While there are many things to love about summer – vacations, the beach, BBQs, fireworks, amusement parks and so on – in most parts of the country, summer brings with it one problem that is impossible to ignore.
It is hot outside.
In fact, it is very hot in most of the United States – the temperature is even set to hit 90 in parts Alaska on Monday, something that has not happened in the last three decades. And while there are those who love the heat and think the thermostat can’t possibly go up enough, for most of humanity, high temperatures are not conducive to normal behavior. This fact is reflected in the data: the increase in petty crimes, the uptick in suicides and the fact that various studies have shown that for every three glasses of water one sweats out, they become measurably dumber, more anxious and easier to anger.
But if it is just too hot to read all of that data, a quick trip through the last seven days of retail news will prove that hot weather puts people on edge, makes them angry, dampens their reasoning ability – and leads to some truly spectacular choices.
Particularly in Walmart, for some reason…
“Try Before You Buy” Is A Privilege, Not a Right
Most people have sampled a grape or two while making the rounds at a grocery store – either to make sure they are adequately fresh or just because they look tasty. Rarely is that a problem.
But when people nudge the sampling up a level, things get … interesting.
One PYMNTS employee, for example, found himself in line at Roche Bros. behind a woman who was eating the salad she had made at the salad bar. When asked to stop – because Roche Brothers charges by weight for salads – the woman said something to the effect of “make me,” while continuing to eat her salad.
They decided they wouldn’t make her, but the local police were up to the task.
However, a salad is still a single-serve item, and eating it in line, while obnoxious, isn’t exactly an unheard-of move in a grocery store – though escalating it to the level of a showdown with law enforcement certainly has panache.
A whole cake, on the other hand – well, that’s not just panache. That’s good enough to get banned from Walmart for life – and warrants a mention on the “TODAY” show.
The shopper in question remains unnamed, but the event occurred at a Wichita Falls, Texas Walmart. Apparently, the woman grabbed a cake in the bakery aisle and proceeded to eat about half of it while doing her other shopping. Once she had consumed her fill and gathered her incidental purchases, she went to check out and informed the cashier that she would only be buying half of the cake.
Her rationale? She’d found it that way: half-eaten. On the shelf at Walmart. Where they have security cameras. Lots of them.
Walmart ultimately decided not to press charges, electing instead to mock her with terrible puns in their public statements on the issue.
“This was a simple case of someone wanting to have their cake and eat it too – without paying,” Tara Aston, a senior media relations manager for Walmart, told “TODAY” Food. “Like any grocery store, if customers consume food or drink in our store, like half a cake, they should pay for it.”
Though she will not be doing any hard time for her attempt at grand buttercream theft, the shopper has been banned from Walmart for the remainder of 2019.
And if you find yourself thinking that is the craziest Walmart story you have ever heard, you might want to hold off for one second. Because arguably, that is the second craziest thing that happened at Walmart last week. That crown might rightfully go to the brawl that broke out over the use of an electric scooter at a store in Indiana.
According to those reports, an 81-year-old woman told police that she and an as-yet-unidentified woman fought over who the scooter belonged to, with each believing they had a claim. The first argument in the parking lot didn’t come to blows, but once both were inside Walmart, things got ugly. The alleged assailant reportedly approached the 81-year-old on the scooter and said, “Look (expletive), I’m not afraid of you” before hitting the elderly woman on the head. She then left the store and drove off in a silver car.
Police are still looking for the unnamed suspect. They do know what she looks like – because (again) Walmart has cameras, making it a remarkably dumb place to attack a senior citizen.
In any event, the 81-year-old was shaken but not injured by the incident, and declined medical attention.
And while that is a bit of an up-note in this most unusual week of headlines from the world of commerce, we have a better one. Because sometimes the hot weather drives people to fits of strangeness that are delightful instead of illegal.
Bonus: This one also involves senior citizens.
Joining the gig economy.
Grandmothers With Soup on Demand
Uber cannot operate a ridesharing service in Japan, where ridesharing is banned. Which means the company has had to get creative in how to build its business in the country. Riding with Uber in Japan is limited to black car hires and taxi dispatches – so Uber is leaning hard into its food delivery business, Uber Eats.
And its couriers are probably not who you would think.
“The elderly are actually signing up for Eats couriers,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg News. “Eats has been a huge success for us in Japan. It is going to be a very effective introduction to the Uber brand.”
Or, as Bloomberg put it, grannies in running shoes, delivering ramen. Running shoes, because while other Uber couriers in Japan tend to use bikes or scooters, the seniors are mostly hoofing it. Not because they have to, Khosrowshahi noted, but because it is a good way to exercise while they work.
“This is one area unique to Japan, and we are looking if we can expand to the rest of the world,” he said.
So are fitness-minded grandparents about to become the next secret weapon in the worldwide food delivery wars? Somehow we doubt it.
But is it a better potential future for the world’s seniors than scrapping in Walmart for control of their electric scooters? Almost certainly.
Plus, a fit senior is probably not likely to eat half your cake while delivering it to you – and then tell you it came that way.
Stay cool out there!