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"What's that?" - grocery store edition.

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  • pie22 Feb 27, 2012 10:44 AM
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Today I was in the grocery store and as the cashier is checking out my items, she came across a bag of fruit and she asked me what they were. I was a little surprised she did not know they were plums, this lady was probably in her late 20's or early 30's as well, no accent so I don't think she was from another country originally.
I get asked what produce is often especially when deciphering different lettuces, peppers and always the great parsley/cilantro debate but I was surprised on this one.
What about the rest of you, anything you get asked in the store that surprised you more than normal?

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  1. Maybe she just didn't know it was a plum from a pluot or other such similar looking fruit. Also, there are red plums, Italian plums, etc. Could this have been the case? The cashier has to ring it up under a specific SKU # so that the inventory is kept in check. Maybe she was just making sure?

    3 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      I do not believe they had other varieties, however my receipt simply said "plum" but you are correct, I did not think it may have been a type of plum.

      1. re: pie22

        Having been cashier in retail in my younger days, I like to give people in these positions the benefit of the doubt. It's not an easy job dealing with people every day and sometimes a cashier can have an "off" day. :)

        1. re: ttoommyy

          that's understandable, just saying she wasn't in her "younger" days and i was surprised and it made me think of other potentially similar stories so i thought i would bring up the topic. :)

    2. I once wanted to make a rhubarb pie for my son. I hunted around various markets looking for rhubarb and finally found it at Lucky, a real mass market chain. The clerk had no idea what it was and was really surprised to find it listed under the fruits. I had to explain to a small group of clerks and managers that this thing that looked like red celery really was a fruit and how it could be used.

      Rhubarb is apparently not featured much in Mexican cuisine.

      10 Replies
      1. re: 512window

        Of course you know it's not REALLY a fruit because a fruit is the ripened ovary of a plant. Rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, as it is the leaf stalk.

        1. re: babette feasts

          It's used like a fruit. Which is why it's listed as a fruit in the little guide at the cashier's station.

          1. re: babette feasts

            That "fruit/vegetable" thing is so tiresome. There is a distinction to be made between everyday language and scientific nomenclature. When a mother who served squash for dinner tells her child to "eat your vegetables," what do you think is the right answer?

            1. re: GH1618

              You mean like when guest judge Sam Kass of the White House kitchen sneeringly told Team Angelo in an early episode of TC-DC that the tomato they used was a fruit and did not qualify as a vegetable? Botanically/scientifically correct, culinarily incorrect. There were folks on that thread on CH who saw nothing wrong with calling it a fruit yet couldn't think offhand of other stuff that competitors were using that weren't vegetables (you mean like green beans, zucchini, corn, etc -or the squash you asked about)
              :-)

              1. re: GH1618

                All fruits are vegetables.

                Not all vegetables are fruit.

                (And then there's mushrooms, which are biologically closer to animals. But sit with the roots and leaves in the grocery store.)

                1. re: benbenberi

                  No. There is no botanical definition of vegetable. There really isn't one of "fruit" either - technically it's a fruiting body.

                  An apple is a fruiting body, but it's not a vegetable. An acorn squash is a fruiting body, and it is a vegetable. A carrot is a root, not a fruiting body, and it is a vegetable. Mushrooms are fungi and are vegetables.

                  1. re: 512window

                    A vegetable = A plant or part of a plant used as food.

                    Culinarily speaking, there is ambiguity and looseness in the usage, as you indicate, which excludes apples and may include mushrooms. Biologically speaking, apples, squash, carrots, and lettuce are all equally vegetable (though obviously different parts of their plant), and fungi emphatically are not.

                    1. re: benbenberi

                      In 1883 there was a US tariff act that applied to vegetables but not fruits. The question of whether that act applied to tomatoes or not lead to a court ruling.
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_v._H...
                      outlines the reasoning and related cases

                      1. re: paulj

                        I think that there are three ways to define fruits/veg; legally, culinarily, and botanically.

                2. re: GH1618

                  Then there's that childhood "animal, vegetable, or mineral" game. I don't remember how mushrooms were classified, or even whether they ever came up, but I'm pretty sure it would have been "vegetable."

            2. Happens to me often with very young cashiers.

              1. Happened over the weekend at my local store that has morphed from Southeast Asian to Dominican Republic/Caribbean. The red potato was entered as a red yam. And this after the manager explained to her what it was.

                1. I do get asked that. The last time I was asked, it was some sort of green veggie--maybe mustard. The checkout guy was my age, which means he was not young. I've been asked by all ages though. A lot of people don't know any except the most basic of fresh food.

                  1. Lemongrass. Rapini. Celeriac. Jicama. And once with green beans!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                      These plus leeks.

