This is a different kind of post for me, as I’m not usually one to give advice (unless I gave birth to you – then I’m entitled.). But nearly 20 years in and around the retail food industry has given me a little bit of insight to share. Every year, I saw people make the same mistakes, and turn what should be a happy time shared with family into a nightmare – for both them and the hapless store employee trying to help. If what I say can help prevent that in at least a few cases, it’s worth it.
If you need something specific, order early.
Got a whole houseful of people coming and need a large bird? Or, maybe you don’t like turkey, and want to do a crown roast of pork? Call your butcher (yes, even if you go to a big chain supermarket) a couple of weeks ahead to order. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for disaster! By that time, the meat department will be limited to what they have on hand, and will not be able to help.
When You Call to Order:
First and foremost, be certain you are speaking to a meat department employee, even if it means waiting on the phone for a while. Well-meaning but uninformed front-end staffers accounted for most of the ordering mistakes I encountered. Please speak slowly and clearly. Spell your name if it is uncommon, or could easily be mis-heard over the phone. If you have an extremely common name, like “Bob Jones,” give them a phone number to match with your order.( It’s not fun to arrive and discover that another Bob Jones got your big turkey and left you his small one!) Ask the person taking your order to read the whole thing back to you to check for errors. And remember, please, that they are on the phone in a loud, busy work environment – they don’t ask you to repeat yourself just to annoy you.
If you need to change your order…
More people coming than expected? A sudden flu outbreak keeping half your guests at home? Please, call! Orders can, in most cases, be changed easily up to 3 days before the event, and with a little work, even closer – especially if you need to downsize.
Picking Up Your Order:
Changing when you do your Thanksgiving shopping might be the biggest sanity-saver of all. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year in a grocery store. Avoid it like the plague! The Sunday before is a great idea, Monday is even better. Get it out of the way, and only come back if you’ve forgotten something (celery-it’s always celery!) And yes, you can bring your fresh turkey home this far in advance. They arrive from the packers with a two-week or better ‘sell-by’ code. Just don’t forget to put a pan under it in your fridge – they do leak.
If someone else is picking up your order…
Make sure they know all the specifics – what name it’s listed under, the phone number, and, most importantly, WHAT YOU ORDERED ! Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I wish I had a dime for every time someone’s husband or adult child showed up at the counter with no idea what they were picking up. One woman (loudly) insisted that we had lost her mother’s turkey order, ruined her holiday, etc., only to discover that Mom had won a turkey somewhere else that year. Think she apologized for her behavior? Don’t bet on it.
If you really have to shop on Wednesday…
Patience, please. Wait your turn. If you must talk on your cell-phone, move away from the crowd to do so – it only adds to the chaos when you raise your voice. Don’t bring very young children if you can find a sitter. The carnival atmosphere of a busy store can be overwhelming for adults – it induces tantrums in toddlers.
Please be nice to the folks behind the counter. They are trying their best to get you what you want. They have spent the entire day dealing with nice and not-so-nice customers, all of them anxious and harried to some extent. You only have to be in the store for a little while. Nothing is more welcome than a genuine smile, and Thanksgiving wishes. You just might make their day.
UP NEXT: Turkey Facts