Putting the Therapy in Retail

Did you know the average American spends approximately two hours a week grocery shopping? Most of the people I know are in and out shoppers, several visits a week but in much shorter increments. Then there are those that find solace in the aisles, meandering up and down. Those are mostly new moms on an errand without baby.
But there are also the social shoppers…

G is for Grocery Store Demo Lady

meat copy

That was me. I was a food demo lady for several years when my kids were in elementary school. Dave’s grandma was a demo lady and she hooked me up through her company. I worked grocery stores all over the suburbs, sometimes I had no idea where I was going and Dave would have to drive me! I only worked Saturdays, but they were long shifts. I needed to dress nicely (and wear comfortable shoes!), bring my own table and cover, and be prepared to socialize.

I liked to set up a nice station. Since I was bringing the table and cloth from home anyway, I’d usually add a decorative touch, pretty placemats or a holiday knick knack.

Mostly I worked with deli meats. They’d provide me with a half a pound at a time. With gloved hands, I’d roll, slice and stab with a toothpick then arrange in an inviting pattern on the plate. Brand name signage and coupons were important.

I’d start out with “Would you care to try a sample of Name Brands delicious roast beef? On sale today for blah blah a pound.” But soon I’d find myself in deep discussions with total strangers about their weight gain/loss, gout inflammations, and all too often the health issues of their cats.

I realize this is not news to anyone who has worked in a public atmosphere. Retail sales depend on social interaction. Teachers, secretaries, wait staff, crossing guards—are all at the mercy of having to be nice to total strangers who overshare information.

When you have to talk to people to make money, you have to let people talk to you.

It’s amazing to me what people will share. Sometimes the stories are heartbreaking. Sometimes startling. Sometimes humorous. I think there are a lot of people who are more comfortable talking to a stranger than to the person who should hear them.

In the deli meat promoting career, it is best to listen and nod. To agree and sigh. Sometimes to laugh and shout “NO WAY!” But you always let them talk.

And silently pray for a second customer to come along and meatus interuptus.

It was always exciting when someone bought what I was hawking. I didn’t work on commission, but still, there was a rush whenever someone took my advice (and coupon) to the deli counter and ordered up a whole slab of demo lady delight.

Demoing is still alive and well in many a grocery store—especially places like Sam’s Club and CostCo. I will admit, I have been tempted from time to time as I accept their sliver of granola bar or swallow of juice to unload a worry or two of my own. I know they’re captive and sometimes all you need is a listen and a nod. Fortunately though, (for them!), my cat is in good health.


About Mary Fran Says

I am an artist, crafter, designer and writer. I enjoy working with mixed media-- applying visual and tactile manipulations to telling a story. Not a lot of market for that, though, :), so I'm focusing on short story submissions and novel completions. Yes, plural. Lots of beginnings, too many ideas, not enough focus.
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2 Responses to Putting the Therapy in Retail

  1. Kathleen Miller says:

    Love this one! I’ve actually observed people spilling their life stories to the captive demo lady! I’ve also observed people feeding their whole family lunch or dinner as they stroll through Costco. I suppose the price of a membership is easily offset by having numerous meals per year served to the family…to say nothing of the cost savings for the cooking and cleaning that’s avoided. Sounds like a research project to me!

    Kathleen Miller, RN, MS, CNOR,LNC Senior Clinical Consultant

  2. Kristin says:

    Meatus Interruptus?! You crack me up! I’m wondering how many words you’ve created. Seriously, you should start your own dictionary. Anyway, great blog as always and I continue to learn something new about you!

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