Unlocking The Secret Of Kroger's Mysterious Trap-Door

Reader Colin was watching his groceries travel along the conveyor belt at the Kroger checkout counter when he noticed some of his fruit snacks suddenly vanish from the line of items. With his interest piqued, Colin looked carefully and discovered a strange hinged door at the end of the belt. Upon making the discovery, the cashier slowly raised the steel flap and discovered Colin’s lost fruit snacks along with a bounty of hapless groceries that had that had been arbitrarily swallowed by this clandestine trap. Because the items had already been scanned and purchased, the cashier offered them to Colin as a prize for unlocking the secret of the mysterious trap-door. Colin’s letter, inside…

Hello,
I had an experience tonight that I thought might help quite a few people save money when they grocery shop, especially nowadays when every dollar counts. I was doing some late-night grocery shopping at my local Kroger Supermarket and as is customary this time of night especially on a Sunday there was nobody around to help the cashier bag my groceries. While my girlfriend stood across from the cashier to pay for our items, I stood at the end of a second conveyor belt that pushes the items from the cashier to a larger area where the items are collected for the bagger.

I noticed, thanks to my vantage point where the bagger would normally be, that after the cashier scanned a handful of packets of flat fruit leathers that as they moved to the end of the conveyor they actually fell in a opening between the belt itself and a stainless guard at the end of the belt. I immediately informed the cashier as to what had happened. I was surprised that the stainless steel piece was actually hinged and even more surprised that when he opened it, there was far more in there than just my few packets of fruit leather. There were at least four large, flat, foil packets of tuna fish filling up the void at the end of the belt. As the cashier was taking the leathers out of the trap, the cashier mentioned that I could have the tuna if I wanted, as it had been paid for.

This left me wondering how may times I’ve lost Kool Aid packets, taco seasoning and many other similarly shaped items in a such fashion. Of course, none of these things are a big monetary loss, but a waste of money all the same. If it happened before an item is scanned, I’d say no big deal, however seeing as how this can happen after the item is paid for, I’d say that savvy consumers should keep an eye on their similarly packaged items and make sure that they don’t literally fall through the cracks!

Sincerely,
colinjay

We’re not sure what such a door is for, but to think that innocent Kool-Aid packets, seasonings and other slim groceries which have already been purchased, are being systematically abducted on a daily basis gives us cause for concern. Are there any shoppers or cashiers out there that can tell us the true purpose of this grocery-eating menace?

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. AD8BC says:

    What’s a fruit leather? Is that like a fruit roll up?

  2. skitzogreg says:

    It is what he says it is. It looks like a piece of leather that is naturally fruit flavored. I wouldn’t go near it.

  3. MikeB says:

    The door is probably there to access the belt for maintainence.

  4. winstonthorne says:

    Fruit leather is tasty and delicious; don’t knock it till ya try it. :D These trap doors are at the end of every bagging conveyor belt I’ve ever seen; they’re designed to prevent small items from jamming the belt.

  5. boandmichele says:

    @AD8BC: psh. they are delicious is what they are.

  6. ArgusRun says:

    @AD8BC: It’s exactly like a fruit roll-up only slightly thicker and packaged flat in a size and shape resembling narrow baseball cards.

    Now I need to stop at whole foods tonight and pick some up.

    Dammit.

  7. SkokieGuy says:

    @AD8BC: No, actually fruit leather is garb worn by fruits (and vegetables) into the S & M lifestyle.

    Fruit leather is often worn for large fruit gatherings where orgies and fetish sex occur. This is commonly called fruit salad. Those in the know say arshmallows may be involved.

    Think of a pear in assless chaps, broccoli in a harness, and bannanas? Don’t even go there!

    And the Sunmaid Raisin gal? A tranny!

  8. Christopher says:

    That’s absolutely ridiculous, especially the tuna packets which are a relatively expensive grocery item.

    Is this something that would be within Weights & Measures’ jurisdiction? If so, I’d recommend alerting your local one, because obviously the cashier and probably the management don’t care about this “flaw.”

  9. MayorBee says:

    Because the items had already been scanned and purchased, the cashier offered them to Colin as a prize for unlocking the secret of the mysterious trap-door.

    I don’t know why, but this had me thinking that the cashier was some sort of pirate. “Arr, you be discovering the secret Kroger hideaway! Have your fill of booty!”

  10. SkokieGuy says:

    Damn, it should read: ‘marshmallows’

  11. RoxnSox says:

    Yes, only a little thicker. My wife buys them by the dozen.

    On a separate note, I would assume the trapdoor is for maintenance of some sort. So you can easily remove kids wearing crocs that have gone for a joyride on the conveyor. Either that or it’s where the cashiers hide their victims…if only the hearts would stop beating…

  12. girly says:

    So it’s only made with the hide of the fruit? Through some fruit-tanning process?

    I love the picture that goes with this story. I could see how a customer could miss the falling groceries, but I’m surprised a cashier wouldn’t know about it.

  13. Elvisisdead says:

    @mbouchard: That’s exactly what it’s for, and for when things like produce bags get stuck in it. You flip up the door, remove the hang up, and get back to work. Well, that’s the way it was explained to me when I was a checker in high school.

  14. billbell48 says:

    Hello everyone…I love this site and this is my first comment here, so please don’t get on me too bad ^_^

    I used to work at Dollar Tree when I first got out of high school and our registers had the same thing on them. I was under the impression that the door was there so items can be retrieved easily that may have fallen through…not to give as a prize to smart customers.

    That being said, we never had an issue like Kroger did. The only thing that we had to pull out was money that customers put on the belt to pay me. Our belts were notorious for motion sensor malfunctions.

  15. MayorBee says:

    @SkokieGuy: I never knew that fruit could have such a sordid lifestyle. I’ll definitely think twice before I toss a salad again. Fruit salad, I mean.

  16. @mbouchard: I think you’re right; however, when I worked in a grocery store for a couple of years, I had a manager who explicitly told us never to lift the door, even when the belt was off. Supposedly it was for safety reasons, which is complete bullshit. He was kind of a dishonest asshole (when I took 2 weeks off to take exams at school, he acted like he didn’t know me when I returned and wouldn’t put me back on the schedule), so I am pretty sure he was just looking to re-shelve whatever ended up under the door.

  17. HighontheHill says:

    My kids love fruit leather. I make it by blending fruit and spreading the resultant fruit paste on the shelves of my dehydrator. Cheap, easy, and nutritious; the store bought stuff likely has preservatives and sugar among other additives.

  18. frari489 says:

    so did you keep the extra food or not???

  19. tomok97 says:

    There has to be some amount of a gap between the belt and the counter or the belt wouldn’t move. The door is there precisely for retrieval of items like kool-aid packs.

    I worked at a grocery store for 10 years. I can’t imagine a checker or bagger wouldn’t know about it unless it was their first day. Typically the checker makes a point to NOT put things like taco seasoning and kool aid packs on the belt because it’s a given that the conveyor will eat them. So either this person was really new or particularly jaded and didn’t care.

  20. You’re with me, fruit leather!

  21. SkokieGuy says:

    Seriously, if the gap is big enough for a tuna packet to slide underneath, that is likely a safety hazard and a child’s fingers could get caught.

    I’d suspect OSHA would regulate this.

  22. The Porkchop Express says:

    @HighontheHill: fruitibu or fruitiboo I don’t remember how it’s spelled, but it is the bomb and natural.

  23. aristan says:

    The door at the end of the belt is so you can do a few things:

    - Have access to the belt if it breaks
    – Pull money out when some idio… nice pleasant customer… throws a $100 bill on a moving surface and then complains that they thought that the presence of $100 bills would somehow stop the moving surface.
    – Get thin things that slide thru out.
    – Vacuum all the dust, dirt, glitter, small animals out
    – Give the ADHD riddled kid who just ate half the candy rack something to slam up and down loudly as mommy asks them if they realize what they are doing

    It’s not some secret hiding place where Kroger steals your groceries back.

