Monthly Archives: August 2018

An Open Letter of Lidl

So, yesterday I wrote an open letter to Food Lion and alluded to the fact that I was using Lidl as my primary grocery store despite it being a further drive away. Actually, there’s a location not too far out of my way on my drive home from work, though it is still a good 15-20 minutes away from home depending on traffic.

I’ve only shopped there a few times and have been very happy with the experience.

To start out with Lidl’s claim to fame is cheap prices and on dried goods is even cheaper than Food Lion. Even better, their prices on meat are fabulous and the quality is superb. I have a small soft sided cooler that is perfect for keeping my cold items cold in transit.

Lidl charges (I think) for bags and you bag your groceries yourself. Which is where my first (and really only) suggestion is:

On my first trip to Lidl, I wasn’t sure what their system was, but I had thought I’d heard that it was better to bring your own bags so I did. When I got to checkout, I was the only person in line and my cashier started putting my groceries on the “back” conveyor rather than the front one.

At the checkout, you put your items on the normal single conveyor for the cashier, then she has the option of two conveyors to put the groceries on for you to pack yourself the front one that looks like a normal system and the back one which puts you, essentially, in the next line, depending on how you stand to pack your bags.

So, the cashier starts putting my groceries on the back conveyor, way far away from me, and I was confused about what I was supposed to do. Did I pay and then load or did I load and then pay (the latter is my usual system at normal grocery stores). I mentioned my confusion and the cashier said that her system is to always put the first customer on the back conveyor so that they could take their time loading while she checked out anyone behind them.

This was a brilliant idea! Which I told her :-).

So, I paid and took my time packing my groceries because she was getting off duty then anyway. It was a relaxing and wonderful experience!

Since then, I’ve had all kinds of experiences with cashiers because it seems that they each have their own system for organizing customers and for the most part it’s been fine, except this last time when the only two open registers where right next to each other.

Remember, I told you that there are two conveyors and the back one is most easily accessed by the next lane over. Yeah, what happened was a traffic jam because both the customer for the back conveyor of lane 5 was in our lane (4) packing her groceries. Plus, the customer in front of me was at the front conveyor for us, which also put her in lane 4. My groceries were put on the back conveyor and I had a bit of trouble getting to them because of the jam up in front of me. I wasn’t in a hurry, but I did feel a bit awkward trying to wiggle my way through.

So, my suggestion is that when a cash register is being opened, it shouldn’t be right next to another open register unless it’s the only option available. I’d also suggest standardizing how cashier’s place customer’s groceries after scanning. I really liked the idea of putting the first customer always on the back conveyor, but I realize that when it’s busy that probably wouldn’t make a huge difference.

To be clear, the entire front of my Lidl store has a counter that can be used to pack your bags in the event you just put everything back into your cart loose rather than packing your bags at the conveyor. I kind of do a hybrid of this because I never being enough bags with me so I end up doing my real packing at my car :-).

I’ll end this letter with a shining review for Lidl’s premade frozen hamburgers:

OH MY GOD! THEY’RE AMAZING!!

My biggest problem with premade frozen hamburgers is that you never really know what you’re buying and usually they shrink a lot! Like, they start out at an okay size relative to the bun and then shrink to about half of that diameter and even with a small bun, the hamburger gets dwarfed by the bun.

Well, I made a Lidl hamburger this after noon for my lunch and was using their cheap Lidl buns, which are of a normal size, I guess? They’re not the huge “BK Whopper” size buns I get when I’m feeling fancy, but these are a good serving size and only like $0.65 for 8! They’re the same size as any other cheap regular store brand buns.

I always put my hotdog and hamburger buns into the freezer immediately because they’re more of a staple and I don’t usually plan a meal around them. Usually these buns wrinkle up quickly from the cold (which doesn’t bother me), but these actually stayed smooth and round after freezing. It was nice.

But anyway, about the hamburgers themselves! They barely shrunk! In fact, they were a lot bigger than the bun! It was amazing!! I really wasn’t expecting that because they’re not labeled as being particularly premium. And they cost like $4.50 for 12, if that much.

