Do you ever relate to the moment in a movie when a nonhuman (eg. the toys from Toy Story) enters a supermarket or a warehouse-style store and takes in the strange layout, music, announcements, and the humans walking around with large carts piled with material goods?
I most certainly have and more and more, as I question the purchasing choices that we (both on the individual and societal scale) make, the more alien these spaces feel to me. Walking through the Costcos or the Wal-Marts of the country (and I only use those specific names because they are so iconic and relatable to most North Americans) makes me wonder on so many different levels. I wonder where that food (or other product) came from, how far it was transported, under what conditions they were produced and harvested, how the farmers and workers live and are treated. I wonder if people realize that not everything is a good deal at these places, though it looks and feels as though everything is a good deal, and that they often end up spending more money than they planned when they see things that they think they need (but really don’t) or buy things in larger bulks than they need to. I think of how sterile the environment looks with the unnaturally bright white lighting and overall layout of the store, and how the layout has been carefully orchestrated to get the most money out of unsuspecting wallets…I mean, customers. I wonder about how the store selected the products that it would shelve and how it selected the products to feature, either on sale or on the ends of aisles or on the desirable middle shelves versus the top or bottom shelves.
I also question the types of goods that are sold in stores these days. There seems to be a product for absolutely every reason and sometimes for reasons that you didn’t know needed an associated product. It’s cool that people continue to create solutions to things but when consumers just consume the resulting products left, right, and centre without really considering whether or not they need the item over time (not just for the one use that’s at the forefront of their mind at the time of purchase), that’s a problem. Marketing, being ‘cool’, fitting in, or keeping up with the neighbors…it isn’t as though we are making choices to purchase these things in vacuums. It doesn’t occur to some that they’re kinda being manipulated into buying more than they need, or can afford (which is way worse).
Anyways, I feel the same way as a nonhuman whenever I walk into these large scale stores. Amazed but at the same time disturbed by what I’m seeing.