Hooks and Grabbers; The Art of Grocery Shopping in NYC.

I have long wondered what New York City has against grocery stores. I do not mean places like Midtown or the Financial District; I am talking about heavily residential areas. Brooklyn for instance. I am now living in my 4th apartment in Brooklyn and have only once had the chance to experience real American grocery store shopping. This establishment however was located in a not so pleasant neighborhood and for some reason it’s employees saw nothing wrong with selling such gems as blue-tinted meat and products with expiration dates from the previous decade. Did I mention their ingenious marketing strategy of offering slabs of stinky dried fish right by the front door? Oh and who doesn’t love the pungent aroma of urine when taking a stroll down the freezer aisle?

Currently I live in a neighborhood where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a deli. I do realize that New York City is a “deli town” but my God, is the entire tri-state area living off of Spaghettios, Funyuns and meat and cheese sandwiches on stale oil-soaked bread? So basically as a New Yorker, the cost of rent feels like you must be living large while the local food shops have you eating like a patron of a food kitchen.

Yes I have entered into the world of Fresh Direct. Online grocery shopping heavily tinted with price gouging. One can order what appears to be a standard size item only to receive the diminutive version for an outrageous price. Be wary of the produce too as I have had to throw away many a brown vegetable. And God forbid they have a 6-pack of beer for less than 14 dollars. Prices aside, I have always very much enjoyed investigating items in person, as I am a hopeless foodie. A very worthy added bonus to REAL grocery store shopping is being able to run and then jump on your cart for a fun ride-preferably while squealing like an idiot.

My neighborhood just prior to this one had the amenity of something resembling a grocery store although half of it is stocked with beer. You can carry or awkwardly roll your own dirty plastic basket down narrow aisles while being greeted by name brand products from floor to ceiling. Forget about saving money on sales or generics, this is NYC. But I digress. After a few weeks of literally climbing up the shelves (by gingerly nudging aside a lower product with my sneaker tip) to get to a product out of my reach, a clerk informed me of the hook contraption hanging on a nearby shelf. Mmmm, so you wave it around and topple your chosen product over and then hope the whole lot doesn’t come crashing down on your head. There is also the grabber with a handle for some finger-like action grabbing. Right, uuuh…handy? I have since become good at this. I am proud to say I recently tipped over a roll of paper towels, tossed the grabber into my other hand and caught the roll open-handed, right-side up. If this were an Olympic sport, I’d definitely be a contender.  Another phenomenon I observed is the frequency of me saying the words “sorry” and “excuse me” over and over from the minute I walk in until the time of exit. A good product idea would be a pre-recorded device that you could just turn on and be done with it. “Excuse me, sorry, excuse me, sorry, excuse me, sorry…” And there could be a setting for a slightly salty “excuse me” if you are, for instance, blocked by a parent with a doublewide baby carriage with mountain bike tires up to your waist.

I do not know how people do it. I see almost as many empty pizza boxes as I do bedbug-infested mattresses by the street on trash day so that could possibly be it. I also know that some hipsters in Williamsburg enjoy dumpster diving for food and following it up with a festive dinner party of the booty. Both are distinct possibilities.