Tilted Windmills: The superstore — our national shrine
by Mike McLellan
Jan 18, 2013 | 5148 views | 10 10 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Going to a big box store to shop is like having a colonoscopy to some and like visiting Disneyworld to others.

Many people will not consent to either and just stay home.

For those of us who find it an adventure, we are drawn to the stores as if they are foreign lands. There is a passport needed, clearing customs, seeing new sights and returning with souvenirs. We come home somewhat tired, but also satisfied that we survived.

The big-box superstores are symbols that size does matter, and that buying is a sport in America. Those who do not care to win at consuming stay home, while those who believe that more is better go out, card in hand, to spend.

Take toilet paper. You stand looking at the mountain of converted-forest product, thinking about where you will store the vast number of rolls that come in a package. You wonder if, by buying that quantity, you are making a bet on your life expectancy.

Those who enjoy supporting the gross domestic product appear to be in a festive mood having come to this massive place to snack their way around, from one sample giver to another. You can have a full meal without spending a cent.You almost wonder if you can convince your spouse that shopping is a date.

It has all the makings of a party. There are bright lights, lots of people and you are surrounded by food. There are even parlor games, like Race for the Meat Department and Shopping Cart Tag.

“Hi. Would you like to try our new potato chips and chipotle dip?” the lady in the shower cap purrs.

“No, thank you,” you mutter. “My mother always taught me not to eat between meals. Hmmm, chipotle dip? I guess it won’t hurt, and mom will never know.”

It is all very tempting. Besides, samples don’t have calories, do they? Free means both no cost and no food value, right?

Just around the corner is a nice person giving away orange chicken. You have to be open to new experiences, and orange chicken, while not new, is different from most home cooking.

The next aisle provides the opportunity to taste cocktail wieners in a luscious sauce. The server hawks it like it was filet mignon, but he could not oversell it. It is delicious.

The final bend brings you to blueberry cobbler — and you almost have a balanced meal.

When you have checked out and piled the bounty in the trunk of your car, there is not only a sense of satisfaction, but no need for dinner.

Arriving home, you fill your storage to overflowing and feel proud that you have provisions to carry you through the next end-of-the-world prediction. You have done your part to support the economy. You have struck a blow for capitalism.

And, if anyone gets the stomach flu, you have the Charmin to carry you through.

• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.
Comments
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backinblack
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January 22, 2013
Sneaky, Two words to start, Occum's Razor. I politely disagree as a lot of the problems or issues we face as humans can be fixed with nothing more than discipline so to me that is in no way an oversimplification of a solution.

Overweight? Maybe it's a genetic or health related issue but 99% of the time it's due to a lack of discipline. Add disciplined eating & working out, weight problem fixed. Simple - unless of course one lacks guess what? Discipline.

Problem getting suckered by a sales person? Simple solution, restraint, which of course relates directly to discipline. Walk away, think about it, go back in a day or two. Never want to buy more than the other party wants to sell.

Actually when you get right down to it life in many ways is nowhere near as complicated than what the weak minded make it out to be - by the way I'm not directing that at you, it's just a generalization.
Ornley_Gumfudgen
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January 22, 2013
BIB

An frum th generalization perspective I totally agree with ya.

With discipline in mine I also consider whair it is ya frequently find these "sales persons?"

In yer upscale grocery stores who are basically caterin ta customers lookin fer some new ideas pertainin ta home entertainment food items frequently found on th table durin holidays like Thanksgivin, Christmas an Easter or a Football playoff party. Generally these customers are willin ta spend more on such thangs an th offerin of samples is a good way fer em ta make up thair minds about th product.

But buy an large it's in CostCo or other big box grocery store outlet. These Membership stores use ta be fer small commercial businesses an such but quickly

Cont
Ornley_Gumfudgen
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January 22, 2013
Cont

But quickly saw th economical advantage by offerin non-commercial type of customers th advantage of buyin large quantities at a substantially reduced cost but still way above wholesale prices.

If ya pay attention many of th food items can be purchased frum yer grocery for a little more an ya don't have ta ponder whair yer gonna keep th overage till ya use it up or throw it out cus it went bad.

When I had a complete family th big box stores did save me some money an we went through things quickly enough that storage wasn't a big problem.

Now I am retired an livin single places like Cost-Co are actually more expensive when ya consider ya gotta store all of it until ya use it up an buyin it more as ya need it isn't all that much more.

