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The rain effect in the produce section is just one of many fresh marketing ideas

The Baltimore Sun

I've just been caught in a torrential downpour in the produce aisle of my grocery store.

It probably has happened to you -- you stepped closer to the bin of broccoli crowns when suddenly the lights overhead started flickering and you heard a distant roll of thunder, followed by a thorough misting of the produce -- and your shirt.

What's going on?

The supermarket marketing department was having a field day when it came up with this concept.

I'd like to have been in on the meeting when the "rainstorm effect in the produce aisle" was proposed. Wait! Come to think of it, I was there when Garth from marketing made his presentation. ...

"We need to take today's consumers out of the grocery store, to a place that says farm, that says fresh, that says nature. And so we're going to give customers an intermittent, experiential moment in a field during a light summer rainstorm to reach down and pick a dewy broccoli crown right from the vine, or from whatever it is that broccoli crowns grow on."

At this point in the meeting, I was temporarily distracted by the memory of my younger sister at the dinner table hundreds of years ago when I was young. My mom had served broccoli, and back in 1968 Americans ate the whole broccoli. The thick stem was simply cut into segments and boiled a little longer. We ate this whole broccoli with butter and salt. We ate every vegetable with butter and salt. But on that day, my sister left the stem parts. My mom asked her to finish her broccoli, and she said, "No, I only like the trees." I think trees is a much better description than crowns, and I was going to bring it up at the meeting. But Garth was wrapping it up in a very persuasive conclusion:

"And so our customer is left with the impression that our produce is as farm-fresh and natural as a nourishing gentle rain."

I guess we should count our blessings that the marketing department didn't come up with the idea that farm, fresh and natural are best exemplified in a manure pile at the entrance to the produce department. But I hear that Garth is now working on a produce display case that looks like the back end of a truck, staffed with store employees who toss melons into your cart as you pass by.

Not all of Garth's ideas have been losers, however. I have to say that thanks to Garth, my grocery store is excessively customer-service oriented; for example, if I ask a store employee for help in finding something, that employee will drop everything and walk me over to the exact location of my desired item.

I desperately need to hire some of these people for my home. Whenever I ask my children to go downstairs and get paper towels or napkins from the supply closet, they cannot find a thing. My children need a handy supermarket employee to escort them to these items.

Here is another one of Garth's winner ideas: When I place my order at the deli, the counter person always asks if I need any other meats, cheeses or salads with that.

He, or anyone who waits on me, asks me this precise question every time. It is almost like a little goodbye ritual. Sometimes it jogs my memory, though, and I realize that I do need another meat, cheese, or salad. But then, after ordering something extra, it is almost as if we don't know how to conclude our transaction. He can't very well ask me the same question again.

Garth had better get working on this problem. The Tiki huts over the pineapple bins are just going to have to wait.

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