Lost in the Supermarket

I briefly referred to this on Saturday, that my grocery shopping trip to the new Market District in Robinson Township was an utter disaster. This is partially my fault and partially the store’s fault.

What I Did Wrong

• Went shopping on a Saturday morning. Unfortunately, that’s when I have time to shop.
• Went shopping with two children. Unfortunately, that’s with whom I have to shop. And the girls were, for the most part, well behaved. Not perfect, and far from holy terrors. (Kate, as per, was quite… er, restless, let’s just say.)
• Used the of the mini-van of shopping carts. Flora wanted to stay with Kate and me, not go into the Learning and Activity Center. I would have insisted she go in there if I had known then what I know now. Shopping with two children necessitates the use of large, unwieldy carts.
• Went shopping at a new, unfamiliar, HUGE store in less-than-optimal conditions. (See above.)

I am completely willing to accept my portion of “blame” for the worst grocery shopping experience of my life (excepting the time I vomited in the South Side Giant Eagle; I was 13-weeks pregnant with Flora and morning sickness won that day, all over aisle 5).

What the Market District Gets Wrong

I am certain that the new Market District is a very nice store — unless you actually have to get some shopping done. Then, the vast selection of products and the numerous specialty sections dotted throughout the store, combined with the sheer size of the store and the Saturday morning crowd are utterly overwhelming. I had a list of about a dozen items that it took me three hours to get. THREE HOURS. Unacceptable.

The prepared food section is a hot mess. Not in a good way. People mill about; there are no lines and no customer flow; ordering food is a free-for-all; and paying for food is a guessing game. The seating area — for a mom with a mini-van sized shopping cart, two children, and a tray of hot food — was nearly inaccessible. Note to whoever stuck that elevator in: IT IS NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR PEOPLE USING SHOPPING CARTS, even normal-sized ones. My children and I barely fit in there alone with the cart, and there was no way any combination of more than one normal-sized cart and any number of people (or strollers or wheelchairs, etc.) fit in there. BAD PLANNING. Thank goodness for helpful patrons — note: not employees, to whom it appeared I was invisible. This portion of my shopping trip 1) almost made me break down in tears and 2) almost made me abandon the effort of shopping at the store all-together.

If you provide mini-van-sized shopping carts for parents who choose not to use the Learning and Activity Center (no “Eagle’s Nest” here!), you should provide wide enough aisles for said shopping carts. Please and Thank You. There were certain areas of the store where I was sure I was going to get stuck and/or knock over whole displays. They were also the areas I didn’t mean to wander into, but I was unfamiliar with the layout, and by hour two I was completely disorientated.

It’s nice to be able to pick up a six-pack of beer (and a being able to pick up a bottle of wine will be even better), but it’s way too expensive. And the location of the beer purchasing area makes this just about not worth it.

It may seem that putting organics with all the other products — mainstreaming them, as it were — is a good, intuitive idea. It’s not. It just makes them that much harder to find. And I never did locate organic butter.

I like and support the idea of sampling stations. Unfortunately this Saturday morning with the crowd and my massive cart (have I talked enough about that yet?) they just added to the congestion and made everything take longer.

What They Get Right

The deli area is the picture of efficiency. No lie.
The coffee area (right near the deli) is loverly, and the free sample sure came in handy.
The bulk foods area. Although there should be more than one scale — and since there’s only one scale, it better freaking work every time.
Providing a map. In the end, it didn’t help me much, but it’s a great idea. And I’m sure it will help me IF I ever shop there again, and it probably did help others on Saturday.

Finally, to the other people shopping at the Market District on Saturday:

An “excuse me” goes a long, long way. Huffing at me, elbowing me, crashing your cart into mine, and/or rolling your eyes at me? Gets you NOTHING. I know the “excuse me” thing, combined with a smile, worked wonders for me, my giant-ass shopping cart, and my children. I had to use it several times, and I got a lot of “that’s okay”, “I’ve been there” and nice smiles in response. So next time, if it seems I don’t know you’re there, simply say, “Excuse me.” I will maneuver out of your way, and I will smile at you as I do it.

