Membership has its privileges

After months of hoping, praying and surviving a nerve-wracking application process, I’m happy to announce today that Marie and I (and please don’t be jealous) have officially been granted membership into the local food warehouse club.

I’m hesitant to use the company’s name in print. Not for legal reasons, I just don’t want my membership revoked. Then what? God forbid I have to purchase Frosted Mini-Wheats in quantities less than 90 pounds.

It was Marie’s idea to buy a membership. I’ve always been opposed to the concept of paying a cover charge to get into a grocery store. If City Market hired some bouncer who charged you $10 to get into the produce area, you’d probably boycott the place or file a discrimination lawsuit or something. You certainly wouldn’t put up with it. But we do.

We became members last week, only after passing a very stringent application process, by which I mean we had $40 and a pulse. We then got our official card. On the back is your photo, which has the same exact picture quality you’d find on a convenience store surveillance tape. I’m not joking when I say that my photo looks a cactus.

Despite this, I have to admit that — upon clutching that blue card in my hand for the first time — my heart filled with pride at the realization I was now officially an exclusive member of the most prestigious organization in town. Oh sure, members of Bookcliff Country Club may have a lush swimming pool and beautiful golf course at their disposal, but I can buy a 5-foot-long tube of Preparation H for under 20 bucks.

You start your shopping trip up front, where — before being allowed to enter — a nice lady checks your photo ID to verify that you are, in fact, a cactus. I’m not sure what happens if you try to sneak in without having a paid membership; I’m guessing a SWAT team is involved.

Police: “What seems to be the problem?”

Food club ID checker: “This man tried to peacefully come in here during business hours and voluntarily give us lots of his money.”

Police: “The nerve of him.”

Once inside, you push your shopping cart up and down the aisles, gathering only the essentials. (“Look, honey, there’s a sale on the 700-count box of Twinkies!”) Personally, I head to the baby aisle, which conveniently has everything the parent of a newborn needs in bulk: formula, diapers and vodka.

After more browsing, it’s time for lunch. Fortunately, the food warehouse club has a little cafeteria with tasty, affordable meals. But you’ll skip this place and gorge on all the free samples instead. At least that’s what I do. I mooch and munch and graze without shame. The ladies handing out the free samples love me.

Sample lady: “Sir, if you don’t mind, that’s your 12th piece of lemon garlic pork loin.”

Me: (talking with my mouth full): “Yeah I’m still thinking about buying some. Anyways, can you point me to the dessert samples?”

After you’ve filled up, you check out, where, for some unknown reason, you have to show your ID card to the cashier. If airport security was anything like food warehouse club security, we’d never have to worry about terrorism.

So you’re now ready to leave, only you can’t, because you have to wait in line as another lady, “Eunice,” looks at everyone’s receipts to make sure it matches with the items they’re carrying. It’s part of a new business model that says the customer is guilty until proven innocent.

Extreme? Maybe. But these anti-theft measures are an important way to reduce shoplifting.

Yes, I grant you, the full body cavity search may be a little unnecessary, but at least Eunice has warm hands.

So eventually you’re done, back at home, tired, broke, clutching your Twinkies. The whole shopping trip was a pain in the butt. That’s OK.

You’ve got your 5-foot-long tube of Preparation H.

E-mail Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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