I hit the ground running after getting back from my trip to Cama Beach a week ago and ever since it’s been playing catch up every day. Whose email did I not answer, whose call have I not returned, what deadline have I not met, what papers from school have I not seen. Not to mention a freak email client incident that resulted in a lot of lost emails. Which I rely on to help me remember things. Eek! There are a lot of details to catch up on after a 9 day absence!
However, one detail I did not expect to worry about was the dwindling state of the pantry. As in, down to bare bones. As in, out of nearly all meat, veggies and fruit. Ugh! And I really hate shopping, all kinds of shopping, even grocery shopping.
Does that sound funny? Well, it doesn’t help that our local grocery store is just too big. It’s an HEB Plus – the Texas dynasty sized grocery store initially created to compete with Wal-Mart. The parking lot is too small, and the store is too big. There is no quick in and out at any level. No quick parking and it’s not even quick to grab a jug of milk. Too many displays are crammed into the spaces between isles. I really hate going there in the evening, or worse yet, on the weekend. It’s an unpleasant experience for me. And some locals treat Saturday outings to the store as a family event, with all the taste testing and all. When that’s going on, count on the isles and cart traffic to be blocked even worse.
Don’t get me wrong. I love HEB. Their prices and products are the best. But it’s impossible to do anything quickly at HEB Plus, which is the only HEB store near me. And none of the basic items I buy are anywhere near the front of the store. And there’s only one entrance and one exit instead of two like most places. On the positive, they generally have things in stock. The sacrifice, however, is nearly always my time. You would think shopping there with any regularity would be a full body workout.
So last night, being Halloween, and with each kid having their own plans with friends on opposite sides of the North Austin area, I found myself an hour to kill our grocery list with. I wasn’t expecting to get much done, but when the kids complain there’s not much for breakfast or lunch and I know there’s not much left for dinner, then yeah – it’s time to do a decent grocery run.
It was the most amazing grocery shopping experience! NO one was at the store! Just a handful of dads here and there obviously doing a last-minute candy run. The isles were mostly clear and there was very little wait at the checkout, in spite of there being only two lines for shoppers with more than 10 items. In less than an hour, I filled a basket with all our essentials to re-stock the pantry and freezer. Enough that they had to use two carts at check out to carry all my groceries out. Plus, they actually had someone available to help me carry it all out to the car. Awesome! Usually they are just too busy and I would have to leave the carts at the door and drive up for them (another handy program, but not necessarily a quick one largely due to the tiny parking lot and inherent traffic).
Anyway, so I’m pretty much caught up on groceries now. Except vanilla, forgot that. And I’m grateful that it did not take more time.
The only thing is, I can’t help but wonder how all this affects HEB. I can’t be the only person who hates dealing with the logistics of that store. I want to save money and find what I’m looking for, so I will sacrifice some time to receive those benefits. But I have friends who will sacrifice money, drive somewhere else and pay more, just to avoid the logistical issues that store presents. I might not do all my shopping elsewhere, but even I will buy milk and bread at a Walgreen’s over having to go to through the insane trouble of using “The Plus.” And if my errands take me by a regular HEB store, I will shop there instead. Even if it’s not in my town.
Time is money, but time is also quality of living. It’s time taken from work, as well as time with my kids. In the end, I just want to get what I need and get out. That’s it. Not tangle with a time suck. And others more than I are willing to pay for services that make their lives easier.
More and more this outlook affects how I see marketing today. I look around and see a lot of tired and overwhelmed people, just trying to make it through their day and get home. As we evaluate our current economy, marketing strategies and wonder where to focus next, perhaps this is something to keep in mind. Keep it simple. Bigger is not always better.