Options for me in the future should I decide to return to Market District:

Shop at a different time and/or day.
Shop with my husband as well as my children.
Shop without my children in tow (will necessitate employment of a babysitter).
Wait until Kate turns 3 (in January) so I can stow both girls at the Learning and Activity Center.
Forgo the prepared foods section all together OR only visit the grocery store to have lunch.

Incidentally, I heard from other (child-free) people who declared their experience at Market District pretty terrible on Saturday as well.

What should they do differently? What else do they get right? Or wrong? What else could I have done? Should I give the store another trial run, or just wait until the girls are older (college graduates or married with their own kids?)?

19 thoughts on “Lost in the Supermarket

  1. I walked in there on Sunday running on about 4 hours of sleep after a weekend funeral out of town. I nearly cried. I couldn’t find ANYTHING. And then when I tried to get down the actual food aisles, they were blocked by people with giant dollies stocking the shelves. And what is this bulk area you speak of? Where do I find that?! Did I need to go through some time/space portal?

    The bright spots were these:
    1. It took 5 minutes total to check out. No lines, even with a bajillion people there.

    2. I got two free heads of organic cauliflower. I could NOT find cauliflower anywhere and when I asked, the produce dude said, “Oh, our shipment was delayed and we haven’t had any for a few days.” The produce manager overheard and said, “Hey, we do have organic cauliflower (FIVE DOLLARS FOR A LITTLE HEAD!!) and you can have as many as you want for no charge.” Note, please, that the organic cauliflower? Was not anywhere where cauliflower should be. It was in a random bucket next to some bananas and tomatoes. But hey, it was free, so that made up for a bit of pain.

    • It is definitely not the store for quick errands. I can’t imagine that it ever will be. However, it’s encouraging to think they recognize bugs and will try to work them out.

      I stumbled onto the bulk area myself. To the left of produce? In the middle kind of?

      And, yes, check out was super quick. I have no idea where everyone was.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Ciao, rpm

  2. Man, and to think that I get pissed when my neighborhood store changes the layout ever so slightly…
    Sounds like a nightmare experience… Live and learn, eh?

    • It was bad. Just… I cannot imagine going back there or making it my regular store. And that really bums me out because the selection is gorgeous.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Ciao, rpm

  3. I’m going to blog about this as well, since I was there both Saturday and Sunday. The layout was a mess, but most of the employees that I ran into and asked questions about were very helpful. They really need more self checkout lanes and I don’t like that the freezer section was right in the middle of the store and not easily accessible.

    While this isn’t my neighborhood store, the old Robinson Giant Eagle was my primary grocery store, so several more Market District trips are in my future until I can nail down an optimal shopping time.

    • This is going to sound terrible, but I really think that employees avoided me because of my children (and possibly because of my HUGE shopping cart). I saw many employees engaged with other customers, who would turn away or talk to someone else without addressing me (and my kids — who, I reiterate — were well behaved). It may be my paranoia talking, I admit that, but it was weird. Especially after it happened for, like, the fourth time.

      Then again, a couple of women at sampling stations were more than willing to engage with my kids, and the woman at the coffee station was just adorable. She wanted to show my kids everything! So I’m going to blame the paranoia.

      I’ll look forward to reading your take! The Moon store in my go-to Giant Eagle, but I was looking forward to getting a Market District nearby because of their selection.

      Thanks for the comment!


  4. I still haven’t been, yet,but as far as a map… seems like there could be an app for that, complete with using the location service on your phone, if it’s really that big?

    But hey, what do i know?

    • No, no, they have a paper map (for those of us without iPhones) that is fine. It’s just hard to juggle with a giant cart, too kids, a shopping list, etc. I don’t know much about map applications in general.

      And, yes, the store is huge. biggest one in Western PA.


      • Someone of the local twitter contingent suggested a smartphone “mall map” application. Same idea. Of course, when your hands are already full, paper, electronic, it’s not gonna matter.

