Monday, April 28, 2008

Wegmans is from Hell

I am ready to rip someone a new asshole. With my teeth.

This is the state of mind a visit to Wegmans grocery store puts me in. I imagine that it is close to how a woman feels in the hours after her spouse of 20 years has informed her that he has been having an affair and is leaving her, for a younger smarter and more beautiful woman who speaks three languages, a woman whose vagina hasn’t been left gaping after delivering his five children, and PS he never loved you and was only in it for that crusted-pecan chicken dish you make so well. I feel like that woman, curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, shaking, with waves of acidic nausea licking up at the back of my throat.

And I did this to myself, voluntarily. I had visited Wegmans one time before, my first weekend here in Princeton. And let me assure you that a weekend visit to Wegmans is akin to being flayed alive. In salt water. Yes, I did cry after that visit. And no, I am not ashamed, because to not be moved to tears by that experience would have meant I was so far from reality and suffering from such emotional disconnect that I would be practically robotic and numb in my approach to the world. People who can survive a trip to Wegmans on the weekend are the same freaks that mall walk.

So this time I plotted my journey to Wegmans. I strategized. They open at 6am, I arrived at 7am. On a Monday. I was rewarded in that there were no other customers. Unfortunately, there were also no employees. Or produce. An empty supermarket and me. Thanks be to the Gods the coffee bar was open.

But I was on a mission, so I forged on, filling my cart with overpriced items that boasted 96% organic content. (is the other 4% pure pesticide poison?)

The heinous thing about Wegmans, and you really can’t appreciate how God-awful it is until you have to make a full, complete grocery store trip there, is that the store is divided into “sections.” I don’t mean produce, dairy, canned goods. I mean “natural” “wegmans” “kosher” “redneck” “fresh”. Okay, the redneck section isn’t called that, but it is basically the left-over section that resembles the food aisles at a Wallmart, it is the cheap section where they put the non-organic, non-Wegmans knock-off, non-freshly baked, plain old pop-tarts. The problem with these sections, is that you can find (or not find) an item in numerous locations. The store is clinically schizophrenic. It is like grocery shopping at a state fair, with little booths spread out over a 22 acre plot of land. Bread is located in at least 4 places. I kid you not: fresh bakery, “natural”, a random frozen aisle, and the redneck section. Oh my god! Ketchup? 3 places. Cheese? At least 6, including it’s own entire wing.

After 1 hour and 30 minutes of locating items on my grocery list, I lacked only the soy sauce and any earthly reason to live. I had already found rice and stir fry veggies and I wasn’t about to turn back on that meal. I looked in three likely places for it, even willing to pay for organic soy sauce in the “natural” section if only I could fucking find it. And understand, Wegman’s is not physically small. It takes about 3 minutes to walk from one end to another without heavy cart traffic. So zig-zagging around looking for the soy sauce is not a quick task.
I had no luck finding it. Anywhere. At any price. I had to ask for help. But there are no employees wandering around to assist me, because at Wegmans You Are On Your Fucking Own Sucker. So I go clear to the Customer Service desk, where a woman coughs on me and then asks how she can help.

“What aisle is soy sauce on?”

Her face falls as she grabs a multi-page key/map/legend/emergency evacuation guidebook. She looks through it, she sighs. She looks up at me. She sighs. I swear to God I thought she was going to ask me if I really needed it That Badly. Then she says, “The easiest way to get soy sauce, the way I would find it, is to look in the International section way up front in the corner.”
Holy Shit! A whole section that somehow slipped my notice! But wait, I found salsa in three places already: the olive bar, the natural section, and the redneck section….so is there even more salsa in the International section? Imported salsa? Actual Mexican mexican salsa?

I found the soy sauce. I found 8 different brands of soy sauce, some enfused with cold-pressed citrus. And I guess that is the thing, that is why some people swear that Wegmans is the greatest food store ever – it’s not that they are sick, twisted fucks, it is that once you know the store, once you have memorized where your items are, then it is probably fantastic in its scope. But the learning curve must take years – like memorizing all the arrondissement boundaries of Paris.

I grabbed a bottle of soy sauce. I waited in line and paid. My total was $200. So I basically paid $100/hour for the pleasure of Wegmans. I think that is about 50% more than I would have paid for the same food in Austin. So the cost of living IS higher here, financially, but also, and more importantly, emotionally.

1 comment:

Rosie Q said...

Wait - You've been to Whole Foods, right?

Actually, I do understand - Whole Foods learned a lot from Wegmans. As a grocery story aficionado, I made my first stop there more than a decade ago. It's taken that long for the rest of the grocery market to begin to "catch up". Let's pray for backlash. Wheatsville! Sanity!