Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I'd rather freelance and shop without a list

By Dick Hirsch
Most people go to the supermarket to shop. The majority consider it a chore. Others clearly enjoy the shopping, walking the aisles and stopping to select an item.
I’m more of a shopping hobbyist. I like shopping as long as I don’t have a list. I realize that sounds peculiar, but I become extremely nervous when given a list of items. When presented with such a document, I invariably discover that most of the products are secreted on shelves far removed from the preceding item on the list and often in what appear to be the most obscure locations. No, for me the use of a list is very intimidating. It takes all the joy out of a trip to the market.
I would prefer freelancing. In using that system---I’m not really sure I should call it a system---I treat the store like a smorgasbord. I go wheeling up this aisle and down the next, surveying the inviting array of products, considering all the factors that are involved in making a purchase, and then making an on the spot decision about what to buy and what to leave behind for the next shopper.
I realize this is an approach that would never be endorsed by The Ladies Home Journal or any reasonable person responsible for the weekly shopping. It is a style that would probably be applauded by the supermarket management, because it plays directly into their clever marketing schemes.
They can be very sly. They arrange the store to merchandise certain items, often higher profit items, placing them in strategic locations, high visibility spots where they are certain to be noticed. They will probably be ignored by those dedicated people working from a shopping list, but they may appeal to a freelancer such as myself. So up and down I go, scanning the horizon for items of interest.
Every shopper has a favorite aisle. The produce is always a high traffic area. So are the meat department, and the place where they have all those naughty salted snacks like potato chips, pretzels and peanuts.
For me, perhaps the most compelling area in the store is the cereal aisle. I’ve been in supermarkets near and far, and the cereal aisle is always chock full of bright and spectacular packages, each laden with healthy contents that are supposed to be good for you. Vitamins and minerals abound, and the aisle stretches on and on. The prices are interesting, too, because it always seems kind of expensive for boxes that are half filled with air.
One of the things I’ve noticed about the cereal aisle is that more reading takes place there than any other place in the store. You are free to challenge that statement if your store has a major newspaper and magazine department, offering chairs for browsers. With that possible exception, I’ve found a tremendous amount of reading taking place in the cereal aisle. Often, those aisles are so crowded with people reading the cereal boxes that traffic comes to a complete stop.
I believe the primary reason for this involves the issue of fiber. Don’t laugh, but when I was growing up, fiber was discussed in terms of socks or underwear, not cereal. In those days there were occasional whispers about roughage or bulk, and what became known as “regularity,” but few people paid serious attention, and cereal was sold primarily based on taste. Some, such as Wheaties, raised the possibility of stardom on the athletic fields, but that claim was never substantiated.
People are reading all the boxes much more than years ago. It happens in other aisles, too, but there is so much more to read on the cereal boxes. One of my cereals claims that a mere half cup---hardly enough to satisfy the morning munchies of a working stiff---in fact provides 14 grams of fiber, which is 57 percent of the daily requirement. Wow! And it totals only 60 calories and zero milligrams of cholesterol.
Printed on the box is a guide to the presence of fiber in other foods which, if ingested daily, will help you achieve your fiber goal. That is the kind of information you cannot readily find in such a handy and succinct presentation. You could search for an hour or more at the library and never find that information, not to mention the intriguing sidelights on thiamin and riboflavin.
Yes, the boxes are truly educational. Meanwhile, there is also a school of thought that claims each box actually costs more than the contents.



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