You spend the majority of your shopping hours at the grocery store. Rummaging through boxes of Kraft Dinner and fresh heads of lettuce. Squeezing the tomatoes and smelling the pineapples just to make sure you pick the best produce available. Even if it’s from Mexico. We spend countless minutes waiting impatiently in line as the condescending ding sends us through. We line up our items and a computer gives us a price; we work hard days and long nights for it. All while the five hundred billion dollar company gets to sit back and relax. Relying on the consumer to set their tables.
With all the time – and money – we give to the supermarket it’s no surprise that they know us pretty well. Thanks to heat censored cameras, grocery stores follow you down each aisle. Watching what you pick and what you stay away from. They pay attention to how you move around the store, how often you double back, and if you avoid some sections completely. Stop n’ Shop in the States gives their customers handheld devices with LCD screens; they scan each item they buy and when a deal relative to their purchases come up the computer lets them know. Plus it stores all the data within itself and logs you in by using your Stop n’ Shop Club Card. The self-check outs also keep tabs on your purchases with or without a club card.
Walking into a Safeway is like having a little slice of grocery heaven in your pocket. It’s just so pretty! The dim light that cascades across each tender piece of fruit and falls along the side of each carrot. The way the dark wood floors and shelving create a warm ambiance as it leads you in the whimsical maze. To the bakery where the bread begs for your hands to press into its freshly made fluff. Past the plump poultry to the variety of spices and exotic sauces waiting to drip from your meat. Oh my word, is it getting hot in here or is it just me? But that’s how they want you to feel when they’re sitting up in their corporate meetings, deciding whether Febreeze should go with laundry soap or toilet paper. It’s all planned, devised, and set into motion to optimise mass consumption.
They set the produce under darkened lights so that the color looks fuller and more plump. Convincing you it’s worth the extra money and time. Milk, eggs, and bread are placed at the back of the store so that you have to walk past everything else before your essentials are even met. Supermarkets want you to think that you’re getting a better price with them, so they’ll reduce the cost of things like cereals, detergents, or bulk items such as nuts and rice. You’ll assume that all the store’s prices are equally fair and reasonably cheaper than that of another supermarket. However, you do know what they say when you assume.. and so the rest of groceries, produce, and meat supplied by the same price-reduced store is actually more expensive (if not the same cost, Superstore and PriceMart are actually similar). Supermarket shelving – something that is fought over – used to stretch from end to end but the manufacturer’s didn’t want people feeling trapped so they broke the aisles in half which left an escape route. This is also a technique (well I mean, if you can call it a technique) used by Walmart and Toys R Us. Clever product placement occurs throughout the store and companies spend a fortune fighting over shelving space. There’s actually a device that creates a three dimensional image of a soap bottle, developes a plastic prototype (how many does a company go through, wasting plastic, before they agree on one?) that is then picked apart and scrutinized until the right container is designed and produced.
So perhaps it’s not a conspiracy, but it’s certainly a manipulation that continually takes money from our wallets. It’s just one more corporation that has us wrapped around its finger and you know what, we love it. We thrive on it and they thrive on us. By consuming their products, especially on the basis that we do, we provide their income, their healthcare, their dental plans, and their vacations. Because we need to eat, they get to eat. Yet we’re not even eating locally – my onions are coming from Brazil, my peppers are coming from Mexico, and my squash is coming from Indonesia. Although my food finally matches my clothes, the supermarket is just another cash grab we have to adhere to. Falling evermore into the oregano trap.