I love food. My 98kg weight is testament to that. Thankfully I’m not short or I’d probably be dead of excessive cheese intake. Part of the joy in food revolves around shopping for food. Walking in to a market and browsing through their offer is thoroughly pleasurable. I love doing this everywhere, especially France. But, it’s in my home base of San Francisco where the fun of grocery shopping diminishes a great deal. The pleasure of discovering new types of tomatoes or thinking about what to do with a certain cut of meat is cut short by the “thing” that food shopping is in San Francisco.
This all brings me to Rainbow Grocery. It’s only this year that I’ve checked it out a few times, but that was pretty much all I needed to permanently ex it off my list forever and ever as a black hole of the grocery realm. Outside of one idiotic customer service thing they do, I happen to like the staff a great deal there. Maybe they’re more friendly because they’re a coop or maybe they’re just better workers, I really don’t know. The few times that I’ve asked the staff about something, they actually do what staff do in that they help. The produce is quite stellar and a great selection. I love the fact that they drift much more towards having seasonal fruits and vegetables instead of just stocking stuff from wherever so that people can have strawberries in December (no, strawberries don’t grow in the US in December). The cheese section is also quite good. Compact and nothing in comparison to the two aisles of fromage heaven at Auchan in Perpignan, France, but still rife with goodies. Meats? Well, they just don’t have meats and that’s one downfall, but I can live with that.
So, why on earth would I smote them as a no-shop zone? Simple: the customers. Never in my life have I seen such a smattering of every single type of person that I loath in San Francisco focused in one instance of a shopping experience. From the wispy, fragile feather people, to the middle aged space-out hippie moms, to the bald guys with ponytails, to the short dykes with a massive chip on their shoulder who have to slam their carts in to you, to the all important wankers talking to a mobile phone ear piece their entire shopping experience, to each and every one of the people who shop there, act all environmental, yet drive to the store in their SUV. These are the self-important, entitled douchebag Americans that have been rendered of the fat of our luxurious and easy lives that we lead in this country. And Rainbow is swarming with them. Locusts of annoyance swarming under every footfall one takes in the store.
One of the big things that attracts this type to the store is the fact that they have a massive vitamin and supplement section which all vegans graze from liberally as their diet simply is wont for proper health. It’s the precious quotes from these people that are greatest. They are along the lines of, “Is this salt from organically certified oceans?”, “Is this B12 supplement Fair Trade?”, “Is this flour, cruelty free?”, “I’m allergic to nuts, dairy, palm oil, olive oil, aloe vera, and gluten. Which skin cream should I get?” Obviously, these are people that would probably (and rightfully) die if they weren’t in the US. At times, I think that the name of the place should actually be, “Special Needs Grocery”.
After dealing with these types for an hour or so, the only thing on one’s mind is blessed freedom from Rainbow. That however is stymied by the one, tremendous obstacle in that they have this Thick Blue Line System (pictured below). This line is the demarcation between where you can stand and the three meters between that space and the actual register. In an attempt to keep their main aisle behind the registers free, they’ve invented this “brilliant” strategy, except that it then blocks all the side aisles. People don’t get it because it’s non-sensible. You walk up to a register only to be scolded by people behind the blue line and there isn’t one blue line for each register. Sometimes one of these is for one register and sometimes for another. When one guy chided me for going in to another aisle (which I assumed was free) after I asked about a first one he was waiting for, I called him a pompous ass and told him to fuck off. I realized that I can’t return to this store lest I beat one of these people to death with a 25kg sack of biodynamic wild rice. Somehow on my last trip through there, I managed to make it out without felony charges.
Given the popularity of Rainbow and my desiring to not shop there, what else does that leave? A great deal of choices actually, each with their own pluses and minuses which I’ve listed below from bad to good:
Safeway – Just bad. Bad food. Bad service. Bad customers. The one down at Church and Market can be okay. The main thing is that it’s cheaper overall, but your pay for it in poor quality food.
Cala – Basically a step above Safeway. I shopped here for my first six months of living in San Francisco until I discovered that there were other choices that didn’t involve shopping alongside hookers/junkies coming off a rough night.
Molly Stone’s – A better quality of food without a doubt, but you pay for it. Staff can be all right sometimes, although generally in a state of mental geostationary orbit. The customers are all snobby types. Really no reason to go unless your income is in the six digits and it’s next door to your house.
Whole Foods – Definitely some of the best foods, but depending on the store, the freshness is a massive issue. They’re also sneaking in a great deal more non-organic foods to offer “choice”. The prices are quite high overall, at least 15% higher than smaller, organic stores in the area. Staff are crap; probably the worst. They’re a bit hippie, but more hipster and incredibly full of themselves for working at the store. They’re no help. The customers can be difficult. They’re nothing like the Rainbow customers though. You’ll see a lot more mobile phone earpiece conversations though and people are just flat-out rude, but there is no pretension otherwise. They honestly believe they are worth more than anyone else.
Andronico’s – About the same quality of food as Molly Stone’s, but the prices are slightly better. These are more common in the East Bay, but the one out in Sunset in SF has a wicked olive bar. A pretty mixed, normal crowd shops here.
Bi-rite – Good selection, but swaddled in hipsterdom. This makes for a pretty bad shopping experience. Especially to be avoided any day there is warm weather. Also to be avoided any weekend.
Real Foods – A good mix of hippie store, decent prices, normal people shopping, and pretty good selection. The only thing they have going against them is their general size. I can find just about everything I need at one of these stores, but it always feels like they’re missing one or two things that I need. Their cheese selection is terrible, but their bargain wine selection is good.
Trader Joe’s – The best mix of everything and my main store for shopping. There’s a reason this chain is spreading so fast. They have quite good prices. A great mix of foods. A great selection of more exotic foods. Their prepared foods are fun. The staff is good–not amazing, but good and laid back, taking their Hawaiian shirts a bit too seriously. The customers are pretty normal folks as well. Earpieces are at a minimum, which for San Francisco says something. I’m not crazy about their excessive packaging, not being able to weigh anything, and the amount of foods they import off-season, but what are you gonna do? Just not buy it. Oh, their wine selection is hit and miss. Sometimes they have great bargains and then other times, it’s loathsome.
So anyways, end of rant. Rainbow just killed me and it just reminds me how little of their urban American I can stand at times and how I need to really figure out that second home in… elsewhere.