Friday, June 15, 2012

The Magic Milk Case

While working in the grocery store decades ago, I passed by the dairy case during my lunch break.
And, I had a wicked idea…

If you pay attention in your own grocery store, you will notice that the shelves of milk are not so much in a refrigerated case as much as they are in a giant refrigerator. Look beyond the shelves of milk. It’s a walk-in refrigerator so large that it can contain not just entire shelves of milk but also several more racks of milk jugs behind those.
Your access to the milk from the shopping side of this walk-in refrigerator is actually a big, gaping hole in the wall covered by either sheets of clear plastic or a series of glass doors.

This setup allows employees to walk through the refrigerator between the shelving units you see in front and the storage racks in the back. The employees can restock the display shelving units from the back without ever taking any milk out of cold storage.

Are you following me?

Okay, then.  Back to the story…
As I strolled past the grocery store dairy case, a jug of milk caught my attention as it slid from the back of the case forward… almost magically. It was unnerving to see at first, but I quickly realized someone was inside the refrigerated room restocking the shelf one jug at a time.

The game is afoot.
I pushed the jug back. And quickly stepped aside.

A moment later, the jug slid forward again and was joined by a second.

I pushed them both back.
And stepped aside.

It was a longer while before either jug slid forward again. And when one finally did, it moved s.l.o.w.l.y.  I could see two more jugs placed behind these two.

Quickly, I removed the front two jugs intending to hide them completely, and was in the process of pulling on the back two when a face peered through the shelf.  It was Don, a classmate of mine who'd been hired the same week as me.

“YOU!" he shouted.  "Don't move!!”

I put the milk back in the case where it belonged as my co-worker exited the rear of the fridge and came out to the store side.

"I gotta tell you a story," Don said....

Stock boys are supposed to stay busy at all times.  Bagging groceries is a good way to stay busy, but when there aren't many customers, the guys are expected to tidy and restock shelves and sweep the floors.  If they can't find anything to do, they're supposed to ask a department manager for ideas.
No one wants to ask department managers for ideas.
Because they have ideas.

Somewhere along the line, Don discovered the beauty of the dairy case.  There was always something to do in there.
His favorite thing to do was sit on an upside down milk crate and restock the milk jugs one at a time.  If he went slow enough, customers would take jugs, and he could keep refilling the case.  Wearing a jacket and a pair of gloves, he could comfortably hide in that dairy case for a long time without anyone coming to look for him and assign "ideas".

That's what he was doing when I'd wandered by.
He had waited while customers took enough product off the shelf so that he could shuffle the jugs around to clear out an entire display shelf.  While sitting on the upside-down milk crate, he'd grab a gallon of milk off the rack in the rear of the refrigerator, pivot to the side that made up the display, and shove the milk toward the front. Then, turn back to the rack for another jug.

It was a simple, mundane chore where no one bothered him until the one time he pivoted back to the front to find the milk he’d just loaded wasn't where he'd put it. He thought this was curious, but he convinced himself he must not have pushed it all the way forward. So, he pushed it up where it belonged, and added the second.
By the time he retrieved the next two jugs from the back and pivoted, the milk wasn't where he'd put it.
Once was odd, he thought. Perhaps he’d only imagined it. But twice? That was freaky.

The third time, when two whole gallons were missing, and he saw my hands reaching for the other two, it all made perfect sense.

“That,” he said to me, “was brilliant!”

He may have even applauded a little with his refrigerator gloves.


Thumper said...

LOL...this makes me want to go to Walmart and screw with the guy that always seems to be standing behind the milk shelves...

Roses said...

Do it!
Do it NOW!

Then blog about it... ;-)

Bou said...

Now I have to check out our Publix.

And I want to see someone applaude a little with refrigerator gloves!

vw bug said...

Now that is funny!

Roses said...

Of course, now that I've written about it I notice our own Piggly Wiggle shelves are stationary.


Moogie P said...

Great story.