No, I’m not writing about organic, fair trade, or locally produced foods. (Although the better selection of organic foods at my favorite grocery store IS part of the reason I shop there.) I’m writing about the three criteria by which most people choose where they buy groceries: price, location, and personal comfort.
I live in a small town, and we have four large grocery stores: Grocery Outlet, Shop Smart, Ray’s Food Place, and Safeway. Their prices vary from very inexpensive to expensive. Their locations vary (though Ray’s and Safeway are almost next door to each other), so their convenience is based on how close they are to where a person lives (and whether that person is on foot, a bicycle, uses public transportation, or has their own vehicle).
Though location can mean a lot, I suspect people chose where to shop based on price and personal comfort. When you are broke, price is all important, and much can be tolerated for the sake of the budget. Been there, done that. But personal comfort often comes from the surroundings (clean, wide aisles, well-lighted), from the attitude of employees, AND from how much the other shoppers are like you. This last item is more important than you may realize. I occasionally shop at a CoOp in a larger town, and it took me almost a year to feel comfortable there, because it seemed so many of the shoppers gave off a “holier than thou” attitude. In our little community, I finally switched stores (and paid slightly more) because I was tired of listening to mothers yelling at (and sometimes slapping) their children in public. The deciding event was listening to a man and woman argue over whose turn it was to buy the beer. The psychosocial cost was greater than the few dollars I saved.
This is on my mind because of a small thing that happened a couple evenings ago. My husband has been in law enforcement in this area for about 29 years, so he knows a lot of people, some of whom are former “clients.” He generally gets along even with them, but it always makes it interesting when we shop together. Three former clients were in line behind us the last time we bought groceries, and we had some light conversation with them. But when I got home and unpacked the groceries, there was fresh gum stuck to two of the packages. A minor thing, but disconcerting. My personal comfort was challenged. I LIKE shopping at this store — the prices are okay, and their selection of organic items is good (the organic produce is better than at the more expensive store). But . . .
So, give some thought to where YOU shop. Why do you shop there? What do you look for in a grocery store? And how big is personal comfort in your decision?