Where is the olive oil?

I was at Massanutten Resort with some friends this weekend and we decided to cook. Three of us piled in the car and headed for Kroger. One of my tasks was to find olive oil for salad dressing. This seemingly easy task actually took quite a while. I tried to find olive oil based on what I associate with it:

  • Italian. The store didn’t have an obvious Italian section.
  • Balsamic vinegar. I found shelf after shelf of balsamic vinegar, but no olive oil.
  • Olives. Lots of bottles of olives (presumably swimming in their oil), but again no olive oil.
  • Expensive stuff. I managed to find a small bottle of organic olive oil in the expensive stuff section. But I didn’t want to pay $8.49 for something that was going to be mixed in with salad dressing.
  • Condiments. This was a long shot, but I figured there was a slight chance they shelved it near the ketchup and mustard. No luck.

I gave up on my olive oil quest and decided to move to another item on my list — beer. As I was coming out of the beer aisle, I happened to catch olive oil out of the corner of my eye.


It was in a section labeled Dry Beans / Mexican Foods / Canned Vegetables / Pork & Beans. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.

If I were serious about finding olive oil I could’ve walked every aisle of the store methodically. (In database terms, a table scan.) Or, I could have asked an employee. Finding one might take longer than walking the entire store; and even after finding an employee, he might just end up walking the store with me. If I hadn’t stumbled upon it, I would have just walked out without it rather than spend 30 minutes walking the aisles.

In the search world, we don’t have to worry about learning someone else’s organizational scheme to find things. Why can’t we have a terminal in the grocery store that lets us do the same? Type in “olive oil” and you see that it’s in aisle 3. If they didn’t sell it, I would know that, too.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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3 Responses to Where is the olive oil?

  1. Doris says:

    I heard a radio ad for some new (to me) area supermarket. Sounded like a Whole Foods-Wegmans hybrid. But what sounded cool was that there was promise of a cart-attached way to home in on the product you’re looking for (sounded like some sort of PDA?). Anyway, I’ll have to keep my ears open to figure out which store this was so I can check it out …

    I will note, however, that sometimes, even knowing which aisle something is in doesn’t help you find it. You need to know where in the shelf spacing to look and whereabouts within the aisle itself.

  2. Doris says:

    Wait, I found it:

    If the Web site is any indicator, shopping will not be “a breeze.” It won’t even let me enter a Zip code to check for locations. And, it’s a Food Lion business. Hmm.

  3. Pingback: Target’s mobile apps hit the bullseye with store integration « reDesign mobile

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