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Field Trip To Murder Kroger

As customers, we are always right. And when we feel the need to take a business down a peg, we have no reservations about giving the company a more suitable nickname. The naming of Mickey D's or Skinemax may be the brainchild of one person, but clearly enough like-minded consumers shared similar experiences to make sure that the names stuck.

At the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Ponce de Leon Place is a grocery store that residents of Atlanta affectionately call Murder Kroger. The nickname is a result of the quality of the store and the kind of people who loiter in the vicinity. Oh, and also because a fucking dead body was found :

"The body of a man was found late Friday night in a car parked in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store located in the 700 block of Ponce De Leon, authorities said. A passerby noticed a strong odor coming from the car and alerted police. Police did not release the man's identity." (AJC: Aug. 4, 2002)

Elizabeth Williams Faas lived in the vicinity at the time, working as a journalist. She recalls, "I remember pulling into the back entrance of the store after work one night and being instantly overwhelmed by the stench of what I assumed had to have been a dumpster full of expired meat. You can imagine how horrified I was when I saw the headline Man Found Dead in Kroger Parking Lot move across the AP wire. I had no idea that other people had begun referring to this particular store as the Murder Kroger, because I thought friends and I had coined this nickname back in 2002."

The surrounding area has seen massive gentrification since the Olympics in 1996, but the intersection still boasts an abundance of hookers, homeless, muggers, druggies, stabbers, and any combination in between.

Atlanta is a Kroger town. Of course there are other grocery store chains in the city, but Kroger has the most reach; the most infestation, if you will. Kroger stores in Atlanta typically provide a pleasant shopping experience. Murder Kroger, however, is the black sheep of the family. Simply put, it's a crap shoot when it comes to a safe and pleasant shopping experience. Two music venues, a handful of bars, and a nearby liquor store ensure that late night shoppers at Kroger open a worm hole to an alternate universe. One where everyone is drunk, panhandling or talking to a box of Hot Pockets.

You might think that the only problems are found outside of the store. Surely the inside of Murder Kroger provides a clean and logical shopping experience, right? Let me answer that with the following story. During a recent trip to Murder Kroger, a cardboard box labeled Broccoli with Cheese Sauce sat by itself in the aisle of the freezer section. I thought it was strange that the individual packages inside of the box didn't show any condensation, so I touched one. It was warm. I hope that nobody restocked the broccoli back in the freezer, but anybody who has shopped at Murder Kroger knows too well where those packages ended up.

Patti and I used to live near Murder Kroger, so it was our primary grocery store for a couple of years. To say that the store's priorities are out of whack is an understatement. In the meat section, little emphasis is given to traditional proteins (e.g. steaks, seafood). In their place are mountains of pig snouts, pig feet, and pig intestines. The biggest slap in the face is the empty refrigerator space that surrounds Pig Mountain. The unused space could house more kinds of meat, but that would go against the store's mission to alienate as many customers as possible.

It's like Murder Kroger is a fuck-up whose parents disowned him long ago and now he's left to fend for himself. Almost no thought is given to the arrangement of the products.

Trying to find popcorn? It's in the bread section.

Can't locate the kettle chips on a shelf? That's because Murder Kroger stuffs them in a shopping cart with a sign: 2 for $6.00.

And in the dairy section, a refrigerated receptacle contains hundreds of shredded cheese packages piled as tall as the unit. On the other side of the island is a mish-mash of single products that have no business being together (a carton of milk, a roll of dough, hot dogs, some popsicles).

I have experienced very pleasant staff at Murder Kroger, most notably in the day time. A sweet older woman knew my face and kept up with my shopping habits. That kind of hospitality is invaluable. But when the sun goes down, the second shift begins and that's when the chaos and soul sucking ensues.

The Grand Canyon is considered beautiful, so why not a parking lot full of crater-sized potholes? On the night these photos were taken, I witnessed a cashier have a mini breakdown. She supervised four self checkout registers, two of which did not accept cash and one that did not accept debit cards. This created a logistical problem in that customers who were next in line may not have been able to use the next available machine depending on his or her method of payment. The attendant yelled, “Next.” I said, "I'm paying with cash. I can't use that machine." I motioned to the woman in line behind me so that she could use the register. The girl asked the attendant if the machine accepted cash, and that's when the attendant lost her shit. She yelled, "I am one person. Why can't you people figure out that I am one person handling four machines at once?" Kroger needs to fix those registers before the cashier murders a customer.

Despite its flaws, Murder Kroger is part of what gives Downtown Atlanta its unpredictable character. We tolerate it, because it's ours. I'd even go so far as to say that Murder Kroger needs to be preserved, much like Graceland, so that future generations can witness a train wreck frozen in time. Heaven forbid that Murder Kroger ever clean up its act, because the number of good stories that Atlantans tell each other will surely plummet. "I shopped at Sellout Kroger. I found the popcorn right away."

Issue #44: Putting my Plug degree to work
Issue #44