Oliver: Grab-and-go tendencies backfire for this shopper

Joan Oliver Northwest Herald assistant news editor
Joan Oliver Northwest Herald assistant news editor

“Are you kidding? Again?” That’s all I could think when I looked at my latest failure.

Despite fancying myself an organized, have-it-all-together shopper, I have an embarrassing little issue: I often buy the wrong things. Not on purpose, of course.

I go to the store armed with a detailed list of things to buy. I even have backups for our most-used items because I hate running out of things.

The problem is, when I discover that I’ve mistakenly bought chili beans when I meant to buy low-sodium kidney beans, it’s usually too late to do much about it.

If only that were the only time this has happened. No, this is a years-long, multifaceted problem.

Just in the past two weeks, I found that I bought long boxes of tissue when I could have sworn I was buying cubes. And a long-ago purchased bottle of what I thought was shampoo wound up being conditioner. Sigh.

Sadly, it’s not just buying the wrong thing.

Years ago, in what has to be the most frustrating instance of this trend, I actually bought a box of cold medicine that turned out to be empty.

Worse yet, I was on a bus trip going to New York City. Somehow I had managed to get a terrible sinus infection from having the air conditioning blowing into my face while I tried to sleep. Needless to say, I was miserable, running a fever and in desperate need of something to make me feel better.

When we were able to go to a grocery store in New Jersey, I dragged myself over to the cold medicines and bought some decongestant. I just did what I always do and grabbed a box, never imagining for a second that there would be a problem.

After we got back to the hotel, I broke down crying when I realized that I had spent money on an empty box. This was before they started putting those things behind the pharmacy counters to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

Happily, the tour leader eventually got me some replacement medicine while we were at one of our stops. Still it was frustrating and humiliating.

I suppose I could blame that incident on having had a fever at the time. Still, you would think I would have learned my lesson. Unfortunately, although I do make sure I shake boxes to make sure things are in them, I still haven’t fixed the problem entirely.

Perhaps it’s that I would like to be anywhere else when I’m grocery shopping. I find it a necessary evil, one that I’d like to be over as soon as possible. So I suppose I’m rushing.

Or maybe it’s just that I think I know where things are. I check the shelf to make sure I’m in the right spot and then I blithely just grab what’s there. Silly me to believe that the correct things will be in the correct spots.

Or maybe it’s that products come in confoundingly similar packages. Those multiple packs of long-box tissues look identical to multipacks of cubes. Seriously. Or those feminine products with “wings” are packaged identically to the ones without the “wings.”

Of course, in the end the fault lies squarely with me. I need to pay more attention to what I’m doing. I need to make sure that the packages aren’t tampered with or that the contents aren’t missing or that I’m buying the correct flavor of hummus and not one that I have no interest in eating.

Then again, if I had a nickel for every time I accidentally bought the wrong thing, I might be able to pay someone to go shopping for me.

Now there’s a thought.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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