I have long said that any tantrum thrown in a supermarket is well-deserved. The grocery stores are asking for it with their pretty displays of shiny plastic things glittering down every aisle a parent turns. The employees and other patrons of the place must simply be collateral damage in their eyes.
As if it is not hard enough to strap a child or two into their strange-looking carts and keep them calm during an entire hour of checking the ripeness of melons and the expiration date of hamburger, the advertising committee thought it would be a great idea to put toys and toylike things within arms’ reach of those cart seats. Gone are the days of having an interesting conversation with your child as they sit in rapt attention, pondering whether or not mommy should get full-length or baby carrots. Now, these babies have bigger fish to fry – fish that look like balls, straws, flashlights, and the dreaded balloon.
I am not buying any of these things. Perhaps many parents do. In fact, I’m sure it’s a brilliant marketing technique. But for me, this technique translates into nothing but tears, misery and exasperation. Even when I do give in, and let the babies hold one of these magical items, it isn’t long before another catches their eye – and then, do they want the first one or the second? Can they somehow hold both? Does their twin have something better than they do? Is the cart at a standstill in front of these new toys? Because if it’s not – if mommy has dared to walk down the aisle to the canned goods – pandemonium.
Last week, I brought a friend grocery shopping with me. Not as skilled in the ways of baby, she would often stop at their request, handing them toys and objects at their whim. Each toy, thankfully, was looked at and tossed aside in a matter of minutes as the next adventure came their way until we got to the balloons. Balloons assaulted us, then, from every angle – orange balloons, blue balloons, alligator balloons, balloons in a bouquet. And Publix was not joking around. The price for one of these precious arrangements? $12.95.
My serene grape-choosing experience soon turned into a game of musical balloons. Would the baby like this balloon? No. Crying. How about this balloon? Absolutely not. She only wants her sister’s balloon. Okay, nobody has any balloons. That decision was greeted with screams of rage. My poor friend’s eyes darting around, looking for something else – anything else – that might distract them from the dozens of balloons hanging from every corner. Alas, even a chocolate chip cookie wouldn’t do.
We get in line. The babies are still screaming. I asked the poor cashier above the yelps of my now-possessed toddlers if I could speak to a manager. I have never seen a manager appear so quickly before in all my grocery-shopping years.
“Hello, sir, this isn’t even a complaint, really, more of a suggestion, but do you see my babies?”
He nodded, wide-eyed. He saw them.
“Well, I’m sure you have your reasons, but if you don’t want something like this to happen, probably all of the time, I would suggest you take down all of these balloons everywhere. My kids are good kids, but I have no control over their balloon-induced craze. In the future, you might!”
“Oh, well, I’ll speak to the advertising department about that–”
“–but in the meantime, we give out free balloons, you know.”
And the manager went to the floral department, filled up two Publix balloons with helium, brought them back to us, and we were on our way, quietly and not without more than a little embarrassment on my part.
So, in hopes of sparing you all a story like this – in case I’m not the only person left who didn’t know that Publix gives out free balloons to screaming toddlers – I note my embarrassing tale here. Grocery store warriors unite!