Shopping at the Pig (Classification Essay)

A Model Classification Essay (Revised)

shopping at the pig
(Rubberball/Mike Kemp/Getty Images)

The following classification essay is a revised version of "Types of Shoppers" (Draft Classification Essay). Read (and enjoy) this student composition, and then respond to the discussion questions at the end. See if you can identify the numerous changes that have been made in this revision, and consider the extent to which the essay has been improved as a result.


Shopping at the Pig

(revised classification essay)

Working part-time as a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly has given me a great opportunity to observe human behavior. Sometimes I think of the shoppers as white rats in a lab experiment, and the aisles as a maze designed by a psychologist. Most of the rats--customers, I mean--follow a routine pattern, strolling up and down the aisles, checking through my chute, and then escaping through the exit hatch. But not everyone is so dependable. My research has revealed three distinct types of abnormal customer: the amnesiac, the super shopper, and the dawdler.

The amnesiac stops his car in the loading zone, leaves the engine running with the keys locked inside, and tries to enter the store by crashing into the exit door. After dusting himself off and slipping through the entrance, he grabs a cart and begins hurtling down the aisles against the normal flow of traffic. "Peaches or potatoes?" he mutters to himself.

"Doughnuts or Ding Dongs?" He has, of course, left his shopping list at home. When he finally makes it to my register and starts unloading the cart, he suddenly remembers the jug of milk or the loaf of bread that brought him here in the first place. He then resumes his race around the store while the customers waiting in line begin to grumble, tap their feet, and rattle the rack of Stars and National Enquirers.

Inevitably, of course, when it comes time to pay for the goods, the amnesiac discovers that he has left his wallet at home. Without saying a word, I void his receipt and lend him a coat hanger.

The super shopper has been planning her assault for days. She enters the store with a pocketbook on her arm, a coupon purse around her neck, a calculator in her pocket, and in her hand a shopping list that makes the Dewey Decimal System look downright chaotic. With military-like efficiency, she trundles her cart from one sale item to another, carefully organizing them in her basket by size, weight, and shape. Rarely, however, does she make it through the store without a breakdown: either the Charmin has been moved to a different shelf or else some poor stock clerk has forgotten to replenish a supply of Cool Ranch Doritos. Usually the manager has to be called in to settle her down and set her back on course. Then, when she reaches my lane, she begins barking orders: "Double bag the Creamsicles! Twelve-cents off on Jell-O! Don't put the grapes in with the Nutty Ho Hos!" In the meantime, she glares at the prices blinking on the register, just waiting to pounce on me for making an error. If my total doesn't match the one on her calculator, she insists on a complete recount.

Sometimes I make up the difference myself just to get her out of the store.

The dawdler wanders in as if he had been looking for the library and arrived here by mistake. He tours the aisles slowly, pausing often to read a box of Froot Loops, squeeze a dinner roll, or sniff one of those lemon-scented rubber blobs of room freshener. However, he seldom ends up buying many of the things he picks up. When he finally strolls up to the checkout, the dawdler likes to settle in for a chat--about my hair style, his bunions, or that nice Yanni tune tinkling out of the ceiling speakers. Although the people waiting behind him in line are fuming, I try to be friendly, knowing that this must be the major social event of the dawdler's week.

To be truthful, most of the people who pass through my checkout are quietly efficient and polite--and a little boring.

Though the abnormal ones may try my patience, they also help to make a dull job more interesting. So, for your own amusement keep an eye out for these characters the next time you pull into the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly: a fellow trying to unlock his car with a coat hanger, a woman fussing at the bag boy for squashing a grape, and a sweet old man who may try to tell you about the arthritis in his knees or the expiration date on his buttermilk.


Questions for Discussion

  1. Define each of the following words as they are used in this essay: dawdler, hurtling, void, trundles, replenish.
  2. Does the introduction attract your interest while clearly suggesting the purpose and direction of the essay? Explain your answer.
  3. Point out how the writer uses specific details and examples to distinguish each of the characters and maintain our interest.
  4. Has the writer drawn clear distinctions between the different character types she describes? Explain your response.
  5. Is the concluding paragraph effective? Explain why or why not.
  6. Offer an overall evaluation of the essay, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses.


Also see: Evaluating Classification Plans.