                    2. I handed over a bunch of asparagus, and the cashier asked me what it was. I said, "It's asparagus." She pored over her pricing chart for a while and came up empty, so I leaned over to help and noticed she was looking in the "s" section. Because it's a sparagus.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: small h

                        best giggle of my day!

                        1. re: small h

                          Hahaha! Wow.

                          1. re: small h

                            lol

                            1. re: small h

                              hehehe

                              1. re: small h

                                Wow. Just wow.

                                1. re: small h

                                  that gave me a good laugh

                                  1. re: small h

                                    Not quite a vegetable, but this reminds me of when I was buying cannellini beans for the first time after I was married. I was staring at the beans section and my husband asked me, "What are you looking for?" I replied, "Cannellini beans." He started helping me look. Eventually I found them and showed him what the can looked like. He laughed and said, "I thought we were looking for a can of lini beans!"

                                    1. re: Maggiethecat

                                      Hah! That's awesome. But you should probably get the dried lini beans. The canned have so much added salt.

                                      1. re: Maggiethecat

                                        Best giggle of my day again!

                                        1. re: Maggiethecat

                                          Like that popular cocktail appetizer, the can o' peas.

                                          1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                            In my head I can hear Curly, Moe and Larry offering "can o' peas" to the snooty cocktail party guests.

                                        2. re: small h

                                          we used to play "My Daddy Owns a Grocery Store" as a guessing game on long car trips - the one whose turn it is thinks of something in a grocery store and says "My daddy owns a grocery store, and he sells something that starts with...."

                                          One fateful day, it was something that started with a B. Butter, Beans, Bread, Baklava -- we named it ALL. We finally gave up:

                                          Buhtatoes.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            This must be the in-store display for those butt-atoes:

                                             
                                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                              LOL

                                              Those always make me wonder what it was *supposed* to be.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                It's a kind of fragrant pear. (香梨) :-)
                                                (Actually, Xinjiang pear. See, for example: http://www.zhai-pei.com/goods.php?id=135)

                                          2. re: small h

                                            Definitely made me laugh.

                                          3. I must relay a classic tale of my late father's interaction with a cashier at Stop and Shop (a major New England Based chain).

                                            Dad always carried and used half dollar coins (they were his trademark). He and mom came from Florida for their annual visit the summer of 1990. Dad went into Stop and Shop to make a purchase. When his turn at the cashier came, she rang the sale and announced it was $10.35. Dad handed her a $10 bill and a Kennedy Half Dollar. The cashier looked at the coin, turned it over and asked "What's This?"
                                            With a complete straight face, Dad replied: "That's a seventy-five cent piece."
                                            The cashier said, "I never saw one" and gave him 40 cents change, his bag and receipt. The woman in line behind my father burst out laughing.
                                            Dad took himself, the receipt and the 40 cents to find the store manager, he wouldn't keep the change, but as a retired storekeeper he was horrified.
                                            The manager, listened to the story, explained that all cashiers took a money recognition training session, but the higher ups had neglected to include the half dollar coin.
                                            Dad explained that the cashier looked at the coin, turned it over as well. One side says Half Dollar, the other side says fifty cents.
                                            The manager's answer was how bright do you think cashiers are?
                                            My father said, just bright enough to give away all the profits and put you out of business....

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              "all cashiers took a money recognition training session"

                                              The rest of the story is just icing.

                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                LOL.
                                                A few days ago I handed a cashier at a NJ Stop-N-Shop a few $2 bills. I had to wait as she called the manager over to ask: "do we take these?"
                                                (they took them. LOL)

                                                1. re: The Professor

                                                  One of my little joys in life is using $2 bills. "Is this real money? is a standard querry. The really horrifying part is when they give me change for a $20.

                                                  And now we go to the scary. How readily my Bahamian 50 cent and $3 bills are accepted. I do exchange them for US unless the clerk wants them for themselves.

                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                    My uncle once told a cashier that he had just returned from Hawaii and all he had was Hawaiian money. She got all flustered and told him they couldn't accept it... until he pulled out the US money. He was nasty that way.

                                                    Also, when those state quarters first came out, the cashier at our hospital cafeteria wouldn't accept them because she didn't believe they were real money.

                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                      I did that with Euros this winter - the clerk at first was puzzled, and when I realized what I'd done, I apologized and gave her US coins -- and she wanted to keep the Euro coins, so I gave her those, too - it cost me less than a euro, and it made her day.

                                                  2. re: bagelman01

                                                    Not a cute story, IMO. Why get a minimum wage earning kid in trouble because of some quirky old man schtick? What's the point? Self-indulgence on the part of an old man?

                                                    Give the cashiers a break. Do you think they're doing that because it's more fun than the six figure investment banking job they used to have?