Seems thair are two types of people who sample foods in a Cost-Co store. First are genuine buyers interested in new products. Don't have a problem with these. Others though are what I call th grazers. Thair not thair fer th purpose of samplin a new food product with th intention of a purchase but are rather thair cus it's free. In fact, if ya hit a Cost-Co at th right time ya can easily get a free seven course meal fer absolutely nothin. Th only effort ya gotta make is ta walk frum one sales person ta another an patiently wait thair fer food ta be offered ya much th same as a baby bird waits fer th parent bird ta feed it.

Sad ta say taday I see less actual shoppers an more of th grazers.

In this observation it seems yer on th right track with yer comment on "restraint" rather than a pushy sales person in a sinister plot ta get people ta purchase something that they really don't need ta buy.

Th tact of offerin samples in a free enterprise marketplace though must work, despite th grazers, or retailers wouldn't go ta th expense.

An while ya just might have it all figured out as ta what ya should an wanna eat, I don't thank that anyone would want someone else ta choose thair diet fer em 100% of th time. Might go fer a food fanatic health nut, of which I have known some. But honestly most people wouldn't like it an many of th food fanatic health nuts don't really appear ta be all that healthy in th long run.

It has a lot ta do with freedom of choice an with that freedom comes a responsibility that should cause people ta exercise some restraint an dicipline.

One BigMac, super sized with fries an a milkshake ain't gonna hurt most people even if ya eat it once a month. But if ya eat it three times a day all year, it's probably gonna kill ya.

Common sense, personal accountability, responsibility, discipline, all of these thangs don't appear ta be politically correct philosophies in our society taday. An people wonder why thangs get messed up so quickly?
Urmomma
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January 19, 2013
And???
backinblack
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January 19, 2013
Sneaky, C'mon, sleazy? It's called marketing and all one has to do is show a little something called discipline by not taking the samples, I never do. Complaining about the hand outs is akin to complaining about a McDonalds opening by a school. It's not the company, it's not those handing out samples, it's we the people who allow ourselves to be manipulated.

Let me know next time someone actually forces you to take a handout or forces a kid to walk into a Mcdonalds, then maybe I'll believe it's something more sinister than a lack of discipline on the part of we the people.

Ornley_Gumfudgen
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January 19, 2013
BIB

Not ta mention th folks handin out them samples are employed ta do it an generally thair employment ain't th store personnel but rather are through a contractor that has a contract with th store an th makers of th item ta do that type of marketing.

No one forces yer arm ta take what they offer fer free.

I agree, th problems are with th people who take th samples, not th people offerin em.
Sneaky
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January 21, 2013
Characterizing it as a simple lack of discipline on the part of some people is an oversimplification. Its like saying that teen pregnancy only occurs due to the fact that some girls cant keep their legs shut. Ignoring the male that must be involved there are a variety of factors at play, including availability of accurate sex education, availability and cost of birth control, etc..

Similarly, our population's tendency to purchase whatever crap is put in front of them is due to a complex mix of factors. The customers, the drones handing out the samples and the companies making them all play a role. The social interaction that takes place in giving out the samples has been designed to trigger an automatic social response that has been pounded into most folks heads since birth. Specifically, if someone gives you something, you are supposed to do something for them in return. In this case, buy their stuff.

While you and I may decline there are plenty of folks that dont. Most are probably not aware that something like 30% of them will end up purchasing something far more expensive in response to the "free" sample.
Sneaky
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January 21, 2013
I am not suggesting such practices be banned or anything insane like that. I would just rather not see people teaching their kids that what is important in this case is that they say thank you. A far more helpful lesson would be to decline the sample and explain to the kids the marketing trickery involved.

Yes, I would call pretty much all marketers sleazy. I have always thought of marketing people as one step above viruses.

I am one of the people who would rather get a colonoscopy than go shopping. If they could just put the stuff on the shelf, price it reasonably every day (rather than use gimmicky sales, coupons, memberships, etc) and not put ads in front of me all the time then I might enjoy the experience.
Sneaky
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January 18, 2013
I am not so fond of the food sample people. They are not giving you those because they are generous or like you. You are being given the food because it has been demostrated that you are more likely to buy something of theirs when they do that. Its a sleazy attempt to manipulate you. They are taking advantage of what is called the "rule of reciprocity." There is an excellent book, called "Influence", about this sort of thing. It is a worthwhile read.

Malia
|
January 18, 2013
I enjoy your letters... thanks.

Just want to take this opportunity to remind people to use good manners by actually thanking those people that are offering food samples. All too often I see adults, and then of course the children of theirs, never say please or thank you.


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