Grocery shopping...

Posted on Monday 01 February 2010 at 12:46 pm in category: USA
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Shopping cart (empty)

... is usually my job on the weekends. I like grocery shopping. And I'm good at it, as long as I get an itemized list from home. The list has to be detailed for me to be good at grocery shopping though. A simple item like peanuts does not suffice. It has to be "Planters Cocktail Peanuts, jar, 1lbs.". Luckily, the person that writes the list knows that (she learned that the hard way), so most of the time I come home with the intended items.

When grocery shopping in Hudson, Ohio, there are basically four choices: Giant Eagle (big, logical lay-out, wide range of items), ACME (big, a lay-out that confuses me, equally wide range of items, and sometimes cheaper), Discount Drug Mart (small, messy lay-out, closest by and cheapest), and Heinen's (I don't go there a lot, but it's really nice, great service-with-a-smile, but more expensive). While my favorite is Giant Eagle, the list is often composed with the sales at ACME in mind (the list maker prefers ACME).

One of the reasons I prefer Giant Eagle, is that ACME's grammar is not correct. Look at this picture of the 'Express Lane', where you are allowed to check-out if the number of items in your cart does not exceed 12:


The picture might be a little blurry, but it clearly says '12 items or less'. That's grammatically wrong! It should say: '12 items or fewer' or 'Up to 12 items'. I must be the only grocery-shopper disturbed by this, because the girl operating the cash-register gave me a really confused look when I pointed this out to her.

What bothers me even more, is that there are people that think they can take their cart with more than 12 items to the express lane and get away with it! To avoid this, I have come up with a watertight system for the lanes at the cash registers that will make everybody happy.

First of all, we need more 'special' cash registers. The average large supermarket probably has twenty cash registers, so let's reserve 5 of those for everybody with any number of items. Then a few 'Express Lanes' for people with up to 12 items (with a correct sign on them of course). Then one or two registers for people with an even number of items, and the same for an odd number of items. In addition to that, a lane for people that accomplish to have a prime number of items in their cart, separate cash registers for numbers dividable by three, seven and thirteen, one for a number of items in the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...), one for numbers in the Lucas sequence (2, 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 29, 47, 76, 123, ...), and maybe even one for the more obscure Padovan sequence.

Second, there should be fines for people going in the wrong lane. So if you show up at the Fibonacci lane with 17 items, you pay 15% extra. You should have gone to the 'odd' lane, or the 'prime numbers' lane with that cart.

So how is this going to make everybody happy? Let me explain this with an example:

Let's assume that I have 20 items in my cart. When I get to the registers, there are long lines at the regular registers, and also at the 'even' registers. All I have to do is add one little item to my cart (maybe a pack of gum or something), and since I have 21 items now, I can go to the 'odd' register, the dividable-by-three and the dividable-by-seven register, the Fibonacci register and the Padovan register! This will make me happy, because I can probably check-out really fast, and it will make the grocery store happy, because I just bought a pack of gum that I otherwise would not have purchased.

Another scenario is that I don't know how many items I have, but I take a gamble, and go to the Lucas register. If I happen to have the right number of items, that makes me happy, because I can check out fast. If I don't, that would make the store happy, because I have to pay 15% more (there should be fences that make sure you can't back out of a lane once you're in it).

As you can see, the system is watertight, and it would make people more conscientious about what they buy. Sometimes people would probably fore go buying an unnecessary item, because they would have less choices when checking out (imagine having reached the magic number 21, and you're debating on buying another quart of ice cream, that would throw your choices at the registers back a lot).

In the mean time it teaches people some interesting stuff about number theory. And it would make shopping a lot more interesting.

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