Leonard Zwelling

I’ve been shopping for produce, meat, and cheese at the Central Market for well over ten years. Maybe twenty. Their prices are ridiculous. An ear of corn goes for 25 cents at HEB, the parent company, but is a buck at CM. Nonetheless, they do have items that most other markets don’t so while the BW does the normal shopping at HEB, I go for the produce at CM. But, like everything else I seem to encounter, Central Market is regressing to the mean.

Consider this.

Like many grocery stores, the Central Market has a meat counter, a fish counter, and a deli counter. Service at them is by the numbers. You pick one and wait your turn.

At the meat and fish counters, this goes pretty quickly because the guys (and it’s all guys) behind these counters move. At the deli counter, not so much. Today I walked up and no one was waiting for service and three employees, men and women, were behind the counter doing other things. I had to ask for help and once I got it, the wait was interminable. This is pretty typical at the deli counter. I don’t know if the personnel are just lazy, slow, or simply don’t care about service, but they are uniformly in no hurry to help.

Upon exiting the store, there used to be people to check you out if you had fewer than 15 items. No more. It’s self-check-out now. That can be a good thing, IF, the person in front of you has weighed his or her produce and can scan like most normal people can. Unfortunately, if you know the Central Market, you know most normal people don’t go there.

So, because I wasn’t sure if I had 15 or 16 items, I got on a regular check out line. There I managed to spend ten minutes as a woman in front of me argued with the check-out lady about a using a credit she had just obtained that morning. This obviously requires higher management, so the check-out girl called for help and the rest of us stood there in line while the argument ensued. I gave up. I loaded the groceries I had placed on the conveyor belt back in my cart and went to the speedy check-out line. Which was speedy except that it rang up my bananas three times.

I asked for help and was told that the only way I could get my credit was to return to the front of the store and negotiate with the service person there. Grudgingly, I did just that.

As I started to explain to the woman behind yet another counter, her phone rang. Rather than say excuse me or let it ring, she grabbed it. I snapped and pushed the device and cut off the call.

“Pay attention to me,” I said.

She was stunned. Clearly, no one had ever taken offense at her ignoring them in mid-sentence to answer the phone. I did.

The Central Market, like so many other institutions, is suffering from a lack of intelligent help or are throwing the inadequately trained out to face the public before they are ready. At that moment, on this morning, at Central Market, I had had enough. I had to wait another five or ten minutes while the girl got help to credit me the $3.02 I was owed. No matter. I had made my point. Perhaps she will ignore the ring the next time a real person is right in front of her seeking assistance when her phone sounds.


Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

4 thoughts on “Snap”

  1. I just went to Kroger, and coincidentally, at the pharmacy the girl was able to talk on the telephone and check me out at the same time. You might try Kroger next time :-).

  2. You might send Jeanie to shop next time!
    All of us have seen similar disrespect. But, recently Hannaford of Maine bought the local grocery, TradeWinds, which we all loved. The sale was contingent on Hannaford keeping the long-term personnel who had been trained to be respectful and helpful.
    You are welcomed to sent your grocery-store staff to Blue Hill, Maine, to see how to treat any customer. The needs of the customer come FIRST here.

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