I’ve yet to have any disappointments from my trips to Lidl. I love being able to stock the house for $60 including a few yummy extras!

An open letter to Food Lion

I’m still in grocery store limbo since my primary store (Farm Fresh) closed in February and the Kroger that is taking over the location is still being renovated.

Our two closest stores are both Food Lions anywhere else is a bit of a drive away.

I want to like Food Lion, but it’s very difficult. To start with, through no fault of their own (I assume), both locations were being renovated at the time Farm Fresh closed. Actually, I can fault Food Lion for this because why on Earth did they decide to renovate both stores at the exact same time?!? If Farm Fresh hadn’t closed, a lot of Food Lion shoppers would have switched over to Farm Fresh just for that reason alone (rather than just switching locations). As it is, Farm Fresh’s customers were given a very disrupting “welcome” to the Food Lion brand.

I’m a little bit of a grocery store snob, though really it’s just my comfort zone rearing it’s head. I am willing to pay a little bit more in price to shop at a single location rather than hitting 2 (or 3 or 4) different stores. Since Farm Fresh closed, I learned that I was overpaying on a lot of items, but I was rewarded with the convenience of knowing exactly where every item I wanted was and what their sales cycle was so that I knew whether I was paying a good price compared to their regular prices. Walking into Food Lion was great because most of their dried goods are a lot cheaper and I saved a lot of money stocking up on those things.

However, the meat department was disgusting. Granted, this was in the middle of the remodel, but it was gross. In addition, the meat itself (chicken and beef, especially) did not look good. And the prices were a lot higher than I was used to paying. Since I keep my freezer stocked anyway, I skipped that department and gave them a few weeks to figure it out.

At check out, I was disturbed that paper bags were so well hidden, I had to tell 2 different cashiers where they were located (2 different shopping trips). That really upset my comfort zone, so since then I’ve given up on asking for paper and just cringe and collect the 30 thousand plastic bags they give me.

Here’s a pro-tip: if you are putting something in a bag by itself, it probably doesn’t need a bag. Milk. Potatoes. Bread. Etc. Also, what can easily fit into no more than 4 paper bags will get put into at least 10 (not including double bagged) plastic bags. So much waste!

Sigh.

After a couple months of waiting for Food Lion to finish the remodel, I realized that when it came to prices for meat (the quality DID improve!!), I wasn’t going to see much of a reduction, so I started looking elsewhere.

Thank you Lidl!

So, Food Lion, if you’d like to become my regular grocery store, please:

  • Increase the prominence of paper bags and/or make it easier to use reusable bags. I feel awkward handing my reusable bags to a cashier to bag because they’ve already got enough to worry about. Perhaps if they asked for them that’d be great, but I’d just be content if they offered paper bags before automatically stuffing everything into plastic. (My husband went to Food Lion for bread, ice cream sandwiches, cookies, and peanut butter last night and came home with 3+ bags!! GRR!)
  • Look into some way to reduce the price of meat. Whether by looking into a different sourcing system, using a different quantity system, or just offering more regular sales. My target is to spend less than $7 per meal on protein (so I’ll spend more on packages that give me 2 or more meals out of it). My meals run about 1 lb of protein each (give or take).
  • I like the idea of your ready to cook meals, but they’re expensive and my husband is an incredibly picky eater, so getting him to eat that sort of thing is difficult. That’s why I prefer having more access to basic ingredients so that I can create two complementary meals for us at the same time.
  • I prefer my fish prepackaged. Your fish department was too small for me and involved actually knowing what I wanted to buy before getting it. I prefer browsing and if the price is right. I don’t want to ask a fish monger for a pound of salmon. Something that simple is cheaper if prepackaged.
    • Again, thank you Lidl.

 

Tomorrow I’ll share my thoughts to Lidl!

An open letter to any agency arguing against the Trump Administration’s decision to separate families

When it came out that the Trump Administration was separating families at the border, I was heartbroken, but not surprised.