                                                  3. My mother had surgery and I did her shopping. She asked for 12 oz. of salmon so I went to her grocery store and asked for 12 oz. of salmon. The guy behing the fish counter (and this is a major chain where we live) looked at me and said "we only sell things by the pound."

                                                    29 Replies
                                                    1. re: Terrie H.

                                                      Maybe that means they won't sell quantities less than a pound?

                                                      1. re: NotJuliaChild

                                                        When I said 3/4 of a lb. is 12 oz., he managed that. He just didn't know how to convert oz. Kind of amazing for a guy working at a seafood counter.

                                                        1. re: Terrie H.

                                                          That doesn't surprise me. I really don't think many grocery employees know how to convert pounds to ounces. I swear whenever I ask for half a pound or 3/4 of a pound, they just pile on an amount and say "is that close enough?" A couple ounces one way or the other is okay, especially if it's something like cut fish or meat, but when I ask for half a pound, 15 ounces is NOT "close enough." I really should just start ordering in ounces.

                                                          1. re: gmm

                                                            Oh, they hate me because I make them take stuff out!

                                                          2. re: Terrie H.

                                                            Yet another reason we should be using the metric system in the US.

                                                            "350 grams of salmon, please."

                                                            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                                              While I also wish we had converted to metric way back when, I am not sure that it would make a difference in this situation. Would he have just said "we only sell things by the kilo" and still not have known how to do this? The scales they weigh their products on to price it out have this info right there on the LED display.

                                                              I was in Great Wall this weekend and the guy next to me was able to to get 300 grams of scallops and all the guy on the other side of the counter had to do was (1) know stuff; and (2) flip a button on the scale.

                                                              Not sure whether this is entirely a training issue or a lack of education issue, but I sure would make sure that someone I employed in this job could do very basic math.

                                                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                I was told in the second grade that our metric conversion was imminent. I guess I should reveal that this was in 1967.

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  Thankfully, the impetus for that unnecessary change, wherever it originated, dies out a few years later.

                                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                                    why unnecessary? Metric is so much easier to work with. We _should_ have changed over years ago.

                                                                  2. re: sandylc

                                                                    Metric was also immanent when I was in 4th grade in 1975.

                                                                    1. re: calliope_nh

                                                                      That's close to my timeframe, as well. We had some lessons in school to show us how to convert, and then the movement went away. I saw something on tv just a week or two ago that showed that the USA is one of only two or three countries in the entire world that doesn't use metric.

                                                                      1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                        Except that we do use metric when it suits us. For example, spirits are now sold in 750 ml bottles instead of fifths. We're just not into coercion, that's all. Medicine is also metric.

                                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                                          Actually, the 750 ml are right next to the fifths in every liquor store around here!

                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                            Where is that? I haven't seen a fifth in a long time. Not that I've looked.

                                                                            1. re: GH1618

                                                                              Minnesota

                                                                    2. re: sandylc

                                                                      Only a bit older here, and remember the same "metric is coming" discussion. Along with the flying cars in My Weekly Reader

                                                                      1. re: coney with everything

                                                                        One day at work, somebody brought me a couple of papers and asked me to fill them out, since I understood the metric system. (I was one of the "imminent adoption" kids - so we learned both systems in school).

                                                                        That turned into a career in international trade -- all because I could fill out customs forms.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          ah sunshine, funny what little things change the course of our lives!

                                                                          My automotive career started from scoring well on an employment exam and being offered a part time cashier job at a Sears auto center which paid 20 cents per hour more than the regular cashier jobs!

                                                                    3. re: Terrie H.

                                                                      It's a lot simpler to calculate amounts when everything is a multiple of 10! US measurements confuse the heck out of me!

                                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                        I grew up with it, so it's fine for the most part. But I was analyzing chocolate chip cookie recipes last night on that quest for the perfect one, and I had to change all of the recipes to bakers percentages in order to compare them easily.

                                                                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                          I agree CanadaGirl.

                                                                          In France, at the supermarket all goods are priced by the Kilo, this really simplifies
                                                                          matters. (in the food area, I must stress.and except the wine).
                                                                          Oh and some stuff is sold by the piece......... (Melons) Oh darn it...

                                                                          But you know what I mean

                                                                        2. re: Terrie H.

                                                                          Question for Americans - how do the electronic scales in US shops display weight? I would have thought it would be in ounces and pounds so that people could ask for smaller amounts.

                                                                          1. re: Billy33

                                                                            It's by pounds to the second decimal, ex. 1.51 lb chicken thighs @ 2.99/lb.

                                                                          2. re: Terrie H.

                                                                            ..

                                                                          3. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                                                            so that their response can then be, "we only sell things by the kilogram"
                                                                            ?

