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November 30, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Grocery aisle sign

Gadgets and cake mixesJason Kottke points out:

The problem is that the store has alphabetized the categories, when a better grouping (like by type) would have made it easier to scan. Right now it looks like gadgets are for good eatin'!


assuming u know what everything is called, alphabetizing is ok. but when they use terms like gadgets, things get confusing.

Posted by: gmangw at November 30, 2005 09:16 AM

I wonders if you can get gadget mix...

Posted by: Bob at November 30, 2005 10:38 AM

The grocery stores in my area (Canada, basically - it's been this way every where I've noticed, across the country) put the lists of aisle items on the sign in order of how they appear in the aisle. Because of this, the sign at one end of the aisle will have the items in the opposite order from the other end of the aisle. Do other areas not do this?

Also, to the two previous posters: It's a grocery store. Presumably, "gadgets" refers to non-food items used for cooking, such as pots, pans, and utensils. Seems pretty obvious to me. Everything else in the store will be food, unless it's got a pharmacy.

Posted by: anitsirK at November 30, 2005 11:16 AM

I think of electronics when I think of Gadgets. Things like tire gauges, light bulbs, adapters, clocks and batteries. They seem to be in most groceries stores I go to. Never a good selection and always at high prices. I think Cooking Utensils would be under “Cooking Utensils”

Posted by: emanon at November 30, 2005 12:20 PM

"Gadgets" is broken. But I guess eventually you just learn where everything is, just like you would otherwise. Has anybody else had this problem with the yellow pages? I mean, I want to go out one night while staying in town on business. So I look in the yellow pages under 'bars', 'clubs', 'nightclubs', etc. Turns out all of these are listed under 'lounges', like whoever organized the listing still lives in the 1940's.

Posted by: Ron Mexico at November 30, 2005 12:33 PM

this is so not broken, whoever set up the mapping of the store truly understood the mind of the pothead, you can buy your brownie mix and your bong in the same isle, so you dont forget... this is a thorough store-

Posted by: smartypants at November 30, 2005 01:20 PM

what store is it

Posted by: unknown at November 30, 2005 01:26 PM

When I think of the sort of gadgets I'd buy in a grocery store, I think of things I'd use for... baking.

Oh, hey, look at that.

Posted by: rich at November 30, 2005 01:54 PM

OK, I really don't see anything broken here. I'm not confused that "gadgets" is a food item of some sort. As long as the listing is reasonably comprehensive, it's fine.

Now, what is broken are groceries that list *different* items at each end of the aisle - in other words, they just list what's on that end of the aisle, and the far sign lists what's on that end of the aisle, instead of listing everything. The far signs are often nearly unreadable, and it totally ignores the typical shopping behavior of going back and forth thorough aisles rather than running down the end of all, and then down the other end of the aisles.

Posted by: Steve J at November 30, 2005 02:22 PM

I've no problem with "gadgets". To be honest, a grocery store is one of the few places it *does* make sense, since there are a very few things grocery-related that would fall into this category. Whereas, at the local "Best Buy" this would be a lousy label.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at November 30, 2005 02:23 PM

Drug references aside, this is still not broken.

Stores want to make themselves accessible to the greatest number of customers. They assume that those who go to a grocery store have probably gone to a grocery store before. They may strive for a minimalist look in signage, alphabetizing and/or showing things in the order that they are found in an aisle. They may classify light bulbs, clocks and batteries as "gadgets" - certainly "gadgets" in a list of four items is better than "light bulbs," "clocks" and "batteries" in a list of ten or twenty items. Going to a grocery store looking for tire gauges and adapters would be broken.

Could it be improved? Sure, especially as a matter of opinion. But is it broken? No.

Posted by: Pat at November 30, 2005 02:39 PM

At first I thought this post was trying to say that the whole store was alphabetized by aisle, like everything with an 'a' would be in aisle 1, etc., and that would just be ridiculous!! But then I realized that all the different items in each aisle are simply listed in alphabetical order on the sign. I think this is BRILLIANT!! SO not broken!! I shop at a larger grocery store, and sometimes there are around 10 things on the sign, just in random order. You have to stand there like an idiot reading each sign at the 30+ aisles to find what you need, instead of simply scanning them. This system would RULE!

