The Sad Ralph’s is the Ralph’s at Burbank and Van Nuys Boulevard. It is the one closest to my house and the one I almost never go to. It is too sad there.

The people who shop here are the heart and soul of the in-between land of Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys, a place where the overworked, the underappreciated, the overwhelmed and the underpaid push around big grocery carts full of frozen pizzas, ice creams, sodas, frozen potato salads, pre-heated hot dogs, cool whip and hot nachos. 

Anything that can go down an open mouth is sold here. 

Many customers skip the checkout line and just grab whatever they want off the shelf and walk back out. Others are homeless, the fastest growing religion in Los Angeles. And then there are always people set up with petition tables to ask you to stop and contribute to end hunger, end abuse, end suffering or buy Girl Scout cookies or cookies for girls in the Boy Scouts.

There are fresh foods sold here, but they also stock “fresh” strawberries, blueberries, peaches and pears year round. Where they are grown ranges from Chile to Thailand to the Arctic Circle. 

The checkout lines are always monstrously long. Every woman around you is in black, head to toe, and is enormous. There are tattooed actors, up and coming exotic dancers, and your elderly neighbors from next door, who are just pulling up, shell-shocked, in a gold 1999 Buick LeSabre. 

The atmosphere in line is raucous or indifferent, and there are always a few men in line with their butt cracks showing.

But today I stood near a sour-faced young woman. She placed her fitness bars on the conveyer belt along with her thermal foiled bag that she must have brought along to hold a frozen pizza. 

She made no attempt to push her things forward to allow me to upload, and she stood silent as the middle-aged cashier with the ruddy complexion, bunions, glasses and back-ache rang up the items and then started to bag them. The Sad Ralph’s has little to no baggers and the cashiers themselves do the bagging since Ralph upped hourly salaries by 50 cents.

Then an argument started up. The annoyed shopper was annoyed because the fitness bars were put inside the thermal lined bag. “I wanted my pizza in here!” she snapped. The cashier, a veteran, no doubt, of many children, grandchildren and multiple husbands, was unmoved. 

“Go ahead. Bag it as you like. You said nothing when I started bagging, ” said the no bullshit cashier.

“So I have to do your job for you!” the young bitch said, without empathy for the older woman who stood on her feet all day scanning junk foods and fresh peaches from Antartica.

When the young bitch left, the cashier laughed bitterly. 

“My husband is from Nebraska and he can’t believe the people in this State of California,” she said. 

I made the cashier feel better and told her I understood how wrong the previous customer was. 

I was also enraged, as all Americans are these days, offline or online or on this line. 

And then we saw the bitch speaking to the store manager outside.

“Let her bitch, I have nothing to lose,” said the cashier, probably dreaming of happy days ahead at the Agua Caliente Casino.

Later, in the parking lot, I saw the sour faced one get into an SUV. As it drove past I spotted Indiana license plates and breathed a sigh of relief.

The Hoosier State. 

So that’s where all the rude people come from.

3 thoughts on “Incident at The Sad Ralph’s

  1. What we’re seeing is market segmentation.

    As the middle class is squeezed some move up to retailers where quality assurance and customer service are much better. That experience costs extra. And that better more expensive retailer might very well be the interwebs. Why bother physically shopping at all when a gig worker at Instacart will do it for you for a slight premium?

    Of course, more of the former middle class is working its way down the ladder and they’re the ones who are stressed out at the sad Ralph’s. You can blame the poor for being poor. Or you can acknowledge the structural forces pushing people into different trajectories.


  2. —Lived in New Jersey (Soprano-Land) for about 5 years in the 90s. People were generally even more miserable than they are here in SoCal, if that’s possible, but there is one thing they DON’T mind doing, and that’s bag their own groceries. It’s assumed that once the clerk starts scanning, you start bagging.

    —There’s a few sad stores I avoid as well….and mostly b/c of disgusting customers. Home of the Fat, Land of the Tatted. Unbelievable how slovenly people have become in just a few decades. I’ll be 61 in a week and weigh what I did when I was 35 (but then again, I hike, bike, have an LA Fitness membership that I actually use, and limit my pizza intake to around once a month.)

    —As to Who’sYer 8itch….it’s a national phenomena, but I tend to think CA still attracts “those types” like a fly to Homeless Harry’s soiled underwear. Hollywood /SoCal and The Industry has a strong pull, especially to the young and dreamy, despite the tarnished glamour.


  3. The one at Woodman and Sherman Way is sadder, IMHO. This one at least is very well stocked with stuff I can’t get at Food 4 Less in Panorama City. Especially during Jewish holidays. Passover is coming, and I will probably have to make a run there to grab stuff like matzoh. The Woodman and Sherman Way Ralphs doesn’t carry it, never mind Food 4 Less. Ralphs unfortunately is way pricier than Food 4 Less, in spite of the fact they are owned by the same company and they use the same loyalty program.


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