        But I have the “lost in a foreign grocery store” problem just often enough to want a way to ask someone or something “where is the flatbread?” “where are the chickpeas?”. I can’t imagine it would make sense for a small store, or lots of stores, but something of epic scale like this, maybe…

  5. We made that mistake also of going on a Saturday and it was a mess. We didnt get past the hot foods before Lushie had enough and wanted to leave. Most of our issues came from rude customers. We only had teaspoon and trying to get through with a stroller was as if we just kicked you in the nuts. Dirty looks from people trying to jump into the salad bars. Old women giving us attitude because we have a kid with us and the freaking morons in overpriced, oversized vehicles who think they own the parking lot and can run you over at will. one guy kept driving while we were in the middle of the cross walk. There was a cop there who did nothing even though the larger than life sign said to yield to pedestrians. he was busy talking to a girl.

    As for the beer. I like it. the price on bombers is cheap so for a grab-n-go store its fine. If you want to talk beer though and be able to kick back and enjoy your beverage there, work needs to be done.

    • Duly noted: Price on bombers, good.

      I cannot believe how rude people can be about strollers and/or kids! Parents have the right to shop at peak hours, too! Jeez Louise.

      Yeah, the prepared foods section is panic-attack inducing. Just bad, bad, bad.

      thanks for the comment!


  6. I’ve been curious about the store, but so far, it seems like your experience is closer to the norm. I think we’ll wait until some of the buzz has died down a bit. Like, maybe in February.

    • The people I really feel for at this point are the patrons whose regular store was the Robinson Giant Eagle. What are their options now? Drive a little further to a different grocery store or put up with the madness I guess. I suppose it will die down eventually.


  7. That sounds like a nightmare, but I was distracted by one detail: Beer? At a supermarket? In Pittsburgh? The heathens have taken over?

    I glean from your message that this is the exception not the rule, but I hope it spreads. In Virginia it was nice to be able to do the beer and wine thing at the supermarket. In Chicago, there is liquor as well, which makes for one stop party shopping unless the hubby is craving a bottle of Forty Creek.

    In related news, we need to find a carpenter to put doors on our free standing bar or buy a locking liquor cabinet. Our liquor/wine storage is not childproof in any stretch of the imagination.

    • Yes, Pennsylvania liquor laws — beer and wine laws I should say — are relaxing a little.

      The beer at the store is in its own department. You have to pay for it there; it even has its own door in case that is all you are buying.

      There is a state store attached to a Try ‘n’ Save near my workplace. Convenient!

      So, progress is being made. At a snail’s pace, to be sure.

      And for now, you can just put that liquor up high. Right?

      Thanks for the comment,

  8. I personally loved the prepared foods area. However, the flow of the prepared foods is horrible!

    What I experienced with the Bethel Park store is go back in a week or so and they will have tons worked out. Not sure how they expected to train and employ 700 employees over 50% of which are new.

    Now for my disclaimer: I work there on the front end.

    and I was there Saturday 13 hours. It was rather hectic. It has calmed downed tons though. I hope to see you there again.

    Say Hi if you see me there.

    PS: Those kiddie shopping carts are enormous, and way too big for any aisle I have ever seen! The kids love them, everyone else, not. but our aisles could sure be much bigger.

    • Thanks very much for your comments.I definitely want to shop at the store again, and I know that going two weeks after the opening may not have been my absolute smartest move. I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed, though.While many of the prepared foods looked delicious, and we did get crepes and… whatever that potato thing they make at the crepes station (my kids liked both), it is too hard to shop AND make one’s way through prepared foods. It’s definitely an either/or proposition when one is with kids. And a huge cart.When/if I return, I’ll look for you to say hi. I think that store will be more for quick trips for special occasions, and I’ll continue to use the Moon Twp. store to do my regular shopping!ciao,rpmDec 3, 2009 12:35:58 AM, comment+x7y5pv3ebd-kxoha@comment.wordpress.com wrote:

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