                                                                            1. re: mattstolz

                                                                              Yes but converting 350 grams to .35 kilos is a lot simpler than converting 12 ounces to .75 pounds. I always get confused between "ounces in a cup" (8) and "ounces in a pound" (16). I have a whole mnemonic just for that:
                                                                              "a pint's a pound the world around", so a pint of water is a pound; a pint is two cups so a pound is two cups; a cup must be 8 and a pound is 16.

                                                                              1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                                                                I think you are making it seem more complicated than it actually is, because fluid ounces aten't used that much in a context where conversion is required. I just went through my copy of Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, and didn't find a single recipe calling for fluid ounces. If I did need to measure fluid ounces, I would just use a suitable measuring device, and not worry about conversion to any other units.

                                                                                American units for cooking are convenient sizes for use, even if conversions are sometimes cumbersome, because we rarely convert, and because conversions are often trivial, such as doubling a recipe.

                                                                                1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                                                                  youd think so.

                                                                                  but that would also require someone to know that theres 1000g in a kg. which is assuming a lot for some people i've found.

                                                                                  1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                                                                    When I order deli meat it is by the fraction of a lb, e.g. 1/4 or 1/2. You might say that the American system of weights and volume is binary - mostly multiples and fractions of 2.

                                                                        3. Chile Peppers.

                                                                          I have yet to meet a cashier that can tell the difference between a serrano, jalapeno, and habenero.

                                                                          Sorting out dried chiles, like chipotle and pasilla, is worse still.

                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                          1. re: NotJuliaChild

                                                                            I should become a cashier...that's something I'm good at as I often use chiles :-) I'd have trouble with the dried ones though probably.

                                                                            I don't think I've ever had a cashier ask me about anything. Either they're all well trained or they just enter in what they think it is.

                                                                            1. re: Solstice444

                                                                              I'd advise you to doublecheck your receipt!

                                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                I started checking my receipts and found that sometimes they give up and just pass it through without charging me at all.......

                                                                            2. re: NotJuliaChild

                                                                              I love it whenever I buy poblano peppers and get asked, "Is this a jalapeno"?

                                                                              1. re: Oboegal

                                                                                Sometimes it's easier to say yes. Even better, choose a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and say that ALL of them are jalapenos.

                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                  'I love it whenever I buy poblano peppers and get asked, "Is this a jalapeno"?'

                                                                                  Keep a straight face and tell 'em they're poblajeños.

                                                                                  1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                                                    Or if jalapenos are cheaper..."why yes they are"

                                                                                    Just kidding.

                                                                            3. A new market opened near me recently, and I bought a some herbs and vegetables. As I was unloading my cart, the young man asked me what some of the items were: cilantro, dill, bok choy, scallions. Imagine my surprise when the cost was $42. The boy charged me $.99 for each individual scallion in the 3 bunches I bought.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: phofiend

                                                                                I have had cashiers ask me what ginger root is, as well as lemongrass, fennel and radishes. Forget about the more obscure ones. It's gotten to the point that when I am in a store and the cashier KNOWS what everything is, I assume he or she must either be a foodie or have grown up in a household with one. I don't care what a person's eating habits or personal preferences are. KNOW YOUR INVENTORY OR GET A JOB ELSEWHERE! Equally important is to know the denominations of your currency!

                                                                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                                  It is very important for a cashier to know even the subtle differences. Like I said in an earlier post, the SKU they punch in keeps the inventory. Example: when buying radicchio at my local supermarket, 8 out of 10 cashiers will ring it up as red cabbage. I always tell them no, it's radicchio and have them reenter it even though I will be paying more than if I let it slide as red cabbage. Why? Because at the end of the week, there will be a lot of radicchio gone but no sales to support it. Conversely, they will be selling a lot more red cabbage than they ever had on hand. It screws up inventory and until it is caught and fixed, could drive the prices up of the radicchio as it might be looked at as theft/loss.

                                                                                2. re: phofiend

                                                                                  Hah, phofiend. Sadly I have done this to myself in the self-checkout lane. When it asked for a count, I entered the number of scallions... and only realized when I got home that I had paid something like $20 for a single bunch. Perhaps the moral of the story is that some of the cashiers may be morons... but equally some of the customers are morons!

                                                                                  1. re: drongo

                                                                                    So true, drongo, so true!

                                                                                3. I just want to mention that most customers in food markets pay by check or with a card. The guy who pulls out $2 bills, or half dollars, or Susan Bs is giving a cashier something he or she has probably never seen before, unless the cashier is a career employee.

                                                                                  However, the lack of training is many retailers is appalling. I had two bad experiences with obvious lack of training in a new grocer that ulitmately left town. My encounter with the deli clerk went like this:

                                                                                  Me: which of these lunchmeats are reduced fat?
                                                                                  Her: Well how would I know?

