Shoppers were scattered through the aisles of a Safeway in southern Fairfax County yesterday when they heard the announcement: "All customers please stand to the side of the store, or come to the front . . . so you're not hit by one of the shopping carts."
Seconds later, Peggy H. Foster of Fairfax dashed down Aisle 4 to the coffee section, sweeping cans of gourmet grounds into her cart and using only a few seconds of her allotted time. Unfazed by a glass jar that shattered on the floor, she sped toward the meat section.
Foster was one of about 500 people who won shopping sprees in a national contest sponsored by Oscar Mayer Foods Corp. This is the second year the company has sponsored the contest. The rules were simple: Attempt to grab up to $1,500 in groceries in seven minutes from the store of your choice.
Foster, 59, a retired government employe with two grown children, picked the Safeway at 5695 Telegraph Rd. where she has shopped since 1959.
She was waved through with three carts overflowing with $1,502.31 in merchandise.
"I just filled out one of those contest forms in the paper," she said. "When I got the registered letter, I couldn't believe that I had won."
Dennis Butler, sales manager for Oscar Mayer, said meat is the most popular item in shopping sprees.
As Foster wheeled toward the meat counter, Ed Brown, the meat manager, cheered her on. "I don't want to see a thing left in here. I want to see it all cleaned out."
Before long she had packed away a $59.97 ham, a $216.82 box of frozen lobster tails and stacks of the store's most succulent meats. Some cuts she flung into the cart like Frisbees.
"I plan to have a cookout," she said later.
When a cart was filled up, Foster raced it to the front of the store, where a contingent of friends, neighbors and grandchildren urged her on.
After her first refill, Foster returned to the meat section for wieners, pizzas and box after box of frozen dinners.
"I emptied my freezer before I came," said Foster.
During one tour of the store she loaded an entire cart with dog food and biscuits for her German shephard "PT," which she says stands for "plenty of trouble." On another sweep down the aisles, she concentrated on paper towels and frozen vegetables.
When the countdown for the final 30 seconds began, Foster was again digging into the displays of meat, seeking out turkeys, Cornish game hens, shrimp and other foods.
She coasted into the checkout counter with five seconds to spare, balancing a second box of frozen lobster tails on top of a mound of sirloin.
A trail of lamb chops, frozen foods and dog biscuits was strewn in her wake.
Out of breath and with sweat dripping from her face, Foster said, "I've never run so much in my life."