While it’s certainly true that we’ve seen fictional depictions of toppling pyramids of packages (usually played for laughs), I wondered about the frequency of such “epic fails” in the real world of grocery store merchandising.
Here now are three vintage press clippings in chronological order:
1. New York Times, 1905:
“DOGFIGHT UPSETS STORE.
Two Women Faint in Wrecked Grocery—Police Kill Animals.”
Not a happy article for dog-lovers, but it shows that pyramids of cans were used in the early 1900s. (And although the police still shoot dogs, from time to time—(usually pit bulls)—it seems to me that women today are fainting less frequently.)
2. Saint Petersburg Independent, 1941:
“Mr. Caldwell’s Ire Flares as Jelly Pyramid Tumbles”
This story in the clipping below also involved the police, although no animals were harmed and the tone of the reporting is tongue-in-cheek.
According to writer, Bill Wiley, the customer took a jar from the bottom of the pyramid, rather than the top—which does seem sort of like an implausible TV trope. Do people actually do this?
(One more press clipping, after the fold…)
3. The Warsaw Times, 1955 (Warsaw, Indiana):
“Knocking Down Cans Put Junior in the Soup”
From a psychological parenting column: an anecdote about a boy knocking over a pyramid of soup cans while running down the aisles in the supermarket.
Is it a true story or a just hypothetical, invented by the writer to create a teaching moment?
I remember embarrassing my mother in a department store once as a child, by pushing a button at the bottom of a moving escalator. The escalator suddenly stopped, forcing its passenger to walk the rest of the way down on foot.
Bad, but not as bad as knocking over a pyramid of soup cans, I don’t think.
See also: Packaging Disaster(s)