Tag Archives: grocery shopping

Whole Foods Cereal Shill

I was at Whole Foods today getting some groceries when I came across this mini food testing area at the end of an aisle. There were two nice sales people (one lady and one dude) who were hawking cereal. The type of cereal was super organic and it came in a pouch. The lady bragged that all of the ingredients were on the front of the bag in large type. The cereal was available for testing in cereal form, baked into a cookie, and blended into a smoothie (which was apparently made with apple cider and yogurt or something).

Sidenote: While I was deciding what to taste test (I eventually went with the smoothie and it was not bad, and followed up with a chunk of cookie), an old Asian lady walked up to me and started talking in Chinese. I tried to tell her that I don’t really speak Chinese, but I forgot how to say “I don’t know Chinese” in Chinese. It’s kind of absurd, anyway, to say you don’t speak a language in that very language you’re saying you don’t speak. Anyway, she mumbled some more stuff and then said “Chinese.” Like, yeah, lady, we’re both Chinese. I guess she walked away after that.

So anyway, here’s the real part of the story. I’m tasting the cookie and am about to leave when another woman walks up to the food tasting area. The sales guy asks if she wants to buy some cereal and she’s like “oh, I already have some at home! I love it! I’m just going to have some samples.” And they get into this conversation about how great the cereal is. I caught some more of their conversation as I walked away. Only later did I realize that the cereal-praising lady was probably a shill! It was literally the oldest sales trick in the book! I mean, no one gets that excited over cereal, right? She was really into it; a little too much into it to be believable.

Perhaps I am just cynical, but I would love to hang around Whole Foods to see if the same lady came over and did that multiple times. The sad part is that I can see the shill bit working on quite a lot of people. It probably didn’t work on the Chinese lady, though. She didn’t speak English.

Grocery Shopping in Seattle

PCC Logo

As some of you may know, grocery shopping is very important to me. It’s one of my favorite adult activities to partake in. Which is to say that grocery shopping is one of those things that you do after making the transition from kid to adult. Or at least that’s what I like tricking myself into believing.

In Michigan, I went to Meijer, because it pretty much had everything I needed. I’d also make a side trip to Trader Joe’s maybe once a month for hippie supplies. Now, in a new city, I must figure out where to get my foods and stuffs. Meijer is strictly a Midwest chain, unfortunately.

Now, the obvious choice would be to pick the closest grocery. It’s pretty easy to calculate the distance to the closest grocery because I live above the PCC Food co-op thingy. Literally. I am on the fifth floor and they take up the first floor in my building. I could literally jump down to the store entrance. Actually, a firefighter pole setup might be safer and cooler, but I’ll have to ask my landlord about it. The PCC is pretty high quality; it makes Trader Joe’s look like Wal-mart. But things there also cost an arm and a leg (good thing I upped my accidental death and dismemberment insurance (AD&D)). So I go there for quick and inexpensive things, like bananas or other produce, or when I really need something bad (like tofu). Also, PCC doesn’t sell anything that’s not “natural,” so I can’t get goldfish crackers or Drain-o there.

There is a Trader Joe’s in Ballard that’s pretty nearby that I’m hitting often. I also just discovered a Fred Meyer (I dunno if there’s a relation to Meijer) that has a Chase bank in it (bonus points, just like my old Meijer!). The Fred Meyer is gigantic and pretty close to Wal-mart vibe. I’ve also gone to Safeway for my unnatural foods. When I shop at the University Village, I can hit up the QFC (which is like Kroger/Smith’s) on the way. I haven’t been to Whole Foods yet, but I don’t see a reason to with the Whole Foods-ish PCC taking care of my overpriced grocery needs. There’s also apparently a place in Ballard called Ballard Market (appropriately) that’s supposed to be pretty decent. I’ve also gone to the Asian market, Uwajimaya, in the International District, but that’s more of a specialty case. Also, I don’t eat enough food to shop at Costco (orange juice excluded from this statement).

As you can see, I am a bit obsessive about grocery shopping. I haven’t found a store that has all the stuff I need/want in one location at the price I’d like to pay. So for now I think I’ll forage around multiple stores, which is inconvenient but somewhat necessary. Ever since I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I feel like I should be a bit more careful in the purchasing and preparation of my food. I don’t feel too bad spending a chunk of change on something at PCC. Unless, of course, there’s a random markup and I can get the same thing somewhere else for 40% less. Oh, and I just got a hold for In Defense of Food at the library, so hopefully that will make me a bit less picky.

Vitamin Water Sync: Free MP3s and Economics

vitamin water sync

I’ve become kind of a Vitamin Water fan. Not because I think it’s actually healthy or anything (the second most common “vitamin” (ingredient) is sugar), but because I like the taste. I’ve actually been drinking the stuff for like a year now. Anyway, I recently noticed (like a month ago) that there was a new flavor available called “Sync.” The cool thing about this flavor is that it includes a code on the cap that you can redeem at AmazonMP3 (for some reason it says the music comes from MySpace) for a free song. By “a free song,” they really mean $1.29 of credit, since some songs cost that much, but others actually cost less.

Because of this added value of this flavor (the other ones don’t have free songs), I’ve been kind of loading up on Sync. This also leads me to a semi-interesting economics problem. If I regularly bought MP3s from Amazon.com, I’d be doing myself a favor by getting $1.29 worth of “music” for ~$1, along with a free sugary, sorta-vitamin-y drink. This price difference was even greater when I went to Kroger and got 10 Vitamins-Water for $5!

But I don’t regularly buy music online. If I like an artist and want to support him/her/them, I’ll buy a CD, because then at least I have a physical representation of something that I can “own.” Not just bits. But what about Sync versus other flavors? While I like the other flavors (and variety is good), I’ve kind of been giving Sync an 8:2 split. So for every ten Vitamin Waters I get, about eight of them are Sync. I mean, I like to have some kind of variety! The Sync flavor is actually pretty good, too. It’s probably just about equal with any other Vitamin Water flavor.

One positive about the whole free music thing is that I’ve actually bought a lot of music. Here’s what I’ve gotten thanks to glacéau:

I basically got a bunch of Ingrid Michaelson singles, a ska song I liked that I didn’t have on my computer and a Jonathan Coulton “best of” album. All artists who I like and want to support. I mean, Jonathan Coulton kinda offers all of his music free anyway, so I saw this AmazonMP3 thing as a good way to send him some money (I also went to one of his concerts, which I assume helped support him (or maybe TicketMaster just pocketed it all!!!)).

Sadly, my free ride is nearing its end. The last time I went to Kroger, I bought some more Sync. When I got home and drank one, I realized the caps had changed. No more free songs! The wording on the bottle even changed to reflect the fact that there’s no song in there. I assumed the flavor would have free songs forever, but apparently not. I’ll keep an eye out for the bottles with songs, but I fear they will eventually dry out. Pun intended.

The last economics question for this blog post: If Vitamin Water presents an extra incentive with the drink, then removes that incentive later, does it hurt its sales? I used to buy the drink because I liked it. I may have replaced the reason for buying it with free songs. Now that there are no more free songs, will I continue to buy? Or will I feel robbed because I am now paying the same amount for less?