Healthy Shopper Customer Appreciation Day

"Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot" - E9

By jasonmcgathey | Jason McGathey | 15 Sep 2023

Love your local help, too! Like from the closed down market across town.


They have begun to refer to it as The Curse of the Employee Newsletter. Even as when Valerie took over this job from Barbara, they switched from black and white to full color, this curse remained in full effect. And nothing has changed even with the presumed good luck charm of the Southside mural photo at the top of each one.

Someone first noticed this phenomenon when Aria was fired, the same week that she was profiled as Featured Employee of the Month. Then it was the previous Southside vitamins manager, who put in her notice within two days of being so honored, paving the way for Zaire to transfer there. At this point, snickering over the twisted humor behind this theory, a handful of them backtracked and were able to unearth three previous examples, out of the twelve months prior to Aria, where the person in question had immediately ceased to work here.

Still, the new deli merchandiser’s record could prove tough to beat. As goofy as his preferred moniker might be, Bucky, he’s actually a tall, somewhat imposing, middle aged guy with tons of industry experience. They’re so stoked to have found this guy, without any gap between Christie’s leaving, that Valerie runs with him as her latest featured employee, right out of the gate.

Edgar ventures down to the front desk late morning, on the day this newsletter comes out, to grab some invoices and make a few copies. He encounters Bucky, hanging out behind the counter, making idle chitchat with Vince, as both stand there surveying this kingdom. Then Vince moseys into the front office, and as Bucky continues to loiter here, Edgar congratulates him on the newsletter profile.

Bucky just offers a weird, crooked smile, and mutters a quick thanks. Even in the moment Edgar thinks his expression is a little strange. But not even an hour later, he will discover why this is, in that their short lived deli merchandiser, with less than a month on the job, had surely already decided upon his next move. Shortly after this interaction, Bucky breezes into the front office, tells Destiny and Vince that this place isn’t a good fit for him, hops in his truck and never returns.

Edgar has not yet been featured, and isn’t sure he wants to be. Given the baton switch from Barbara to Valerie, it might take months or even years before anyone realizes this omission, which is totally fine with him. Though terrified it might come up at any time, like for example during Valerie’s latest newsletter related rant, having flung herself into his patient chair. She just discovered that Palmyra never even gets their newsletters. These are emailed to each of the four store managers every month, who are to then print them off, and staple one to every employee’s paycheck envelope on that particular Friday. Except Corey never bothers to do so. As in, not ever.

“How hard is it to print out a handful of freaking newsletters? Come on! You wouldn’t even have to staple them yourself, you could get someone else to do it!” Valerie protests.

Well, it occurs to Edgar to joke, maybe this is a wagon circling move, maybe Corey’s just trying to keep his employees from quitting or getting fired. Except the next thought is that you dare not actually say such a thing to Corey. Because he would totally agree with you, nodding and muttering with complete seriousness in deep, measured tones that this is exactly why he’s doing that, yep, it sure is, and such and such, and such and such, all off the top of his head.

“I used to write an employee newsletter, when I worked at this bank,” he mentions instead, “it was kinda cool.”


“Yeah, I was a teller, and then I took over processing direct deposits. But then also wrote their newsletter in my free time. It was fun. I had actually forgotten all about that until just now.”

“That’s cool,” she nods, and then pauses to recall, fidgets with a necklace as she does so, “you know, I was actually lying in bed the other night wondering if I would like your job. I was thinking that I probably would, but the only part I wouldn’t like would be trying to find the cheapest cost for everything.”

“See now I actually really enjoy that. It’s a fun challenge, like playing detective.”

“I guess so. But yeah…overall, I think I’d be really good at it.” She beams and then adds, “you should hire me as your assistant!”

“Yeah right, like I have that kind of pull around here,” he scoffs.

After she leaves, his thoughts will return to that long ago newsletter. It was also one sheet, two sided, nothing major. But what were some of the elements found within? His would also list the birthdays, and work anniversaries, same as Valerie’s does. They had no featured employee, but most months he would find some old timer who had a piece of obscure company history to base a piece around, and then also a column relating all their current events, down to and including who was on vacation and what kind of adventures those returning had gotten into while away.

The Healthy Shopper Market one is missing these features, although it is pretty crammed in its current incarnation. Usually Valerie has a three or four paragraph write-up about some industry trend, or the health benefits of a certain product. And then also one recipe, as well as a little sidebar infographic about some upcoming store event, like a class held here in the community room, or a Customer Appreciation day.

