Zehrs Tillsonburg employees were blasting colourful confetti into the air celebrating a grocery giveaway of up to $250 for everyone in the checkout lines at 2:30 p.m.
It was Customer Appreciation Day on Friday, May 4 at Zehrs, located on Simcoe Street on the outskirts of Tillsonburg, which included free cake, cookies and coffee for all customers, and the big 'Market Moment.'
"Market Moments is a program with 'surprise and delight' moments for the customers," said Zehrs Tillsonburg manager Melissa Cole. "We've had eight different Market Moments, but this is the first time we've been able to give away the big free groceries to our shoppers here. It's been at other stores before."
Zehrs Tillsonburg earned the grocery giveaway based on a random draw, said Cole.
"Very lucky," she smiled. "We're so excited - and it's been hard because we've known for a while but we haven't been able to share it with anybody up until just before we did it."
The strategic timing of the giveaway was made at the corporate level - the decision was not made at the local store.
"Totally random," said Cole, noting they actually tried to get as many people in line as they could. "We even sent out some of our staff to reel people into line."
At the designated time, barricades were placed at the end of each checkout line and people were given consent forms to fill out at the tills.
Cole did not have an exact number of customers who received free groceries, but estimated it to be about 30-40 families.
"We'll find out a tally at the end of the day. I know other stores have done it and they've given away $8,000 worth of groceries."
Walter and Doris Fowler from Tillsonburg saw the customer appreciation table near the entrance on their way in, but did not stop for the free cookies, cake or coffee. But they were in line for the grocery giveaway, and very much appreciated the $150-160 gift.
"We had no idea this was on," said Doris.
"If I had known, I would have emptied the store... I would have had 15 carts full," Walter joked.
"There's a $250 limit," Doris smiled.
Richard and Erin Costa, also from Tillsonburg, left the store Friday with two shopping carts - full and near-full - of groceries, but not just for their own family.
"This is for my dad," said Erin. "One's for my dad, one's ours."
"So we did the shopping for both and today we lucked out," said Richard. "We both got free groceries, so it's pretty good. Perfect timing - I love it all and appreciate everything."
Richard's groceries came to $256.31, so he paid the $6.31 excess.
"Still had to pay six bucks, but you know what, six bucks for a whole cart full of groceries... and nothing for that one," he said, nodding toward Erin's father's cart, which came to $154.
Their reaction was one of surprise when Cole made the Market Moments announcement - they had just moved up to one of the tills.
"Very surprised, very nice," Erin nodded. "We come here every week, so it was a nice surprise."
"We come all the time and this is our favourite grocery store," said Richard.
"Like a lot of other corporate community partners, they do an excellent job reaching out and supporting initiatives - especially the youth, the Helping Hand Food Bank and others, and promoting things that are valuable in the region, and of course, in Tillsonburg as well," said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar, who was invited to view Friday's customer appreciation celebration. "We are very appreciative what Zehrs and our other community partners do on a regular basis."