Dear Grocery Stores, Stop It With the Stickers and Balloons

Dear Grocery Store,

First off, I'd like to say thank you for existing. I appreciate all the work you do to source food items from all over the country. I can't thank you enough for always having brownies and cold cuts in stock. You make life worth living.

I have one request: please stop offering my kids balloons and stickers. It's making my life hell.

Despite everything you do to make grocery shopping as painless as possible, I have a hard enough time at grocery stores as it is. The crowds in the aisles make me feel emotional, and I have to disassociate to make it through the parking lot without having a full panic attack. Add to this the fact that I have to make sure Darla doesn't do cartwheels in the aisle and that Jude doesn't wander off to do his own grocery shopping, and I'm in hell.

Then, there's the checkout. I'm not great at chitchat. All small talk is an opportunity for me to say something to a stranger that I will ultimately regret.

"Oh, you're getting the birthday cake popcorn," the checkout person may say.

"Yeah," I'll say. "It's just Saturdays do this to me, you know? I wake up in a pit of despair, and I find myself clawing my way to the end of the day. I want to stick my head in a hole and die. "

Right when I'm crawling my way to the finish line, your cashiers issue one final "fuck you."

"You've done such a great job, today," the cashier will say to my kids, both of who just spent the past 30 minutes bitching, tripping me in the aisles, and dropping full cartons of eggs on the floor. "Would you like some stickers?"

Their faces light up, and they snatch the stickers out of the cashiers' hands. I plaster a big old grin on my face.

"Oh, that's just the nicest," I say through gritted teeth. "Say thank you, kids."

I leave the store muttering more things about how amazing it is that both of my kids now both have stickers in an attempt to suppress my screams of anguish.

Once we're in the car, the kids spend the car ride home pulling stickers off the sheet and will either throw them on the floor or plaster them to the window. If they cashier gave them a balloon, they immediately pop it and cry for a new one for the next fifteen hours.

I get why you give my kids stickers. You think it's a personal touch that will make me feel more connected to your chain. It's your way of harkening back to simpler times where towns had 20 residence, and everyone would hang out at the grocery store and gossip.

I, also, used to be a child who loved stickers and balloons for god knows what reason, so I guess I see why you chose these items to give to my kids. I was so obsessed with stickers that I even turned to a life of crime to get my fix. Unfortunately, this crime took place in a grocery store (so for that, I apologize to you).

I was six, and my mom had taken me with her to do the weekly grocery shopping trip. My mom's shopping cart was overwhelmed by groceries, with multiple loaves of bread, cold cuts, and milk threatening to spill over onto the floor. I watched her load all the food onto the conveyer belt of the checkout. My mom sighed her way through the process of unloading groceries; the cart never seemed to actually empty.

When I grew bored of watching her, I turned my attention to the temptation items that you only find at the checkout. I scanned the candy and magazines; my heart leaped as my sight settled on the packets of collectible She-Rah stickers. I had almost forgotten about my weekly allowance of stickers.

I grabbed a few packets and snuck them onto the conveyer belt while my mom's back was turned. When she turned back around holding the tenth gallon of milk from the cart, she looked from the stickers to me.

"Elizabeth, take those off there," she said. "You're only allowed one."

"I know, but I just think I could use a few more this week," I said.

She stared at me until I took the stickers off the conveyer belt. Instead of putting them back on the shelf, I hid them in my sleeves. Later that afternoon, when my mom saw my impossibly high stack of stickers, she paused for a minute.

"Why do you have so many stickers?" She asked.

"It was just a really full pack this week," I said placing my hands over the stack.

She looked at me. I knew that she knew that was bullshit. She knew that I knew she wasn't going to make me take them back since there was no way she was driving back to the grocery store to pay for the stickers. She pretended to believe me. I pretended she did believe me. My love of stickers was so profound that I was willing to sacrifice my innocence and my relationship with my mom.

So, grocery store, I get it. Kids love stickers. But my kids aren't paying for these damn groceries. I am. And your stickers and balloons are making my life so hard that I might have to take my business elsewhere if you don't stop it.