Monday, March 26, 2007

Bacon of the Soul

Weaverluke's post on the role of supermarkets in training us and our identity has got me thinking a little. It strikes me that the supermarket - hypermarket, egomart, timeandspacemall, whatever it is - has a pretty odd place in our lives.

On the one hand, it's obviously all about the convenience. People pay more to go to one place (although they may believe they're paying less) and get things over and done with.

But at the same time, the supermarket is a collapsing of social classes, a strange prism through which we seek and consume status. You walk in, and the shelves sit there, offering (thinks you) their wares, tempting you with their cheshire-cat "best value!" prominence. "There are so many products. I can choose between so many products." This is what your brain talks to itself.

But the choice is not which products to buy. No, the choice is what level of products to buy. Are you poor, and opt reluctantly for the "cheapo bastard" range, in all of its anorexic design and minimal credibility? Or are you (or are you simply feeling) a cut above the rest, interested in what the best is, ready to expend hard earned cash for quality goods, sucked into the "ZOMG WTF Organico-supero-20minuteorgasm-packaging-by-madonna" line? Even - heavens - talking to a real person at the deli counter?

Or do you calmly steer a straight path through, and go for the standard "pay a bit less/more, get something edible-yet-inevitably-slightly-prole" range - the middle of the road that means you don't stand out too much when you are finally judged by the 16-year-old cashier's gaze?

Time and space are not the only things that converge under the long striplights of the supermarket aisle. Perhaps this is the reason why Sainsbury's hasn't followed the Tivo way of things. The potential for "scheduled grocery delivery" has been abandoned, gouged at by the twin pillars of on-line shopping, and more sporadic diversity in grocery delivery boxes. It would be simplicity and convenience itself to get a supermarket to deliver the same box of stuff on, say, a fortnightly rotation - to your door, in your fridge, down into your stomach and back out via the underground pipes.

But that would require that we accept the social identity, the status we pick for ourselves as we sift through the 10-foot deep panorama of bacon.

No comments: