Sliced Bread: Thunder in the Produce Section

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Sliced Bread
English: veggies

Image via Wikipedia

Some inventions are truly great, yet rarely find their ways into the history books.   Sliced bread awards are one way of giving tribute to these often under-appreciated inventions.

One such commonplace invention is the thunder noise commonly found in grocery produce departments.

Grocery stores typically spray vegetables in their produce department with water to keep them looking fresh and moist.   Originally employees would do this manually with hoses, but most large chains have switched to automatic sprinkler or mister systems.   Over-spraying vegetables can result in soggy vegetables and sometimes even rot, but many stores have refined the system to apply the appropriate amount of moisture to each category of produce.   Another problem with these automatic mister systems was that they could sometimes catch the shopper unawares, resulting in a wet consumer.    Some grocery stores employed warning systems, such as a simple bell noise to alert the shopper.    A few would play the song “Singing in the Rain”.    The best system however uses the sound of distant thunder to warn the shopper of the oncoming rainstorm.    It’s simple, elegant and gets the point across.    Many modern Safeways implement this warning system quite nicely and have tweaked the sound effect to be soothing rather than frightening.    It’s difficult to find the origins of this invention, since most historians haven’t payed it much attention, but the Kroger chain seems to have been an early adopter, using the thunder effects since at least the early 90’s.

Not everyone’s supermarket may yet have these systems, but I find them thoroughly enjoyable.   Kudos to the inventor!


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