    That is, however, what it is for at Kmart.

  24. theblackdog says:

    @SkokieGuy: I’m now picturing little harnesses on the apples I brought home yesterday.

  25. I would be pissed whether it happened to me before or after I paid for it.

    You go to the supermarket, get a bunch of items for a recipe, and then when you get home, the items are not there. that just plain sucks.

  26. cerbie says:

    @AD8BC: Yes.
    [www.stretchislandfruit.com]
    If you’re up to trying some, don’t bother with Tropicana’s.

    The cashier should be passing thin items directly over to be bagged…

  27. psychos says:

    Before nowadays, dollars didn’t count? Hmm.

  28. bonzombiekitty says:

    It’s a door to access the belt for cleaning and getting thin items that fall between the belt and the end of register. Occasionally the hinges get a bit loose open up a bit easier than they should letting in slightly larger items (especially if they’ve been wedged underneath and are being pushed on by the items behind it).

  29. cmdrsass says:

    “especially nowadays when every dollar counts” Why must people include such silliness in every article in an election year. Doesn’t every dollar always count? And if it does, why are you buying fruit leather when you can have real fruit for the same price?

  30. BlackBirdTA says:

    @SkokieGuy: It’s probably there so a child’s fingers don’t get caugtht.

    When my little sister was 2 or 3, she got her finger caught betweeen the belt and metal. I’m not sure what she was doing up there but my mom had a really hard time gettting her out of it. So when I read this article it made me wonder if that was a new feature to prevent this sort of thing from happening. It was also a Kroger where she got her finger caught.

  31. SkokieGuy says:

    @theblackdog: On a related note, those Fruit of the Loom guys sure do seem to be good friends, huh?

  32. SkokieGuy says:

    @BlackBirdTA: Of course it’s a safety device, but a malfunctioning one.

    The belt and flap are not properly aligned if these food items can fit through. The gap should be small enough so that not much more than a paper thickness or two can get underneath.

  33. theblackdog says:

    @SkokieGuy: Very…very good friends.

  34. SkokieGuy says:

    @BlackBirdTA: Any moving belt has this feature, it’s nothing new.

    The fact that food can slip underneath means this safety feature is malfunctioning and needs to be realigned. The gap should be tight enough that only a few pieces of paper can pass underneath.

    This is a hazardous condition that the store needs to correct and it’s probably just simply maintenance and adjustment.

  35. Ryan Duff says:

    @mbouchard: Actually its just a dirt trap. The only reason it’s hinged is so that it can be opened and cleaned out. Some checkout lanes have a fixed threshold at the end of the belt and a drawer that pulls out from where the plastic bags hang. Others have a hinged threshold that just lifts up to clean out the trap.

    Most food items don’t get caught, but the occasional thin packet will. Most of the stores I shop at are just stainless steel from the scanner to the collection area. Its the ones with the second belt you have to worry about.

  36. ShirtNinja says:

    Like so many posters before me, I can confirm that this door is for access to the belt, for either repairs or cleaning.

    The real money (literally) is under the primary belt. I did installations of cash registers for a budget supermarket in Ontario and we had to access these compartments for our installations. You’d find just about anything under there, including coins and bills. A night when my partner and I didn’t make it out of the store with $20 each in loose change was a poor night. One night after we had already picked through, the gentleman who was guarding watching the store grabbed a shop-vac and went through each compartment. They usually get filled with onion skins which are harmless enough, but even after we went through he cleaned up over $50 himself. Mostly pennies and nickels, however.

    Found money is the best money. What better way to buy energy drinks and gas!

  37. Youthier says:

    @winstonthorne: I always think they look delicious but hard on my teeth. Are fruit leathers easy to chew? The leather aspect makes me think no.

