, unruly kids with “grocery store feet”, argumentative soccer moms, it’s all the norm around here.
    I tend to gravitate towards the nicer Publix in my area, but when I have good coupons, I’ll slum it in the Kroger acrss the road to save money. I don’t go at night though…too sketchy for me.
    I will say that hearing about you yanks not being able to buy your beer or wine from the local gas station or grocery store baffles me. How the hell do you get it?
    The wine section in our local Publix is pretty decent, and they have an entire aisle of just beer. Can’t do liquor other than a liquor store though…and Alabama has a monopoly on the import of spirits. You either go to the state store, or to the independently owned state store…who bought their liquor from the state. You can’t even have wine shipped to your house here…has to be shipped to the state store so they can make sure they get their taxes.

    • Grocery Store Feet

      That sounds like a hipster band name/album title.

      • Lew in Bama says:

        From Urban Dictionary:
        Grocery Store Feet (NOUN): When the bottom of someones feet are black like they’ve been walking bare-foot on a dirty grocery store floor.
        Normally found on white people’s feet because they have light skin and it is more noticeable, but is not limited to other ethnicity’s feet.
        Guy 1: Damn does she ever wear shoes?!
        Guy 2: It don’t look like it. She got grocery store feet!

        Grocery store feet is a common occurance among the large white-trash and redneck population here in the south. Mostly occurs in children whose parents don’t make them wear shoes in the summer…ever…as in bare-foot from sunup to sundown.

        • Lew, I think I love you. I’m in Huntsville. Where are you????????

          • Lew in Bama says:

            I, too, am in the ‘ville….Huntsvegas for us long-timers.
            Middle and high school here…never left for more than a year or 2. Just celebrated my 20yr high school reunion this weekend.

    • Bill in WV says:

      Here in WV, you can buy both beer and wine in grocery stores, convenient stores and some drug stores. The state got out of the hard liquor business several years ago, so now it’s various chain stores that have the liquor contracts. In my town, Rite-Aid drug store and a half & half cig/liquor store has one as well. The Sam’s Club a short distance away has a very nice liquor section.

  25. This is a real thing at work.
    Though it seems to be taken out of context, this is a stand alone item in a list of many other items. I do not know what it means.

    “PERF BLAST ANAL”

    • Clueless says:

      It may be related to those infernal cardboard displays in the middle of the grocery aisle, the ones I keep ramming with my cart.

  26. Bill in WV says:

    I can remember going to Kroger with my mother when I was a teen. The Kroger in our town was built on an old landfill that had begun to sink, so floors in the store had all sorts of cave-ins and slants, and you had better keep an eye on your grocery cart or it would take off on you. I witnessed my mother let go of her cart to get something from the shelf, the cart took off on a slant and piled into a neatly-stacked display of Pringle potato chips, causing one hell of a racket and mess. An employee came rushing over and I just pointed with both hands toward my mother. What a fine son I was.

  27. t-storm says:

    It seems the rum runner is a fixable problem.

  28. Worked produce in a mega. Saw an attractive mid 30ish pass through and she asked me where the organic section was. Waltzed her to my freshly misted display of greens, tubers, squashes and fruits. She thanked me with a very pleasant smile, offered her hand and said her name was Denise. A slight pause of a light handshake while she glanced my name tag. I said, “My pleasure”‘, and moved along. About a half hour she came back , walked over to me, handed me a cucumber and said, “Thank you”. Never saw her again.

  29. “Haymaker up from Tallahassee”, sounds like something Vin Scully would have used if he had been a boxing announcer. Or imagine Don Zimmer (RIP) getting up and landing a, “Haymaker up from Tallahassee”, to Pedro Martinez with Vin’s voice on the play by play..

  30. Jaymack says:

    How about adding extra lines to bar codes and crawling up under the raised pharmacy floor to procure scheduled substances. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

    Jay

  31. KDCartlidge says:

    You cannot fix the rum runner problem because it is against company to physically prevent a thief from leaving. If we (I work at CVS when I’m not getting enough insane from my other job as a substitute letter carrier) use anything besides words to keep the customer or product from leaving the store we will be fired. If the customer does not leave the store with the product they have not technically stollen anything. When the thief leaves the store with the product, we must then inform our supervisor, who freaks out and runs in circles before calling their manager, who asks why they have not yet called the police. The bandit has meanwhile crossed the state line. I personally saw some kid stealing beer from my store, leaped over the counter and ran out the door after him, intending to break the mo’ fo’s arms and legs. Sadly, he had a getaway car waiting. At least I got to keep my job. It happens again and I’m going to break his arms and legs, then come back into the store and do the same to the parents who hang out waiting for their drugs and leave their ten thousand children to run up and down the isles, knock things off the shelves, and break crap in the seasonal isle with effing rubber balls. Because if you ask the kid (or its parent) to please stop breaking the merchandise, the parent will rip you a new one.
    There was also the girl who came in looking for a “dutch”. As in, “what isle are the dutches in?” Yes people, she meant douche.
    I pretty much hate all humans because of having to spend any length of time with them. I’m a 30 year old curmudgen. I had to marry a man 19 years my senior to find the same level of disenchantment. If you are going to be a complete idiot, should you not be polite about it so people with brains aren’t itching to kill you so you don’t reproduce? Sorry, wrote my own blog there 😉