The other section hell bent on homogenising our daily lives are the industrialists who think nothing of turning high streets into a thing of the past in preference of the out of town retail park option. Such places tend to be synonymous with the same shop in the same place stocking the same goods. Naturally they do not do this for the good of the consumer, there are tangible business reasons for such a policy. Distribution is generally a lot better with the retail parks being on main roads often near arterial dual carriageways, ring roads and motorways, this means large lorries can easily access and thus maximise the loads that can be carried at any one time reducing the companies costs. In addition to this the transportation costs are borne by the employees and the customers rather than companies having to obtain parking in areas where property costs are high as they may have done previously. Customers are wooed by the prospect of a number of larger shops with greater selection in the one area, meals are catered for and this is all part of ensuring that people “make a day of it”

The effects of such a change are more far-reaching than we might have thought. It is indisputable that modern life has little or no community element to it and the shopping experience is another area where the previously more social way of doing things is replaced by a more insulat one. Most people will travel to retail parks by car rather than by communal public transport like buses. The act of going round these huge multiplexes is also an insular one, faceless sales assistants will serve you one week and may have gone back to college the next. There is little or no continuity of service because individualism is difficult to control and therefore largely discouraged. The days of knowing shopkeepers by name and having “the usual” lined up upon arrival are rapidly receding. We are rapidly losing the interaction that comes with day to day conversation with people we do not know, banter if you like is one of the greatest sufferers from this paradigm shift. Children and adults alike are no longer in situations where they would banter and are starting to lose the ability to do so. The traditional areas of shops and churches and pokey little local pubs and small intimate restaurants are replaced by supermarkets, large chain bars and restaurants designed to pack ’em in and turn ’em round asap. Is this part of the problem of lack of respect that the young now show to those around them? It’s possible, it is obviously not the sole reason and yet it cannot surely be underestimated that the decimation of communal society is a cause for the disassociation of many.

We are all under the impression that we are, at least financially, getting a good deal out of this, after all why would we have left the high street shops if not because supermarkets were much cheaper? To disprove this theory one only needs return to the markets and buy fresh seasonal food to find out how much cheaper it can be. When I returned to London at Christmas I went down one such a market to find that I was able to avail of a bag of bananas for £1 (Supermarket price approx. £1.50-£2), 8 mangoes £2 (supermarket price £1.50 each), 3 small pineapples £1 (supermarket price medium pineapple £1.50 each), 8 romero sweet peppers £1 (supermarket £1.50 for pack of 3), 12 orange capsicum £1 (supermarket £0.49p each), one string of garlic approx 40 cloves £1 (supermarket £1.50 for bag of 3 cloves), a bag of about 100 hot green chili peppers £1 (supermarket £0.50 packet of 4). Now in many respects this was more than I could eat, I gave a load of the chilis away and still have some left, the garlic is now sprouting and I’ve been using stacks of it, the peppers were used in pasta sauces and jambalaya and the quality of all the items I purchased was excellent.

One must look very critically at the supermarket phenomenon and just how they are managing to pervade every form of retail. The loss leader strategy is a well-known one and one the supermarkets use to good effect. By selling milk at less than the cost of producing it and selling cheap bread they entice people in for staple foods, and once you’re in there they’ve got you because like the retail park concept you may have travelled a little further, you’re going to make the most of it and get your weekly shop done at the same time and this “convenience” is the trap. Certain key items are designed to be cheap so as not to make you think whilst other prices designed to be less neticable are comparatively more expensive as I have just illustrated. Interestingly though you quite often get what you pay for, supermarket food often goes off very quickly, partially because it tends to be far less fresh and also in the case of things like bread because things have been added to make it do so. After all the sooner you run out of bread and milk the sooner you’ll be back for another crack.

Just as we cannot go on with our current energy policy, health policy, we cannot go on with this insular existence. We inhabit large “open plan” offices where people feel exposed and vulnerable and go introspective rather than being able to build a rapport with those around them. We sit in little metal boxes trying to get home and shouting at those in front and those at the sides for obstructing our progress. At the weekend we go to retail parks and buy the same items from the same shops regardless of georgraphy. It is a difficult trap not to fall into. The modern way of life is fast-paced and furious not to mention expensive, therefore time-saving and money-saving measures are tempting and almost seem to be the only way.