    @Ash78: +1

  38. @ShirtNinja: I did this myself. I pulled any paper money out, and emptied the rest into a cardboard box. I lit the box on fire in my firepit, and what was left after the ash blew away was pure dinero. It’s amazing how many people don’t realize that they put money on the belt and it disappeared. They just assume they didn’t put it on.

  39. ajc308 says:

    @AD8BC: Think brokeback mountain

  40. Squot says:

    @tomok97: I worked at Wal-mart (grocery) for about 8 months when I was 18, and I’d never heard of it. O_o

  41. samurailynn says:

    @suburbancowboy: That’s exactly what I was thinking. If I’ve planned my meals and bought all of the ingredients I need, I don’t want to have to go back to the store the next day because something didn’t end up going home with me.

  42. tc4b says:

    @cmdrsass:
    “…in an election year?”

    Why, is it OK to include meaningless bullshit in non-election years?

  43. ShirtNinja says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I’ve honestly never understood why people put their money on the belt. It baffles me, really. I mean, the belt moves and will suck your money in. It’s kind of a common sense thing, isn’t it?

  44. I was just at Kroger’s the other day when I visited my girlfriend (we don’t have any here, but she has them there), but I didn’t notice a door mainly because we used the self-check out line. But next time I’m there I’ll be sure to look for one.

  45. Jabberkaty says:

    Just put your packets and other l’il items on top of your beer. It’s safer there. Unless you WANT to get the prize.

    I was always a little freaked out by the small gap by the conveyor belt – same with the one on the escalator. After my mom told me I could get my foot tangled in it…gah!I have to jump a little bit and my toes feel funny whenever I look at it. They feel funny right now.

  46. freshyill says:

    @winstonthorne: They’re not knocking it, they’re just wondering what the hell it is, and why it has such an unappetizing name.

  47. ironchef says:

    It’s a Dharma station.

  48. @ShirtNinja: Yes, it is. I think the main reason is that it’s in front of them. I was always amazed when they were surprised when this happens. They just put items on this belt so that they can be moved forward, what did they think was going to happen? I will admit the guilty pleasure of watching the stuff like coupons and money creep slowly towards the little gap, and would scan items faster in hopes that I would get a dropper and then have to lift the scale up and “dive” to retrieve it. It was almost like a mini break in my shift.

  49. Sherryness says:

    @SkokieGuy: Now I have an image of the Fruit of the Loom guys wearing fetish wear….

  50. Sherryness says:

    @SkokieGuy: I thought maybe it was supposed to be “arse mallows”

  51. SeanMike says:

    I worked for Kroger’s for about 5 years (high school through college) and we all knew about it.

    Occasionally I had kool-aid or other packets get stuck in the crack next to the door flap but never go down it.

    Maybe the one he hit was just a loose one?

  52. Pro-Pain says:

    My Mother would notice a dust bunny missing from her grocery bag. The go back to the store and give somebody fifty different kinds of hell. Thank God she still likes ME…

  53. elislider says:

    the consumerist reworded description is misleading. it says “fruit snacks” disappeared, and im thinking “i think i know what this hinge thing is, but how does it swallow an entire box of fruit snacks?”. Then I see the person bought the flat fruit leather packages which indeed would probably get sucked under the flap. they used to have conveyor belts like that at the Thriftway near my house, because the conveyor belt assembly could physically move in and out to let the checker to their post.

  54. ahwannabe says:

    @Youthier: Fruit leather is easier to chew than whole dehydrated fruit, because it’s pre-pulverized.

  55. ninjatoddler says:

    @AD8BC: Fruit leather is great but not on my list anymore thanks to my tight monthly budget of 150 for groceries.

    That mysterious trap door needs to be investigated by cops if you ask me. Either that or the pair from X-Files will do.

  56. TheNerd says:

    I used to work at a Krogar, and they told me the trap doors (there are many along the line) are for maintanence.

