I Haven’t Shopped at Kroger in Three Months and It’s the Most Active Thing I’ve Ever Done

Probably wouldn’t want to shop with either of these people

It’s April 1. And it’s been three months since I’ve shopped at my local Kroger supermarket. I have to admit, I’m really proud.

Let me explain: On January 1, 2016, the state of Texas, in which I live, put into effect HB 910, a bill that legalizes open carry of handguns. The bill, signed into law by Governor Greg Abbot, allows handgun owners with concealed carry permits to walk about in public spaces guns a blazin’. Or, more specifically, in a handgun belt or shoulder holster. The caveat to this law is that it allows businesses to opt out of the open carry policy, so long as they post a sign on the door alerting patrons that the open carrying of guns is verboten.

On the first of this year lists upon Tweets upon Facebook posts filled my various feeds detailing the businesses that would and would not allow open carry. For the most part, the haunts that I frequent aren’t cool with the Yosemite Sams flaunting their goods. But for the most part, I stay home because I’m old and tired. As such, on a whole, this didn’t affect me.

For the most part… with the exception of the supermarket chain Kroger, an establishment that I frequent, on a good week twice, and on a bad week five times (how do people remember sugar ever?!). All of a sudden HB 910 became a part of my (almost) everyday.

Before I go further let me say this: I am not at all opposed to guns, owners of guns or the Second Amendment. I understand the historical significance behind gun ownership and the need to defend your property and rights as you see fit. My husband owns a shotgun and shoots at non-living things sometimes with friends. I have even gone with him to shoot non-living things, and, while I wasn’t a big fan of the experience, I defend to the death your right to blah blah blah. You get my point. All of that being said, I don’t like guns, per se. I think they are weird and scary, but you like them and I like you (maybe, right, we haven’t met probably but we’re cool) and so I am fine with all that. Except. When I’m not.

Prior to this passing, concealed carry was legal in the state of Texas, meaning that I have been walking through my Kroger supermarket and people have been packing heat and I was never the wiser. I never knew the various degrees of heat being packed, and I had been happy to live in the cold, un-heated, dark. So when the open carry law went into effect, I was confused as to its necessity (you already have the ability to carry your gun, why do you need to show us all?). But more than confusion, I was upset.

As mentioned, I am a regular at the Kroger down the street. More often than not, I am shopping with my two sons, who happen to be two themselves. They LOVE shopping at the supermarket; someone is bound to give them a free cookie or I am bound to start a bag of unwashed grapes going on. We usually open at least five different snacks as we peruse the aisles, and it’s rare that we leave the grocery store without opening a Hot Wheels package that is immediately discarded for a new book that is tossed aside for a bag of pretzels. We are buddies with the fellas who check us out and the ladies who bag the groceries. Our tri-weekly trips to the supermarket are a combination of heaven and hell — for me mostly hell which explains the opening of several packages of snacks prior to payment. It’s cool; I always pay. I think.

But for the most part, my kids and I enjoy grocery shopping. I especially enjoy making shopping lists such as this one:

Things I like to do at the grocery store by Abby Koenig.

1. Chat it up with the lady giving away free wine samples and act like I’m going to buy said bottle of wine (“Wow on sale for only $20! I’ll take two,” I say as I put the bottle behind the $5 wine in a box I replace it with).

2. Squeeze fruit with my glasses on in an attempt to appear fruit literate.

3. Find amazing deals on dented cans of string beans in the discount bin that I will never eat yet feel compelled to purchase.

4. Debate fat/calorie content of “skinny” popcorns for multiple minutes.

5. Accidentally “borrow” soft drinks and samples of bulk nuts.

Things I don’t like to do at the grocery store by Abby Koenig.

1. See people carrying guns.

2. Have my children see people carrying guns.

My aversion to guns at the supermarket comes down, really, to one big freaking deal: I don’t want my kids to see people carrying around guns in a supermarket because I think it sets the stage for a world that 1. I don’t think we live in, and 2. if we do live in that world, I don’t want my kids to know just yet. I don’t want my two-year old sons to think we need to carry guns to our local grocery store.

We are lucky to reside in a country where we don’t live in daily fear. Sure, there are always threats, but unlike other countries we rarely go to the playground worried that someone with a bomb strapped to their chest is just waiting for the perfect entrance.