                                                                                  1. Any mushroom that isn't white button or portabella.
                                                                                    Any hot pepper besdes jalapeno.
                                                                                    Any cabbage besides green or red.

                                                                                    1. I had ginger in my basket and the cashier rang everything up, looked in the basket at the ginger, and threw it out. We had a nice chat about what ginger is and what it's used for... and I got a new one! To be fair, though, he looked like he was in high school. I doubt he did much cooking at home :)

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                        This may have to be the funniest response!

                                                                                      2. If the cashier is young and seems friendly, I will tease them - I say that they have to buy and try anything they can't identify.

                                                                                        Regarding the currency and weighing issues spoken of here, we have been seriously letting down our elementary-school-aged students. The basics don't seem to be getting taught - ? Is this not the job they are supposed to do?

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                          If it isn't on the standardized tests then it isn't a priority.

                                                                                          1. re: melpy

                                                                                            +1, but sadly that is a whole different discussion

                                                                                            My kid went to Catholic school through 4th grade and came out of there knowing how to actually make change. I don't think they teach that much anymore; kids are supposed to use calculators and the registers will do the math for cashiers.

                                                                                            Back on topic...last week I bought a loaf of bread at Whole Foods that the cashier had to ask what it was. Not really the fault of the cashier--all those breads look alike--but WF does a piss poor job with labelling bread.

                                                                                        2. I asked where the kefir was last weekend and the guy walked me to the spice section. I was at a Sprouts store which is a health food type store!

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                            actually, I'm pretty impressed, if it's as it seems -- sounds like he heard "kaffir" and was taking you to where the kaffir lime leaves could be found (and arguably as offbeat an ingredient to find as kefir)

                                                                                          2. Just this weekend, I was asked to identify common green beans -- the cashier thought they were some kind of pea (not far off).

                                                                                            More generally, cilantro vs. flat parsley seems to be a challenge. (At home, I simply sniff -- but that's probably not acceptable by a cashier.)

                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: drongo

                                                                                              I am not at all perturbed or surprised when I get the "cilantro or parsley" question. They are pretty tough to tell apart if in a bag, especially if the roots have been removed.

                                                                                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                I've bought the wrong one a couple of times -- and only sometimes because it was stocked in the wrong bin.

                                                                                              2. re: drongo

                                                                                                Where I buy such things, the bunches are bound with an identifying twist tie. I would think this would be common practice by now, because so many varieties of produce have become available in supermarkets.

                                                                                                1. re: drongo

                                                                                                  I will always give the cashier credit with the cilantro/flat parsley matter. Several months ago i accidentally bought cilantro when I wanted parsley and I am one of the cilantro haters. I was in a hurry and I grabbed. I will be much more careful in the future! In all fairness they were right next to each other loose.

                                                                                                  1. re: Astur

                                                                                                    I grabbed one of each recently, following the signs next to them (they were about 10 feet apart). When I got them home and unpacked, I had two cilantros! They were stocked wrong at the store and I didn't bother to look closely at them.....

                                                                                                    1. re: Astur

                                                                                                      Why do they put them right next to each other anyway? It would certainly make it a lot easier if they weren't

                                                                                                      1. re: gmm

                                                                                                        I was shopping for meatloaf ingredients last month for a retro birthday dinner, and I had a cold (no sense of smell). I accidentally grabbed cilantro instead of parsley. LUCKILY I caught my mistake before I added the cilantro to the mix, because the birthday boy absolutely cannot eat cilantro. If he has even a leaf of it, he gets so overwhelmed with the soap taste that his palate is blown for an hour. Definitely one of those times when I wished they were not next to each other in the store :P

                                                                                                    2. re: drongo

                                                                                                      They could pinch off a leaf and smell that - it takes 3-4 seconds. Of course, it requires that they know what each one smells like. Sigh.

                                                                                                      1. re: drongo

                                                                                                        I was surprised when I last bought these two herbs that the clerk rang up two cilantro (or was it to parsley?). But when I got home I began to suspect she had been right. One way around this confusion is to buy culantro (or ngo gai as it is usually labeled around here).

                                                                                                      2. It's happened enough to me that I used to joke I was employed to test their knowledge. Fennel is good test, especially in Asian groceries. More than once I've been asked 'how do you prepare this?'

