He’d read about why they put the chicken all that long way in the back of the store. It was what they termed their “loss leader,” a highly desirable item with a low cost that would make customers who wanted chicken walk all that way to the back of the store. This devious placement, they hoped, would cause customers to see all the merchandise in the aisles as they walked to the back of the store. Hopefully, this would result in them spotting some item or items they’d end up buying, along with their chicken.
This walk irritated him. He never looked at the merchandise on the way to the back, just as he never looked at the ads when he was on Facebook or Twitter. He’d never bite. He wasn’t your average dupe.
“Shit.” He said it softy, but the older woman standing two feet away had heard him. She laughed.
Evan turned to her. He had to smile, saying, “Oh, sorry. Please excuse my language.”
The kindly-looking auntie laughed again. “No need to apologize,” she said. “To tell you the truth, I was thinking the same thing. I just didn’t say it out loud.”
They both laughed at this.
There were only three lonely roasted chickens sitting in the case. All three were woeful specimens. Blackish from over-cooking, with broken drumsticks and patchy skins, they appeared to be chickens who’d given their lives to be BoxCo roasted chickens, yet would never realize their life’s chickenhood potential and purpose.
The woman said, “They told me it’ll be another fifteen minutes until the next batch of chicken comes out of the rotisserie ovens.
Shit, Evan thought again, this time being careful to think it only, not say it.
“I really hate it when you have to wait that long,” he said.
“Tell me about it,” the woman said. “And I forgot my phone in the car, so I pretty much have to stand here looking at these bust up chickens that’ll end up as BoxCo chicken salad.”
Evan felt his salivary glands quiver a bit. “I kind of like their chicken salad,” he said.
“Oh yeah, me too. So yummy,” she said. “It’s only the best chicken salad ever. I can’t ever make it that good at home.”
“I’m getting kind of ono for some right now, now that you mention it,” said Evan.
“It’s right over there,” she said, pointing.
“Right, right,” said Evan. He walked over to the refrigerator case, chose one of the plastic containers of the chicken salad. That would be good for several sandwiches.
He walked back to the woman and the roasted chicken counter.
“So you’re getting some,” the woman said.
“Yeah, why not.”
The woman said, “I love to make sandwiches with their croissants. There’s just a little bit of sweetness that really, really complements the slight saltiness of the chicken salad.”
“Right,” said Evan, “I know what you mean. I always wonder if I should get that huge bag, though. That’s a lot of croissants.”
“True,” said the woman. “I usually split the bag in half, throw half in the freezer, and use the other half. Sometimes I give half to my mom.”
“Huh, now that’s not a bad idea,” said Evan. “My mom does like BoxCo croissants. I never thought about that.”
“Hey, the bakery stuff is right over there,” she said, pointing off in the other direction.
“Right,” said Evan. He could see the bags of croissants on the display table.
Coming back he said, “I wonder how many more minutes it is now?”
“About seven or so,” said the woman.
“Can I put these two in your cart?” said Evan. “I need to get some lettuce for the sandwiches.”
“Sure, no problem.”
Luckily the vegetables were just off to the right. Evan grabbed a bag of Romaine lettuce. Hmmm, he thought, maybe this bag of tomatoes, too. He grabbed one.
Then he saw the avocados. That’ll make for a gourmet sandwich, he thought. Ummm, chicken salad with sliced avocado. He grabbed a bag.
Back at the chicken counter, Evan attempted to pick up the chicken salad and the croissants. He felt like a juggler just starting out. But he’d jumped right to three balls instead of learning good rhythm with just two.
“Hey,” said the woman. “Just throw it all in the cart. I’m headed for the cashier after I pick up my chicken.”
“Oh, thanks,” said Evan, dropping the lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados in the cart.
The roast chicken crowd began to assemble. One of the cooks came to the front and opened one of the ovens. The smell was awesome.
