Friday, July 2, 2010

Fort Bragg Military Reservation: Shopping Edition

That's what it's called.  Isn't that funny?  This place has a lot of names.  It's an Army "base", it's a "post", it's where we're "stationed", but on the map it's a military reservation.  Life on base (that seems to be what I always call it) is really different from the general civilian world.  It's like a special little club that you need and ID card to get into.  But for the most part, it's not a fancy club.  It's pretty drab, most of the buildings and houses are older and they are all definitely brown.  Not much work is put into aesthetics around here.  There's a lot of housing neighborhoods, and tons of barracks for single soldeirs.  Only if you're married can you live in a neighborhood.  Both barracks and neighborhoods are spread all over the base from one end to the other. 

We have a lot of fast food restaurants, pizza places, and liquor stores (on base they're called the "Class Six").  There's at least one gas station that I know of. Bowling, bingo, a coffee shop or two and some strip malls.  And then there's the Commissary and the PX.  We have two of each, one at the south end of base and one at the north.  Shopping at both of these is really a trip!  It's very different from civilian shopping.

The Commissary is our grocery store.  It's not fancy, the buckles never work in the shopping carts and the cool ones for kids that are shaped like cars are all missing the steering wheel parts, and the hours are more limited than a traditional grocery store.  The prices are pretty decent, and they don't charge tax.  There's a decent amount of ethnic foods but the produce is so-so and there are very few organic options.  Zero organic meats or poultry.  (We've taken to driving about 10 miles off post to find organic chicken.  I watched "Food, Inc" and now I just can't buy Tyson or Perdue chicken anymore.)  There is also no alcohol sold at the Commissary so you can't buy your food and your wine all together for some reason. 

The checkout area is a complete disaster.  There's one big long turnstyle line, you can't pick which lane you'd like to wait in.  You need to present your military ID before you checkout.  There are also 2 baggers at each lane.  They will bag your groceries and take them to your car for you, but you better tip them and you better tip them well.  I was unaware of this bagger-tipping practice and I think I really upset some baggers in the first few trips to the Commissary.  I thought they were just being nice taking the groceries to my car for me.  I really did!  My first job ever was a bagger at a grocery store and I never got tips!  We just did it as part of our customer service .  I finally got the picture and gave a man $3 for bringing my 5 bags of groceries to the car.  He stopped right there and counted it in front of me.  Then made a face and walked away.  Ok, apparently $3 is a lousy tip.  Now I'm confused.  How much am I supposed to give someone for doing something I'm perfectly capable of doing myself. 

I figured I would avoid the whole tipping-the-bagger awkwardness and just take my own groceries to my car my damnself.  That's what I've been doing my whole life anyway, right?  Plus I absolutely never have cash on me, I've never even set up a checking account in North Carolina.  It's just a pain to take out cash to be able to tip a bagger.  I assumed (silly me!) that if the baggers don't take the groceries to the car, you're off the hook in the tippind department.  Wrong again!!  I actually went through the line, started to leave with my groceries and kids in the cart, and the bagger took a basket with a handwritten sign in it that said "Baggers work for Tips" and waved it right under my nose.  Seriously!!  I dug in my pockets and bottom of my purse and gave him all my change but I was completely mortified. 

I'm not opposed to tipping the baggers on principal, but they are mighty aggressive and I just don't think I understand the whole thing.  So here's my solution.  I only buy less than 15 items at each visit and go through the self checkout.  Needless to say, we go a few times a week.  But that doesn't bother me a bit since I'm usually digging deep to find a reason to leave the house most days. 

My very favorite thing about the Commissary however is the "The 7 Signs of Terrorism" sign on the doors.

The PX is the Post Exchange.  It's sort of an all inclusive KMart or Target type of store.  But they have some high end cosmetics and really nice hangbags if you're into that sort of thing.  The prices are definitely lower than you'd spend most other places and again, there's no taxes so that's a bonus.  You need to show your ID to enter the PX and you need to sign in any guests into a log book.  I can't for the life of me think of what in the world they do with that log book. 

The Commissary and the PX get ridiculously busy.  Busier than anywhere else I've shopped.  Especially in the rush hour times, and before holiday weekends.  Military personel always have 4 day weekends for holidays.  So true to form, yesterday at the Commissary was insane.  It was also payday, another shopping day to avoid at all costs.  They actually had traffic diverted at the entrance to accomodate. 

This photo is complete unrelated but Gunnar posted it today and I can't stop staring so here you go...

Happy 4th of July to all of you!!!

1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine life on base! I am such a picky person about everything that I would scream, seriously!

    And about the baggers, when I moved to Philadelphia I couldn't believe that there were no baggers in the stores, but then when I shopped in the burbs a few times and saw that they expected to be tipped out (they make that weird minimum wage like waiters) I was appalled! So wrong.

    Seriously, I want to start paying the $10 extra to have my groceries delivered in to avoid the hassle sometimes. Plus, those delivery guys aren't allowed to take tips!