                                                                                                        1. When I first started working at a grocery store at 24, they had me work a register for a month as part of my training. It was always funny seeing the shock on customers' faces when I was able to correctly identify all their produce without asking. Some actually were a bit irritated, I think because they were used to getting charged the lowest price for that category i.e, plain tomato when they had kumatos or other heirloom tomatoes, or cabbage when they had endives, etc.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                            Hahaha! Good fer ya. But - did your boss ever get any "complaints" from customers about that "know-it-all" at that checkout line? ;-)

                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                              No, I don't' think so, but that would have been funny!! I DID notice them avoiding my line... haha! What I liked better were the customers who came through my line with produce that THEY didn't know, and ask me what it tasted like and how they should cook it and/or any good recipes. They made my day :)

                                                                                                          2. Having worked as a cashier in a small town supermarket in high school, I say cut them some slack, especially if they're younger. I wouldn't have known what half the stuff in this thread was when I was that age considering mom worked full time and "cooked" out of boxes and cans. I had a hard enough time deciphering between types of red colored apples, let alone more "exotic" things, especially if we were busy and the focus was on getting people through the line quickly. As I worked there longer I got better, especially after I got the novel idea to spend a break wandering through the produce department to figure out what we had, but it was difficult at first.

                                                                                                            1. Right now I'm getting my greens from a CSA, but it used to be escarole for me. I bought it a couple of time a month, and they were clearly selling enough to keep stocking it, but it always threw the checkers for a loop. I would rattle off the number by heart to many accolades.

                                                                                                              Now I mostly buy herbs from the supermarket. It is hard to tell the difference between cilantro and flat leaf parsley so the checker always sniffs and pronounces it to be "cee LAN tro" in a happy voice, or "NOT cilantro" in the most unbelievably sad voice you can imagine.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: ErnieD

                                                                                                                Seriously, I literally LOLed. CeeLANtro is happy stuff, glad your checkers appreciate it. :)

                                                                                                                There are days when my grocery checkout seems like a remedial Home Ec class ("That's parsley." "That's Swiss Chard." "Beets." "Shallots." "Snow, not snap.") but it's always kind of amusing, and it's an opportunity to share info.

                                                                                                              2. I bought a nob of fresh ginger from a major grocery store in Minneapolis. While I was bagging groceries, the lady behind me is hollering because the cashier threw the ginger in the trash can while I wasn't looking. The cashier just shrugged and said she did not know what it was and that if I wanted the ginger, I should go grab more myself. The lady behind me was kind of angry and kept asking her "What if she needed the ginger?" and "What's wrong with you?" I just wanted to leave as quickly as possible!

                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: mn_praline

                                                                                                                  Why would you want to leave ASAP? It was you who paid money for ginger that you selected and wanted to use, right? That the cashier threw away? Who then "just shrugged and said she did not know what it was and that if I wanted the ginger, I should go grab more myself" ? WOW. I would have called the manager over.

                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                    If the cashier didn't know what it was and assumed it was trash, she must not have known the number to key in and weigh it, so I would think mn_praline didn't pay for the ginger.

                                                                                                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                      Yes, that's true...but that still doesn't negate the fact that the cashier was so nonchalant and uncaring about something that a customer had selected and clearly wanted. That cashier couldn't even be bothered to ASK what it was? In the manner of what all these folks here in this thread are posting about? No, calling the manager over would still be my choice.

                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                        Oh I agree, the cashier was totally in the wrong, just responding to "It was you who paid money for ginger that you selected and wanted to use, right?" Maybe no money was paid. But yeah, cashier should have asked what it was, even if she was convinced it wasn't food, that could have been the customer's lucky rock or something.

                                                                                                                        1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                          i think i just got really flustered as i look back in hindsight. but i see what you mean, that the ginger was never really paid for by anyone since it went right into the trash.

                                                                                                                2. A couple of weeks ago, I had to identify a plain old red potato. The kid was only about 18, but stil...don't they teach them anything before sticking them at thecash register?

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: arashall

                                                                                                                    They really don't' teach much about produce before register work, mainly because, as someone above noted, the PLU is on almost all produce. Most have stickers, but greens and whatnot have rubber bands with the PLU printed on them, usually along with the name. It is just easier for more experienced cashiers to do the PLU by memory... saves time looking for the sticker. That being said.... really? a potato? SAD!

                                                                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                                      Here's one from a store that keeps it simple...

                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                      1. re: eclecticsynergy

                                                                                                                        http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/son...

                                                                                                                  2. My last experience with this was asking if they sold kefir. I couldn't find anyone there who knew what I was talking about.

                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: rizzo0904

                                                                                                                      Even my dairy manager (I THOUGHT I'd done a good job selecting her for promotion) didn't know what/where the kefir was.... FAIL

                                                                                                                      1. re: rizzo0904

                                                                                                                        Reminds me of the time when I asked the produce guy in a small Canadian town if they had Persian cucumbers. He didn't know what they were. :)

                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          I don't know what they are! lol

                                                                                                                          Editied to say:

                                                                                                                          OK I looked them up. Who knew cucumbers in general were fruits?