Posted by: ambrocked at November 30, 2005 03:06 PM

hmmm, i dont see a problem with the list being alpabetized. that would be very convenient for me,

but using 'gadgets' seems VERY vague,especially in a large store

Posted by: freedomlinux at November 30, 2005 04:24 PM

anitsirK wrote, "The grocery stores in my area ... put the lists of aisle items on the sign in order of how they appear in the aisle."

That's BRILLIANT! Even better would be signs with two columns, with each column showing what was on *that*side* of the aisle, in the order you'd encounter it.

This would make shopping SO much easier, especially for those of us whose spouses do most of the marketing and we just need to duck in every now and then for an item or ten.

Of course, signage can only help a bad layout so much. My local grocery has milk in one aisle, butter in a second, and cheese in a third.

Posted by: stoo at December 1, 2005 06:00 AM

Me, I just wish they'd put freakin' maps in the stores. Hello? Where will I find the lightbulbs? Must I wander the entire length of the store?

I guess because the only people maps help are those who are after just a few items.

Posted by: DaveC426913 at December 1, 2005 09:17 AM

It's broken on purpose. Well, it's confusing. You should read Henry Petroski's "Small Things Considered" for an overkill description of market layouts, but in a nutshell, markets want to expose you to the most products as possible. Getting you to wander around the entire store is ideal for them since you might see something you would otherwise not buy.

Obvious really. Tradeoffs and compromises between convenience for shoppers and sales for markets.

Posted by: Eddie at December 1, 2005 11:52 AM

stoo wrote: "Even better would be signs with two columns, with each column showing what was on *that*side* of the aisle, in the order you'd encounter it."

Actually, that's how I normally see it done. I just didn't feel like explaining it. ;) Zhers, Loblaws, the Superstore, and Sobeys all do it this way. I can't say I've been a (especially chain) grocery store where I've noticed that they didn't do it this way.

Posted by: anitsirK at December 1, 2005 11:58 AM

Um... yeah, the sign lists 4 catagories. If you can't sort a list like that, then maybe you shouldn't be shopping alone.

On a slightly less sarcastic note: It's easier to find things by group than alphabetical order?!? Does that mean the phone book would be easier to use if it were grouped by heritage?

While looking in the dictionary, you can find baking under B. Sorry for the convenience. Perhaps it should be under C, for cooking techniques.

Posted by: god at December 2, 2005 08:36 PM

"what store is it

Posted by: unknown at Nov 30, 2005 1:26:23 PM "

Looks like the Shaw's logo.

Posted by: Firas at December 4, 2005 07:57 PM

I think its deeper than that. Is this person saying that it goes from Gadgets right to Pancake Mixes and there is nothing in the store between G and P or is it just alphabetized for the aisle?

Posted by: Jason at December 5, 2005 02:10 PM

hey god, good point about the phone book... i like that!!

Posted by: ambrocked at December 6, 2005 01:53 PM

Not broken. A spatula is a kitchen gadget. So is a pepper mill. So are any of the thousands of other small utensils and similar items that you use in your kitchen. Any store that has a large housewares department will have a specific gadgets aisle, so having part of an aisle in a grocery store is perfectly reasonable. Perhaps "Housewares" would have been a better term, but "Gadgets" is perfectly reasonable.

As to the order, it could be a simple coincidence-- as someone else pointed out, the list is usually sorted by aisle order, so it could have been a coincidence that the aisle is sorted alphabetically. But if not, alphabetical sorting is just fine. I mean you have a list of FOUR items. Can you really not sort them in your mind?

Posted by: Mike at December 6, 2005 10:30 PM

Look. We would need to know more information inorder to determine how broken this is. It would make more sense to group things based on how they are stored (refridgerated, frozen, hot things) and consumed. Putting the eggs next to eggplants makes little sense, as does putting cooking equipment in one aisle and cleaning supplies on the other side of the store.

If anyone knows anyone who lays out grocery stores, ask them what they think.

Posted by: Sido at December 7, 2005 05:22 PM

Isn't cake mix a baking need?

Posted by: Jim C at December 9, 2005 05:20 PM

The grocery stores in my area DELIBERATELY make stuff hard to find. They completely rearrange the isles every couple of weeks. It drives me insane.

Posted by: Me at December 15, 2005 10:32 PM

My guess is that it's mostly men who don't cook, and thus don't shop very often, who find this confusing. "Gadgets" = "Kitchen Gadgets," like melon ballers, utensils, timers, etc. Those who think "gadgets" is strictly an electronic term are narrow-minded and live under a rock.

Posted by: men at February 2, 2006 01:49 PM

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