“Isn’t it great that they’ve always kept the price at four ninety-nine?” said the woman. “It just makes you want to keep coming back for more. I think I’ll but two.”
“You know the chicken is their loss leader, right?” said Evan.
“It’s their what?” she asked.
Evan explained the marketing theory to her. “And,” he said, “because the price of chicken keeps going up, and because they want to keep the price at four ninety-nine, BoxCo has started up their own chicken farms across the US. They’ve become the largest grower of chicken, surpassing even Tyson now.”
“Wow,” said the woman. “That’s pretty smart.”
“Yeah,” agreed Evan. “It’s really smart. These guys are no fools. This cheap chicken yields huge profits for them because of this placement at the back of the store.”
Two cooks had each removed a huge skewer of chicken from the oven. Now they began sliding the plastic boxed chicken into the display case.
The crowd began to press in. “I don’t get how people compare each chicken, trying to find the best one,” said Evan. “I just pick one that looks decent.”
“Me too,” she said, grabbing two chickens.
“What the heck,” said Evan, grabbing two.
He dropped them in the cart, then he and the woman pushed out of the line toward the main aisle leading to the cashiers.
“Wow,” she said, “that was pretty intense.”
“Yeah,” agreed Evan. “That chicken is definitely popular.”
“Oh,” said the woman. “I just need to pick up some milk.”
She turned down the dairy products aisle. When they reached the milk, she opened the case and grabbed a gallon jug of 2%.
“You know what,” said Evan, “I need some too. I use it in my coffee. I can go through a gallon pretty fast. Can you grab me one, please?”
The woman did, and dropped it in the cart.
They wheeled back to the main aisle and proceeded toward the cashier.
One of the sample people called to them. “Would you like to try some pizza rolls?”
“Sure,” said the woman.
They stopped and each had a pizza roll.
“Wow,” said the woman, “these are great. Where can I find them?
“In the freezer aisle,” said the sample woman. “Next to the pizzas.”
“Do you mind us going back there?” the woman asked Evan.
“No, no problem,” he said.
So they wheeled back a few aisles and went to the pizza section.
The woman opened the case and took a box.
“I’ll take one, too,” said Evan.
They wheeled back to the main aisle. This time they made it all the way to the huge line for cashiers.
“Oh, you know what?” said the woman. “I forgot something. I’ll be right back.”
“No problem,” said Evan, “I’ll guard the chickens. Never know when someone might see them and snatch one because they’re so good.”
The woman laughed, then headed back into the store.
Evan pushed forward slowly. When he finally reached the register, he turned to look back for the woman. She was nowhere to be seen.
“Sorry,” said Evan to the cashier, “not all of this is mine.”
He explained about the woman and her not having come back yet.
“No problem,” said the cashier. “Give me the things that are hers, and I’ll put them on the side in a couple of boxes here.”
“Okay,” said Evan, wondering how the woman would know that her items were with the cashier, or even which cashier. there were so many.
The cashier rang up the total.
Wow, thought Evan, I come in here for one chicken, and I end up buying the whole store.
While the man ran his credit card, Evan looked back at all the people waiting to check out. Where was that kind woman? He was worried she’d never locate her items.
As he moved toward the exit, Evan felt terrible. He could picture the woman having to go back and pick up all her items again. With her luck, she’d probably have to wait another who knew how many minutes for the chicken to cook and come out.
Up on the second floor, in the main office, the woman sat looking out on the crowd in the store. She spotted Evan and smiled. At first she’d been a bit reluctant to take the job, but she needed work.
Not bad, she thought, not bad. Three months ago she’d not smiled when she spotted one of the customers loaded down with the things she’d influenced him or her to buy, standing back there at the chicken case waiting for a likely mark. It had become easy to spot then, and it had become a kind of game for her. She had to go out into the store so many times a day, so why not make it as challenging as possible? How many items could she influence a person to purchase?
Hey, it was a job, and BoxCo paid what they called their “Customer Service Guides” very, very well.