                                                                                                                          Here we go again...!

                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                            They're similar to pickling cucumbers, right?

                                                                                                                            ETA: orrrr not. They're small like them, but closer to the English variety, in that they are seedless, whoops! I learned my new factoid for the day :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: kubasd

                                                                                                                              I only discovered them about a year ago - they are YUM

                                                                                                                            2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                              Well, I didn't know what they were too - or, more correctly, that those smallish and slightly ridges cucumbers were known by that name. In a small Canadian town? I'd have given them a pass.

                                                                                                                              (I didn't know what kefir was either!)

                                                                                                                              :-)

                                                                                                                          2. Some time ago I went through a check-out. When the young check out woman saw my fresh duck on the conveyer she asked me "is a duck a bird"?

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                              This one takes the cake!

                                                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                Reminds me of an acquaintance I knew years ago that was adamant that fish was poultry. I remember he argued at length with a friend until the friend finally yelled out "fish ain't no f**king poultry!!" and stormed off.

                                                                                                                              2. I have to add to this from a cashiers point of view. I'm in college and I work at a family owned/managed indoor produce market that is open year round. There is only one other market in my city (northwest ohio) and we cater to nearly all of the Asian resto's in the area as we are really the only ones who do wholesale on Asian produce. Needless to say, we get some obscure veggies and fruits in and a lot of the time, we get "new" stuff every week. If you do not usually eat Asian food, particularly produce (mexican and carribean as well) it is hard to know what it all is, especially when we do not always carry specific varieties but get them in occasionally on a "special." For example, I always have to "inspect" yu choy and gai lan to distinguish between the two (looking for the yellow flowers) and we get many different types of melanga (le la, coco, islam ect.) and sometimes I *do* ask "what type of malanga is this?" So I can identify the right PLU number. Over time I have gotten much better about memorizing the different names/PLU's of the variety of produce but sometimes I just get one I either haven't seen before or I haven't seen in a while and I have to ask, and yes, I feel pretty silly asking as I work there and it is "my job" to know the inventory. Thankfully, I have mastered the difference between cilantro and parsley and I definately know the difference between all of my chili peppers, cabbages and lettuces and of course potatoes ;)

                                                                                                                                Have some mercy with those cashiers, chances are they don't like asking anymore than you like answering :)

                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  Agreed. If you work as a cashier, you should know what asparagus, green beans, and potatoes are. I can understand perhaps not knowing some of the herbs, the difference between various chile peppers, bok choy, etc. But knowing the most common produce is part of their job.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Solstice444

                                                                                                                                    How many types of potato does your grocery sell? How many of those are bulk (as opposed to bagged)? It could easily be five.

                                                                                                                                    Sometimes it isn't just a matter of recognizing the basic category, but the specific variety, each with a different SKU.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                      +1
                                                                                                                                      Just an example here, I know most regular grocery stores may not have this many but here is what we carry with the PLU/SKU

                                                                                                                                      Bagged 10lb Idaho-3338353650

                                                                                                                                      Bagged 5lb Idaho-3338353610

                                                                                                                                      Bagged Russest-3338353053

                                                                                                                                      5lb Bagged "B" Red Potato-3338353740

                                                                                                                                      5 lb. Bagged Yukon-3338343520

                                                                                                                                      Bulk loose baking potato-4725

                                                                                                                                      Jumbo Sweet Potato-4095

                                                                                                                                      US #1 Sweet Potato-4091

                                                                                                                                      Red Yam-4817

                                                                                                                                      Purple Yam-4816

                                                                                                                                      Yucca (we sell these in the potato category)-4819

                                                                                                                                      Taro-4818

                                                                                                                                      And yes, even though the bags of potatoes have bar codes to scan, no one ever wants to lift them out of their cart, they just say "I have a bag of potatoes in here." So we need to know the long PLU's for those as well, by heart.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sjahns

                                                                                                                                        what ever happened to the good old days when the clerk (and cook) only had to know about 2 kinds, bakers and boilers? :)

                                                                                                                                      2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                        I meant that they should recognize at least that it's in the potato family :-)

                                                                                                                                    2. re: sjahns

                                                                                                                                      I think relatively obscure produce - or at least uncommon ones, such as the "Asian" ones (I gather you really mean East/SE Asian) or the Mexican and Caribbean stuff - in the overall context of the locality merits a "pass" in the context of this thread. What is startling is how often cashiers appear to be unable to recognize *common* vegetables or produce.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                        fully agreed - in the original thread, i wasn't speaking of different asian vegetables...just simple things like potatoes (in general, not specifics) or apples or carrots just the broad basic type of veg. i don't expect anyone to be able to differentiate things like the 20 varieties of apples.