The same goes for the supermarket; I see no need to openly carry a gun to the supermarket. I see no need for open carry in supermarkets because I don’t want my children to think that we need guns in supermarkets because, and I repeat, in the USA, we don’t.

In all my days shopping at my local Kroger, or other supermarkets for that matter, I have never felt scared. Aside for exorbitant prices on whole milk and that fake ice cream I’m really into, nothing at the grocers has ever made me take pause. And for that matter, despite some animosity over shopping cart etiquette, I have never felt the need to carry a weapon on my person as I shop. Oh, believe me, I hate that lady who takes up an entire aisle comparing the sodium content of competing soups, but I have never wanted to shoot her (mostly because I am her). I don’t pretend to have all the statistics on shootings in supermarkets, but a simple Google search for such numbers proves a challenge. I have, like you, read statistics on the percentage of armed citizens who have stopped a robbery or public shooting because of their accoutrement, and the percentages are abysmally low.

Because of these reasons, I decided that as of January 1, I would no longer shop at Kroger. I sent Kroger an email to air my grievances and they responded with an “Oh yeah? We don’t care.” I mean, like, they didn’t respond at all. And why should they? They are one of the largest supermarket chains in the country, and I am one person. One person can’t do much, so I’ve been told for most of my life. Or maybe one person can?

On average I spend $100 per week on groceries. In a year of shopping, I might spend $5,200, more or less. To a multi-million (billion?) dollar company $5,200 ain’t squat. But, again, I am just one person. If you — yeah, you — also stopped shopping there and you also spend on average $5,200, well, now we are at $10,000. Let’s, for the sake of easy to calculate math, say that 10 of us stopped shopping at Kroger — only ten people — Kroger would lose roughly $52,000 dollars; that’s kind of a lot of money for only 10 people to impact; 10 more and we’ve got $100,000. Huh.

Let’s pretend you are with me and you think, “Yep, I also find guns unnecessary in the same joint that I purchase ready-made potato salad and Totinos Pizza Rolls, but Abby (and you can call me by my first name), but Abby, it’s just too much work NOT to go to Kroger.”

Dear friend, I agree. I agree on levels that you have no idea. I agree that not going to Kroger sucks. It sucks when it is the only supermarket in your entire neighborhood. Not going sucks when you pass it literally everyday on your way to and from home. It sucks not going when you know they have everything you want and more (all the quick sale/clearance baked goods I am missing!). It sucks not to go to Kroger when you have two toddlers who are challenging in every facet of their being and going those extra miles to the other grocery store means not only are they that much crankier, hungrier, more annoying and less cute, it also means that you will have to go to two grocery stores now because the crappy one closer by only has the sugary yogurt squirt things and, while you would suck it up and buy them, your kids’ delicate pallet demands the slightly less sugary yogurt squirt things that are only available at the fancy supermarket (also available at Kroger).

Not going to Kroger sucks so much for me. But I haven’t shopped at Kroger in three months. Because going to Kroger sucks that much more.

I mean in no way to share this story to prop myself up or hear my own soapbox echo. I am telling you this because it is the first time in my life that I have ever stood up for something that I believed in and I am genuinely surprised at myself. And I am proud.

It’s not easy; in fact, it’s a pain in the ass. But I think it’s worth it. I have always considered myself a doer. I donate money to charities, I have worked for non-profits, I “like” Facebook posts that I think might affect change, I sign online petitions and Tweet that I have done so. I have run in races that raise money for kids who have developmental disabilities and dogs who need homes. I have even volunteered my free time to deliver turkeys to people who like to eat turkey on holidays that require turkey eating.

But that was easy stuff. For me. Driving the extra five miles to the other grocery store is not. It’s inconvenient. But fighting for something you believe in can be incredibly inconvenient; it’s also worth it.

Again, I tell you this not to toot any horns that I own. I tell you this to ask you a favor: Next time you see me, please ask me if I am still not shopping at Kroger and if I look down, embarrassed because I gave in to my own passivity, please call me out on it. Make me feel bad. Remind me of this essay. And I hope you will tell me all about the inconvenient thing that you didn’t feel like standing up for but you did anyway because you knew it was the right thing to do.