Wednesday, January 16, 2013
No, this is not about fast food or obesity, at least not directly. It's about a shopping adventure my wife and I just had. "Go to this place," we were told, "and you will get great deals." Curious beings that we are, we hopped into our Ranger and went for a ride.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw that the place was packed. The store itself was laid out to look like a warehouse; warehouse racks,floors, and walls without any department store frills. And the way the stuff is packaged and sold, the merchandising method must be to get the consumer to buy in bulk, whether he needs all of the product or not. As we walled through the voluminous aisles, my wife and I did some mental math. When we divided the case lot quantity into the price, the individual cost per item was not any cheaper than that same item on our local supermarket's shelf. Supersized! Then we looked at the meat, frozen stuff, fresh fruit and veggies. The price per pound was almost the same as our local supermarket. Again, the packaging was supersized. What really hit us was that to buy anything from this joint, you have to pay for the privilege. They call it "membership."
We chatted with a clerk who had one job; to sell memberships to the "club." Not gym memberships or social club memberships but memberships to this retail chain for the privilege of buying stuff. The basic membership, we were told, was $45.00 per year, but for $100.00, we would get all sorts of bells and whistles, stuff that the poor guy who only forked over $45.00 could not get - like being allowed to come into the store earlier for special sales. We politely smiled, said no thank you, and walked away. Why, we said to each other, should we pay a membership fee to buy stuff we could get elsewhere for the same price, or less? The only thing that came to mind was that people with large a family needed to load up their pantries and freezers. But that didn't sit well with us because we reasoned, the large family can do the same as us. Businesses and restaurants? They get their stuff from wholesalers that specialize in servicing those concerns. Or, do folks like breaking down stuff into smaller containers? Maybe the answer can be found in the psychology of how people are easily led. When it is said long enough, loud enough, and made to look really pretty, many people tend to believe it. Have you seen the ads on the boob tube where one retail giant takes a shopper and compares her bill to what they could have saved at their locations? When a retailer wants to give the potential customer the idea that they can save money by shopping at their stores, they cherry pick items to create that effect, mass market the ruse, and tell the tale over and over again. So, let the buyer beware. As we were leaving, we skirted the check out area and saw two things that made us chuckle. In one line, a rather short woman was holding the largest plastic container of cheese curls we had ever seen; almost half her height. Two aisles over, a man with his belly protruding outside of his shirt, waited patiently in line to pay for his really huge bag of potato chips. Some people make the choice to be supersized.
Copyright @2013 Terry Unger
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