                                                                                                                                    3. Kale. That one took me aback.

                                                                                                                                      Other posters here report stuff that I have found to confound some cashiers in my parts too - including fennel bulb, rapini, the cilantro-parsley mixup, bok choy, escarole, etc...

                                                                                                                                      Other produce that required identification by me and which surprised me included stuff like basil, savoy cabbage...

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                        how about Taiwanese cabbage? Fortunately places that carry this (and Japanese yams, Korean cucumbers, etc) tend also to be familiar with.

                                                                                                                                      2. I've been asked about rhubarb and acorn squash before. Rhubarb is pretty rare in Texas, apparently it is the wrong climate to grow in normally. I come from Wisconsin so when I moved to Texas and started looking for rhubarb, nobody really knew what it was. Finally found out at a farmer's market that it's hard to grow because it's usually too hot/dry here. I can occasionally find it in the WINTER (opposite of Wisconsin where it grows in the summer) since it's cooler and rainer here in the winter. Last time I bought it, the cashier was fascinated with it and asked what I was making with it. I told her I wasn't sure (I bought it on a whim since I saw it for the first time in over a year in the produce section) but that it was good for pies, cobblers, etc. Same when a different cashier asked me about acorn squash...I told her how I was going to prepare it and she seemed really interested in it.

                                                                                                                                        1. Many years ago when I was first learning to cook for myself I came across a recipe that called for lemon zest, off to the market I go and begin scouring the spice section for lemon zest. A helpful store clerk notices me and asks what I am looking for, clerk begins helping me search the bottles, jars, and tins for the elusive lemon zest. No luck, so clerk goes into the back to check on it, comes back and informs me that they don't carry lemon zest. At that moment another customer walks by and bursts into laughter, eventually explaining how to zest a lemon. Geeze, all those years everyone I knew just called it lemon peel. One of mom's favorite recipies started out... grate the peel of one lemon. Yes, yes, I know that the zest is only the outer layer of colorful and flavorful peel, not the whole rind.

                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                            I am amazed about how many cooking/food TV chefs and cookbook authors refer to citrus zest as "rind"....this is misleading and incorrect, yet I see it frequently. And, yes, I know that there are recipes that DO use the rind - this isn't what I'm referring to.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                              the peel was called out in the recipie, which meant - apparently - what is now called zest, as opposed to the rind, which is the whole skin including the pithy portion.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                Oh, no! Peel, as well?? I am of the opinion that the peel also includes the pith - !

                                                                                                                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                              A holdover from earlier times- many older recipes called for the rind or peel when referring to what we know know as the zest.

                                                                                                                                              Er, hey boss what's the PLU on this one?

                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                            3. It usually happens with herbs, leafy greens, and peppers. One time I had a cashier who didn't know what a shallot was - but she seemed intrigued when I told her they were like really mild, yummy onions. If I got her to try one for the first time, that's a good thing!

                                                                                                                                              1. 2 recent examples:
                                                                                                                                                1. Mirin: the price scanned just fine, but the curious (young) cashier asked "what's that? I've never seen anybody buy it before." I explained briefly what I intended to use it for, and he even called over 2 other baby-faced cashiers, neither of whom had a clue.
                                                                                                                                                2. Fresh turmeric root: no PLU on it, and when I told the cashier what it was, she said, "no, that comes in cans in the spice aisle." Heaven forbid if someone ever buys fresh horseradish.

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                                  Your examples may say more about the spread of 'ethnic' ingredients than the ignorance of cashiers. While I've bought aji mirin at various places in the past, it was only recently that I bought a bottle of the real stuff at a Korean grocery. The first time I saw fresh turmeric was at a Whole Foods 10 years ago. Even now I'd have to go to an Indian grocery to be sure of finding it. I've bought it only once, even though my earliest Indian cookbook is a Penguin volume from the 1970s.

                                                                                                                                                  There was a recent thread on the France board, about the difficulty of finding kale in Paris stores. It is used as an ornamental in parks, but rarely eaten. There was even disagreement about what to call it. In contrast when i browsed an upscale Seattle market (not WF) recently, there were 3 types, red, green and black. Come to think of it, that store might have also had turmeric next to the ginger and galangal, though I wasn't paying attention to that. I was looking at the Tokyo long onions instead.

                                                                                                                                                2. Not only does this happen to me when I buy herbs or greens at the supermarket, but the questions follow me when I shop the ethnic aisles or at the Asian grocery where Western food tourists ogle my baskets.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                                                                    This happens to me at Asian grocery stores as well. Unfortunately, the signs at the store are all in Chinese and I like buying things I'm unfamilar with. Then when I'm asked what those vegetables are, I have to admit I don't know, but I can tell you what it tastes like...