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Groceries On The Move--A Space Adventure

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Jeffrey Shaffer

One of the recurring surprises of life among the grocery aisles is discovering that an item has suddenly moved to a new location. It just happened at my store with the Quicos. They're big kernels of roasted corn imported from Spain, and for a long time they were near the olive bar in a display case stocked with gourmet almonds, fried fava beans, and other salty snacks. Now they're somewhere else.
As often happens, I learned about this relocation from a puzzled customer. "They used to be over there," he said, motioning toward the olive bar, "but I couldn't find them." I call these situations "Landru moments." Fans of the original Star Trek should recognize that name immediately.
In an episode entitled "Return of the Archons," Captain Kirk and a landing party beamed down to a planet where culture had been totally static for centuries. They finally learned that in the distant past, a ruler named Landru had created a massive computer to maintain order and stability after he died, so everything stayed exactly the same year after year. It caused serious social problems for the inhabitants, but I've always thought shopping on that planet must have been a breeze. Every neighborhood Landru-Mart must have had all items stocked in the same spots forever and no customer would ever exclaim, "Hey! What happened to the Quicos?"
Yes, I definitely have too much information crashing around in my head, but it means I get to use Landru as an anti-role model. Instead of opposing change, my goal is to keep pace with it so as to minimize whatever consternation or confusion our customers experience when merchandise gets moved around.
Even when the move involves a fairly small distance, like ten feet, shopping patterns can be seriously disrupted. I used to put challah bread on a display rack situated on the left side of the main bakery counter. Then we got a new shelf that was slightly wider than the old one, so we had to position it on the right side of the counter.
This all happened months ago but every day I still get approached by shoppers who look worried and ask, "Where did the challah go?" or "I don't see any challah--did you stop carrying it?" Unexpected changes have a tendency to puncture the human comfort zone and cause momentary disorientation. My standard response is to nod, smile, and point toward the new rack. I'll keep doing it as long as they keep asking.
The Quicos? They're now part of a display next to the beer and wine bar. I'm anticipating they'll return to their original home someday so I need to stay alert. Landru moments will keep happening and, quite honestly, I look forward to every one. I'll never ride in a starship or beam down to an alien planet. But keeping track of products as they travel from one shelf space to another, and helping visitors bravely navigate through our galaxy of groceries--that's my never-ending space adventure.

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