Remember when you could go to the supermarket without being offered to enter a contest, or asked to make a donation, or join a mailing list, or solicited with anything other than the items you went there to buy?
My childhood memories of going to the supermarket are sepia-toned. Mostly I remember buying a lot of cereal, and begging for cookies and soda to no avail. One time I found a $20 bill on the floor in the produce section and did not tell anyone.
But today it seems like every time I walk through those automatic doors I’m bombarded by people trying to get me to enter a contest or make a donation when all I really want to do is get my Mojito Mix and Vanilla Wafers and get out of there.
The other day I went to the supermarket and as the automatic doors opened a man in a shirt and tie greeted me. I assumed he was the greeter – perhaps placed through some community outreach program – and greeted him back. Then he held out a stack of green slips and a pen and asked me if I wanted to enter to win a shopping spree. I entertained a short mental film of myself running through the aisles, like a contestant on that game show Supermarket Sweep, going for the whole roast turkeys and then the medicine aisle. I shook my head and walked on, and felt bad about rebuffing him until I got to the free samples of cheese.
Another time I was greeted by a pair of high schoolers selling candy bars to fund a class on the causes of obesity. I told them that I’d sold my collection of Garbage Pail Kids to pay my property taxes and teenagers still did not seem to know anything beyond a bunch of acronyms. And they were like, “OMG!” And I was like, “TTYL.”
But the most memorable supermarket solicitor was a woman taking donations to pay her Verizon bill. No clipboard, no costume, no gimmick. Just standing there with a sign that said, “I can’t make any cell phone calls. Please help. God bless.” Somehow that one touched my heart. I handed over the few dollars I had on me, and instead of snacking on Vanilla Wafers I spent the evening appreciating what I had.