What did somewhat surprise me has been the level of chaos attached to the reunifications. Not so much the fact that they deported, what, 500 parents through various means, but that it would take hours or days to determine where the parents and children were in relationship to each other. It’s almost like they were using paper forms that were being filed in a cabinet!

My purpose for writing this letter is to highlight exactly where I think ICE and the Trump Administration should be the most damned:

When you check into a hospital, you are issued a hospital bracelet. It lists your name, birth date, and whatever other pertinent information necessary for your care (such as the color identifying what department you belong in and/or that you are a fall risk, dementia patient, etc). Most (if not all) hospital bracelets include a barcode or QR code that is scanned every single time a doctor, nurse, tech, whatever does anything. This is in addition to them verbally asking for your name and birth date to ensure that you are who they think you are. The scanned code links directly to your hospital medical chart and should link to your overarching medical chart if you are within your primary doctor’s system (and should link to your medical chart regardless of whatever affiliation the medical facility you are in has, but that’d make too much sense). In this way, with a few clicks of a mouse they can look at your medical history and see whether there’d be any harmful interactions with whatever procedures/medications they’re providing in the hospital.

(I’m pretty sure a bracelet system is done in most prisons, too!

This same technology should  have been used with the separated families.

Upon being incarcerated, each family should have had an account opened and it should have listed every member of that family. Each member should have been given a bracelet with a bar/QR code that quickly accesses the file of that family and which is regularly updated with the pertinent details of the individual members:

They scan Mom’s bracelet when Mom wants to know where daughter Suzy is. “Oh! Suzy is currently being transferred to San Diego. She’s currently on XYZ Bus. The attendants on that bus have a phone number of (123) 456-7890. Let me call them real quick to double check that she’s there.” [calls the number, the attendant goes to the seat assigned to Suzy, checks that her bracelet matches the information provided, and confirms Suzy’s location all while still on the phone with wherever Mom is.] “The attendant has confirmed her location. They should arrive in San Diego at 8pm their time. Would you like to speak to Suzy? You have 5 minutes.”

It’s not freaking rocket science! The technology exists and has proven itself as nearly flawless time and time and time ad nauseum. On the rare occasions when the technology fails (yes, mis-identifications do happen at the hospital) it is always the result of human error: a simple typo, outright negligence, etc. This is why there are backup procedures in place: they ask your name and date of birth despite it seeming redundant; the surgeon writes on your skin while talking to you about the procedure so that you are able to correct him. I always double check with whomever is doing a procedure that we’re there for the same thing if they don’t volunteer that information themselves or use unfamiliar jargon (sigh).

Even in the case of the deported parents, the bracelet system would work. Their file (which would remain open so long as other family members are still in the system) would be updated to show that they were deported and include an address, phone number, email address, whatever where the parent can be contacted. At the very least, the parent will have an incredibly easy way to locate their children once they do find a stable place to stay; just walk in with the bracelet and have the bar code be scanned (or hell, type in an ID number!). That would still show where the child has been placed.

These bracelets can be equipped with a photo of the individual printed directly on it and are essentially photo IDs.

A (slightly) more expensive bracelet exists which can activate a security system.

We still rely on dog tags to quickly identify service members and access their records.

While I can kind of understand the use of DNA testing when there are definite suspicions that an adult is claiming to the the parent of a child that doesn’t act like most children do with their parents, but having to do a DNA test on every single parent and child is insane. BUT, that would mean that trained individuals would have to witness these regular everyday parent-child interactions which can’t be done if the child is in San Diego while the parents are in Houston.

In other words, in addition to not having a way to quickly find the records of the entire family group, ICE created the problem where they couldn’t monitor the parent-child interactions and determine unscientifically that the children are with their parents.

I’ll leave discussion of the harm caused by the psychological trauma of these separations  to the experts. For anyone trying to blame the parents for knowingly “giving” their children away/putting their children at risk of separation simply for crossing the border, I’ll suggest you read The Cut Out Girl.