There's always a catch. Always.

It was just another day at the grocery store when I heard the distinctive screech of the intercom and a crackly voice call out: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please! If you will kindly make your way to the back of the produce section at the end of aisle 17, we are about to hand out free gifts to our shoppers!”

This was unexpected. Is this what they do at Ralph’s every Wednesday night? I was slightly perturbed that perhaps I had been missing out on years’ worth of complimentary food. Like any other red-blooded American, I loves me some free stuff, so I instantly U-turned my way to aisle 17.

I didn’t have far to go, but by the time I reached the produce section, at least a dozen other carts and their eager owners were already waiting for their loot. I also noticed that I was a good 30 years younger than the other shoppers, and FYI, one sweet white-haired granny cut me off as she adroitly maneuvered her cart directly in front of the display counter.

Given that the display was rocking some serious movie premiere spotlights, I suddenly felt ill at ease regarding what was about to proceed. All I wanted was a free sample of whatever new flavored water I assumed they were trying to hype. What was with all the glitz and glamour? Must everything be for show in LA? That’s when the display lady made her entrance.

Display lady had a smile on her face that was much too joyous for 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night at Ralph’s. No way was she that happy to see us. Also, she didn’t have on a Ralph’s uniform, which further worried me. I began to suspect that my desire to get something for nothing was going to cost me.

“How is everybody doing tonight?”

The crowd gave a cool response, which only made her repeat her question. To avoid having to fake nice a third time, we mustered a decent yet insincere “good!”

Display lady then took out from behind the display counter a cantaloupe that had undergone some sort of Frankenstein-esque lobotomy. Though still intact, it had a series of V-shaped incisions along its exterior. This was our free gift? Produce rife with salmonella?

Confirming my worst fears, display lady then asked, “Who here loves fresh fruit?” I, for one, did not raise my hand, but several of my compatriots with no regard for their own safety did. That’s when display lady again surprised us with a monstrous creation from behind her counter of horrors. This time it was an oversized cucumber surgically reworked to resemble Jaws. I was equal parts awed by her cutting skills and terrified of what she would pull out next. I also came to the sad realization that I was just another sucker who was about to sit through this lady’s spiel to hock goods that were obviously not going to be free.

Remember the Ginsu knife? Or really I should put it this way: “Remember the Ginsu knife?” Because that was the next question out of her mouth. Seriously? That’s what this whole elaborate setup was for? I actually got duped into watching a Ginsu knife demonstration?

Apparently the company that made Ginsu knives has since retired the name. Why, I don’t know, since you’d think trading off such a famous brand would be a no-brainer. Regardless, now they’re calling their new knife the Master Cut 2. But because no one knows what the hell a Master Cut 2 is, they have to trap poor, naïve grocery shoppers who want free sh*t with their bait and switch tactics.

So for the next 15 minutes, I stood there in agony as display lady showed our group how the Master Cut 2 can cut through tomatoes, two-by-fours, and hammers. I swear. The woman made us watch as she sliced into a metal hammer head. Impressive. Most impressive. But I still ain’t gonna pay $29.99 for it.

I finally made my getaway when she asked who of our group liked BBQed steak. Given that I don’t eat beef, I feigned disgust at her obvious lack of respect for vegetarians and stormed away.

But to her credit, I did get my free stuff. It was a plastic thingamajig that apparently was responsible for the handiwork on that poor cantaloupe. So now I can perform my own deranged experiments on fruit. Totally worth the half-hour of my life that I will never get back.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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