We all do it, for example spending time talking to people on the internet, where we may in fact know people better than many we know in real life. That wouldn’t be a problem as a compliment to the real world but as a replacement it is worrying. The social exclusion and detachment this forms perpetuates the problem. People may be being increasingly radicalised in their own homes but we wouldn’t know many of them will never come out.

Song Of The Day ~ Del Amitri – Nothing Ever Happens

Original Comments:


john made this comment,
All very true Baron. Until recently we had a local ‘community’ store which helped the many old folk around here by making up small orders and delivering them for free. It closed down due to a bloody Tesco Express opening in the high street. I expect others will follow.
comment added :: 15th February 2006, 16:00 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com
april made this comment,
Yes, RedBaron, it is all true. But why bemoan the fact? It is what it is. Change is a constant. If you are unhappy with the large shops, don’t frequent them. There will always be small shops to frequent, you just have to look harder for them. And there are good people everywhere, there always will be, even in the big chain stores, you just have to engage them; a smile usually works.
-Redbaron responds – Hello April, nice to see you again. You are right in part, at the moment there exists a choice but it is becoming at the expense of diversity. The trend is that small shops will cease to exist in many areas especially those where the population density is large enough to merit malls and superstores. Small shops cannot aford to specialist in the range they used to be able to because often the trade is now more sporadic. Furthermore whilst there may be good people in supermarkets they have no influence over the corporate policy. In a small shop if you would like them to tailor-make something to your specifications and requirements they are more able to accomodate. I’ve lived in the US where there was 1 Dairy Mart 3 miles away and the mall 6 miles away. The residential close I lived in had no community at all, when and where would people have any chance to meet?-

comment added :: 7th May 2006, 00:53 GMT+01
april made this comment,
Hi Red Baron, nice to be here. Yes, I agree with you about the workers having no influence over corporate policy. However, if one supermarket doesn’t cater to their customers, won’t they lose business? After all, they are in the business of making money, albeit not much (supermarkets don’t work on a very high markup, I understand) and if the consumer goes elsewhere, they lose money. Corporate policy being what it is, I think the consumer has more power now to get what they want, not less. Corporations are so afraid of lawsuits in the States, for instance, at one of the department stores where I support clients (I work with people with developmental disabilities) store management and staff cannot even stop people from shoplifting!! They can see them do it, yet cannot even speak to them about it for fear of a lawsuit. But I digress. RedBaron, people live by a pattern. What I mean is, we are creatures of habit, going to the same places day in and day out. The grocer, the coffee shop, or perhaps the tea shoppe where you live. Don’t you run into those same people daily? I know I do. I have absolutely no trouble engaging people in conversation. I do see what you’re talking about however. It bugs the crap out of me when someone is walking toward me and they refuse to make eye contact, or don’t return a smile, or indicate in some way that we have shared the same space, but I think that is just selfish ignorance, which exists, but not in as great numbers as some think. Anyway…now I’m just babbling, trying to convince you that life is good…
-Redbaron responds- April I think you are right in theory but I also think you may underestimate the tactics of the supermarkets. I don’t know about the US but over here they have many very clever ways of doing things, it is precisely our ‘creature of habit’ syndrome that can be the problem. Supermarkets work on a small markup in certain areas and even a loss leader in others like milk. However their offers and loyalty cards and extra points etc. are designed to have us buy what they want. If this tactic were unsucessfull then they would be losing money and not reporting huge profits as they are. They rely on us being used to doing a weekly shop in one place and trying to cut down on the need to go to multiple places for specifics. Because of their immense buying power they can buy cheap and sell cheap.

As for people, is it any wonder that in our isolationist world people are retreating into their shells more and more, they have been bred to do so by the constant media message of fear of violence etc. People remain in a heightened state of alert and that’s how the state likes it because it makes them maleable.

Life is good for some people now I do not doubt this, I just think it should and could be good for so many more people than the current system allows.-

comment added :: 10th May 2006, 03:13 GMT+01

Advertisements