  57. stopxstart says:

    The trap doors are a trash catch. There’s a tray at the end of the checkout lane, underneath the belt that is removable that catches all of the trash/pieces of produce/various other dust/dirt that happens to make it’s way onto the belt.

    Trust me, I’ve worked there for years.

  58. The door is to rip you off – all companies are trying to take your money and give you nothing in return. Come on, Consumerists, have we learned nothing?

    In seriousness, it’s to cover the rolling mechanism on the belt and allow access. There has to be space between the metal and the belt, so the door is supposed to lay right on top of the belt. It’s hinged in case something does get wedged in, you can get it out.

  59. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    I work at a grocery store. Those doors are there for two things….
    1. Maintanence
    2. Getting the things that get caught between the belt and the counter.
    After all, there has to be a gap where the belt ends. If you look, there is actually a little door on the main belt too. However much less gets sucked down there because of the electric eyes. But we have it there for the dodos who put money and coupons on the belt. Don’t do that.

  60. mbz32190 says:

    At the grocery store I work at, there is a small drawer that pulls out under the check writing platform (so on the customer’s side) that collects the dirt, onion peels, etc. I have noticed, however, the entire scanner platform lifts out and can usually find tons of old coupons that got sucked under the whole counter.

  61. Elvisisdead says:

    @SeanMike:

    “Maybe the one he hit was just a loose one? “

    Sounds like college.

  62. alfundo says:

    HEY!!! give me my tuna back!

  63. JanetCarol says:

    I wish I had found the door and secret food stash. Maybe it is the store managers way of saving non perishables for his bomb shelter.

  64. mcjake says:

    The door is probably for the sake of cleaning these items out. Because I’m sure it’s inevitable that small packets will fall through the gap above the belt.

  65. gte910h says:

    They are for getting the stuff out that falls through the hole at the end of the belt. If there was no trapdoor, it would fill up.

    –Michael

  66. bookling says:

    There is one of these at every register I’ve ever worked at or seen, and the cashier should be noticing items slipping through the crack. The crack needs to be there so that the belt can keep moving smoothly.

    However, I won’t pretend that I didn’t get a kick out of it when I told a customer to please not place their coupon/cash/credit card on the belt, and then see them freak out when it disappeared underneath and they thought it was gone forever. (Until I stopped the belt and retrieved it for them.)

  67. I always thought that little door was in case you left money on the conveyor belt….??

  68. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @SkokieGuy: “Think of a pear in assless chaps”

    ALL CHAPS ARE ASSLESS!

  69. SinisterMatt says:

    The grocery store I worked at had these. They are for maintenance, mostly. I wouldn’t want anything found down there, though. If I recall it could get pretty gross down there.

    Cheers!

  70. pal003 says:

    Jeesh! Now I have to look in another place for my groceries! I can imagine the cashiers’ stash when I realized a few times that I left without, because the cashier was bagging some of my items out of sight and didn’t put the bag up on the counter or in my cart before I left.

    Now I’m gonna go searching everywhere!

  71. edosan says:

    @aaron8301: Yeah, that phrase gets me too. Chaps with an ass are otherwise known as “pants.”

  72. Squeaks says:

    I almost lost a package of bacon to one of those trap doors at Star Market. You just have to stay aware when you’re shopping!

  73. AcidReign says:

        This story is very reminiscent of the Walmart “spin the bag-rack” game. You know, the one where they try to make sure you leave one of your sacks of groceries in the store, and don’t know till you get home!

  74. humphrmi says:

    @aaron8301: @edosan: You’re probably not wrong, but I, personally, would not let it be publicly known that I know that fact.

  75. Bryan_Maloney says:

    The trap door is there specifically to allow recovery of small items that fall through the gap between the belt and the platform. The cashier should have been paying better attention.

  76. Channing says:

    Oh man, exciting.

  77. Phantom_Photon says:

    The “door” is for cleaning out the crap that makes it’s way down to the end of the belt… dust, particles, food bits, etc…

  78. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @AD8BC:

    It’s what the chaps for people in San Francisco are made out of…