He said/she said issues with bank security
Final tax-filing deadline fast approaching

Express lane to financial embarrassment

I ran to the grocery story to pick up a few items and ended up being part of one of the most embarrassing situations you can think of.

Not enough money to pay for your items.

I'm happy to report that it wasn't me facing the cash shortfall. But I inadvertently shared the humiliation of another store customer.

The shopping trip was supposed to be a quick, uneventful one. I headed out with a list of specials carefully selected from Randalls' weekly newspaper insert ad, along with a few coupons set to expire.

Grocery_checkout_2 I found my items quickly and spotted a checkout lane where another customer's goods were nearing the end of the conveyor belt. I stacked my items behind his. Another shopper joined our line, filling the checkout belt with her few products.

Then the lead shopper opened his checkbook. A quick call to the wife followed: "I thought you said it was $300!"

Apparently it wasn't. In fact, his account was way short.

"I have to take out some things," he told the checker. And take out he did. Pulling package after package from his plastic bags, he watched the checkout screen as the amounts were subtracted.

Out went a handful of vacuum-sealed lunch meats and a 20-pound bag of dog food, some deli cheeses and a couple of boxes of crackers. Not enough.

Some canned goods were next, along with some kitchen cleaners. Still short.

He finally relented and gave back the 24-count box of beers, Corona, I think, and the tally was acceptable. As he finally wrote his check, he kept saying, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

The refrain actually began with the first give-back. And he apologized not only to the woman at the register, but also to the bagger and to me and the woman behind me in line.

The other customer and I smiled and nodded and, as the ordeal continued, eventually turned halfway so we wouldn't have to watch his shopping shame.

Delayed payment options: At least the guy was honest, with himself and the store. He could have easily written a check and, if he wasn't in Chex Systems' database, could have walked out with all his groceries and then worried about how to get sufficient money in his account before the paper cleared tomorrow.

I haven't written a check at the grocery store in more than a decade. I always use a credit card. And toward the end of the month, I use a second card that has a later closing date.

By doing so, I've recaptured the float factor that disappeared when Check 21 took effect, meaning money now comes out of your account almost the very instant you write a check. Deposits, however, still have a holding period, but that's another topic.

Of course, the key to using credit cards, at the grocery or any store, is to pay the bills in full when they do arrive. But that is usually weeks after my shopping trips, meaning my money gets to stay in my account earning a little interest for a little longer.

Store selection: JLP of All Financial Matters recently asked, Where do you buy your groceries?

It's an interesting question, and one that most of us probably don't think about. We tend to be creatures of habit and go to one store regularly because it's convenient, generally has good prices, carries products we like, has special deals for "club members" or we know and/or like some of the employees.

For all of those reasons, the hubby and I shop at three stores: H-E-B, Randalls, and Whole Foods.

I do the bulk of our grocery shopping typically once a week, with a shopping list that we've compiled the six prior days and my old green coupon box (immortalized in this earlier blog post) in hand.

That shopping trip usually is at our nearby H-E-B. But, upon review of the weekly advertising inserts, if I run across some specials that are just too good to pass up (e.g., buy one, get one free offers on items we like and that can be stored for a while without affecting quality), I might make a special trip to Randalls.

That chain also carries some items that we like that aren't on H-E-B shelves. And Randalls' member card gets us even better prices on the weekly ad  deals, although I typically find the store's prices a tad higher than H-E-B's.

Also, since our nearest Randalls is farther away than our local H-E-B, I try to make the Randalls run in conjunction with other errands in the store's area, to save on gas and time.

When we want to splurge gastronomically, we head to a Whole Foods that isn't that far from our home. Again, we tend to do so when we're in the store's area, say we're going to a movie at a nearby theater and can drop into WF on the way home.

And when we head into Austin for whatever reason, we always try to include a stop by Whole Foods' huge downtown store. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's almost like visiting an amusement park that has much better food choices.

Yep, some people like mall crawling. Me, I'll take a special excursion to a grocery store any day of the week!

Shoppers beware: My H-E-B is undergoing a face lift. I'm basically pleased with the changes, but it means each week I have to re-learn the store's layout as they tweak things.

I suspect that part of the reason for the changes is a new shopping development a few miles down the road which reportedly will include a grocery store.

Why_we_buy_book_cover_2 But every grocery store I've shopped at, regardless of the proximity of competition, has always made layout and display changes. It's annoying, but apparently it helps move product.

Unclutterer examines the retail tricks that get you to buy more. A grocery store fact cited by the blog: Impulse buying is more prevalent among grocery shoppers than in any other business, especially when kids are in tow.

More selling tricks and ways to beat them are listed by Unclutterer, who also recommends the book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. It's written for retailers, but it's useful for consumers who want to see through marketing trick and tactics.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Steve Austin

I love paying with cash. As long as you diligently track how much cash you have on-hand, there is never a concern about checking account balances or credit card validity.

The comments to this entry are closed.