18 August 2009

Performance Art, Or, Maybe Not

So, a couple of weeks ago, Jean Martha (via Twitter) pointed me to an interview on a Wall Street Journal blog, an interview with a guy named Sam Pocker, who bills himself as a stand-up economist and does performance art in supermarkets.

coupons for free stuffAn idea began forming in my head. I could create a performance art piece, if only for my own enjoyment, by taking all the free coupons I’d gotten recently and going to the supermarket and buying nothing but those items! I’d pay nothing! I’d participate in consumer society! It was genius!

Providently, we needed limes for the pomegranate margaritas (which sort of redeemed the pomegranate juice, by the way, though the tequila may have negated the so-called health benefits of said pomegranate juice), so I gathered my coupons and my sister and off we went. I told her, mysteriously, that I was engaged in a “project” when she asked why I insisted on segregating the strange assemblage of unrelated products that I was purchasing. She cottoned on quickly, “what is this, for your blog?”

There was a little trouble locating the “right” size of one of the items, and the first container of Trop50 that I grabbed was expired, but the real snafu came when I tried to check out. Silly me, I thought six items through the self-checker would be a breeze – until I tried to scan a coupon and found that the self-checker wouldn't take the free coupons. I tried to abort the whole transaction – but instead I unintentionally summoned help, "help is on the way" chirped the robotic attendant, over and over. Some poor bewildered cashier wandered over, and couldn’t help at all because she’d lost her magic swipe card. The people behind me groaned at my breach of supermarket etiquette*. My sister fled to the next aisle, where the manager of the in-house bank branch tried to pick her up ("Nice butterfly" he said, about her temporary tattoo). The supermarket manager came over, and started punching buttons, and asked me “where’d you get all these coupons anyway?” I told him they were from a conference, and though I don’t think he thought I was a fraud, I am sure he thought I was nuts. In fact, I believe I told him I was nuts.

Eventually, he got the machine to accept four of the six coupons, and took the other two and got the cash value of those two coupons from the manager’s desk.

free productsI was disappointed – I wanted a register receipt that had a zero balance on it, or zero plus tax, anyway. Instead, I paid $12.47 and got cash back of $11.48, meaning that I spent $.99 on sales tax for my six items, and now you know I'm nuts, because why did I bother writing this all down?

It seemed like such a nice performance art piece in my head, but it turned into a fiasco. But just wait until I review the Trop 50. And the Ragu? It's going to camp for the end of summer food drive.



* Can you believe there's a whole WikiHow page devoted to supermarket checkout-line etiquette? The mind reels.

10 comments:

Renovation Therapy said...

LOL! Love it.

Now, about those Pom margaritas...

Kelly said...

There are whole websites devoted to playing the grocery coupon game. I tried it for awhile, but you really have to like eating garbage to save a lot of money with coupons.

Why don't they make coupons for free organic broccoli?

Harriet said...

Hah! Hilarious.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I found a coupon for 20% off any book at our local independent bookstore. It's the only coupon I'm interested in redeeming!

BTW I hate those self-scanning things. They won't let me use my own bags, but force me to use their plastic ones. I think they must be registering weight. Last time I tried the self-scanner, I put all my stuff in their plastic bags and then, after I'd paid, took everything out & put it in the bag I'd brought. I held up the line for 2 minutes I think, doing that. Talk about a breach of etiquette!

MadMad said...

Wait, wait, wait. What part was a fiasco, exactly? I'm thinking Seinfeld is going to come back to life JUST TO PERFORM this. It would be so darned funny!

Oh, I'm sorry. Maybe you didn't mean the performance to be so funny?

mayberry said...

I'm thinking the people who need to know about supermarket etiquette are not the ones googling their way to wikihow.

Ree said...

still. 99 cents? cool. I wish I would have gotten the free Pom though.

Bibliomama said...

Our self-scanners do have a way to use your own bags now (they used to do everything but make me wear a big red R when I tried it before), but every time I'm done when the perky, infuriating female voice says "THANK-you for using self-checkout" I always feel like saying "like I had any choice in this godforsaken understaffed place".

Anyone who can turn going to the supermarket into a fiasco that can later be blogged about gets my vote for Extremely Cool Nut-job...er, Woman. Thanks for the giggle.

painted maypole said...

hey, everyone loves free stuff AND free entertainment

bernthis said...

I would have been standing there pleading with the other customers not to kill me, this is a big city I live in and well, people aren't very patient but then again, I'm one of those people so I can't complain