She couldn’t really expand any more without going to an additional page. Yet now that he’s latched upon this concept, he can’t help thinking that it would be great if she had a current events type section in her newsletter. Lord knows there is certainly enough material around this place! Come to think of it, she would probably have to create a four page booklet every time out, just to keep up with it. Wouldn’t it be great if she could list all of this in bullet point style, though:

· After going over the numbers for Palmyra, entirely of his own volition, company president Duane Hatley decides to shrink their wine section yet again. Store manager Corey Brown declined comment, though previously voicing displeasure with this development. Despite the best efforts of wine category cheerleader Pierre O’Brien, it has been determined that the best fit for this product line is a small corner of the front end, next to the beer. Outfitting that section with some really sharp looking black metal shelving — a color scheme they are considering expanding throughout the remaining aisles at Palmyra — the store’s intrepid crew moved the vino, over a series of days, to its tantalizing new home. The wine section now wraps around a short, twenty foot area in front, with an additional twenty feet of “gondola” shelving nearby on the floor.

· Following the departure of longtime deli merchandiser Christie Marsh, and the interim appointing of Bucky Hodgkins, veteran industry pro Pat DiStazio has just joined our team as a permanent replacement in this role. Many of us know Pat from his prior engagement at Frilly’s Market across town. A tall Italian gent with a balding pate yet quite bushy mustache, Pat is equally well known for his ever present New York Jets windbreaker as he is his cryptic, mostly lowercase and punctuation-optional emails. But more importantly he brings a wealth of experience, so let’s all give Pat a warm HSM hello!!

· Now that the dust has settled on our impressively smooth Walnut location transfer, Duane and company owner Walter Locke have begun actively scouting an ideal site for our fifth store. Rumors have it that this will arrive on the east side of Chesboro with a target opening date of early winter. More details to follow.

· Shortly after Christie’s unfortunate departure, fiancé Chef Anthony Poole also announced he was moving on. In his stead, dedicated kitchen vet Mike Carnahan has stepped into the Southside deli, as both chef and department manager. If the name Mike Carnahan sounds familiar to you, astute newsletter readers might recall that it has appeared in these pages before. That’s right, Chef Mike was previously employed in the Palmyra kitchen!

This last episode was an especially comical one. Edgar had been entrenched behind his desk like always, when Destiny appeared in his office, making her rounds to “introduce” Chef Mike. She obviously had no clue he had already worked here before, was just fired a couple of months ago up in Palmyra. So he’d left that off of his resume entirely, and good for him. Edgar likes the guy and thinks he does a good job, knows that he’s smart, interesting, and has even been a family friend for years. Maybe a few resurfacing issues have derailed his career now and then, but hey, they’re all fighting their own individual struggles of some sort. So he doesn’t say a word, as they shake hands and mutter “nice to meet you,” with a nod to one another.

Maybe it’s just the timing, or the illusion of coincidence, or that his mind makes weird connections. But Edgar thinks you can see a lot of repetitive patterns here at the HSM, even with things that are seemingly unrelated. Like he just shook Mike’s hand, and they’ve left his office, and he’s sitting there mulling this over while picking up and inspecting various items Harry has left on his desk, as new products to be added. One of these, or make that six, is a line of Cuatro Hermanos salsas which look extremely familiar to him. But he even checks the database to be sure, and nope, Harry is correct, these are not in the system.

Edgar arrives home that afternoon and ventures into the kitchen for a snack. Opening the pantry door, his eyes immediately settle upon a jar at the leading edge of one impossibly crowded, eye level shelf. An unopened Cuatro Hermanos, chipotle flavored salsa. And now these images immediately flood his head, of why these seemed so familiar, as he busts out laughing at the sudden memory flood. Christie Marsh had given him this jar, because this vendor was trying to add his product line at the store, and had left her some samples. Except she determined that even at the 25% meat department margin, this would be way too expensive to sell, and passed.

So the ever persistent vendor, undeterred, waited a couple of months and approached the grocery department instead. Harry, seemingly not the least bit concerned about moving this product at a 35% margin, agreed that this product line was a great idea and agreed to pick it up. Yeah…and that’s pretty much what just happened with the Chef Mike incident, isn’t it? He’s seeing some tremendous parallels here. This is the Healthy Shopper Market m.o. in a nutshell.

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I am a professional writer with 8 published books under my belt. And many other unpublished ones, in various stages of disarray.

Jason McGathey
Jason McGathey

Semi-Coherent Musings - from one of the leading masters of this questionable art form!

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