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In this modern, commercial society it is of vital importance that the consumer be aware of all the marketing techniques employed by those temples of capitalism, the supermarkets. It is often said that the modern housewife behaves like an ancient, matriarchal gatherer when ambling down the aisles, collecting seeds, vegetables and such staples for her family group, and that the male behaves as an ancient mammoth hunter, darting around the shop purposefully, his mission clear and his goals precise. You might think, with their eyes set squarely in front of their heads and perfectly evolved for predatory activities, that these 21st century Zulu would be well equipped for the weekly shop.
But you didn't reckon on the underhand techniques of the modern supermarket. Well aware of the primitive desires driving on the consumer, they have evolved, even designed their produce to take advantage of these Cro Magnon-esque urges.
'Preposterous!' I hear you splutter. 'I know they pump an artificial smell of fresh bread into the shop and put sweets by the checkout, but I'm damned if they fiddle with my hypothalamus!'
They do. And my proof? Well, lets take a Saturday shopping stroll with a typical consumptive. A woman in her mid thirties, say, called Mary, with productive looking hips, running to fat only slightly, a household to feed and a tight budget, gleaned from social welfare and a small inheritance from her late father.
She shops in Wal Mart, does Mary, and like a certain Miss Magdalene before her likes the freedom of the market, as she can wander unmolested by her offspring and spouse for a while, free to sample the delights of random flirtations in the aisles.
As usual, when she enters the shop she is plunged into an overwhelming sense-o-rama! All around shoppers shop, check out girls check out, shelf packers pack, and the smell of fresh croissants mingled with oriental fruits is in the air. First off is the fruit&veg aisle, as it is a universal law in supermarkets that the consumer be confronted with fleshy delights from around the globe as quickly as possible.
She is conscientious about making sure she has a goodly supply of fruit and vegetables around the home, for the sake of her children, so she makes sure to stock up well. But with what? A random choice on her part, she thinks, but carefully considered by the doyens in charge of this particular multinational.
She pauses at the tomato stall. Here there are the cheap, everyday tomatoes, scarlet with promise and bulbous with expectation. Next to them lie the beef tomatoes, wildly expensive but so big and red! They are curvaceous, lightly perspiring, muscular and smell muskily of Dutch soil. How can she resist? She picks the Beef tomatoes, GM engineered and brought to fruition by tomato sex pheromones just in time for her perusal. Little does she know that this chemical monstrosity invites penetration only to disappoint. What an expensive tease!
Potatoes - she buys the Irish brand, imported and deluxe, outrageously expensive but pregnant with the lusty seed of the Irish soil.
Bananas - She strokes the slightly curved shaft of a carribean corker, appreciating the turgid feel in her hands and wondering if it is not a little too pricey? Nonetheless, she can't resist - into the basket it goes.
Melons - She feels the weighty melons, touching them, letting her fingers taper down from one rigid nipple to another. She knows that the exterior may be hard and uncompromising, but she can imagine the fleshy, almost liquid goodness within. She longs so to eat the innards of this tantalising, tempting delight that without thought she places it in her basket.
Now she is lost to sense.
A few other items in her trolley, she wanders onwards to the meat isle. Here there are many meats from around the world. Aberdeen Angus steaks, fillet steaks direct from Argentina, Chicken, New Zealand lamb. Quivering with anticipation and lust, it is all she can do to stop herself throwing all these things in.
Nonetheless, she is selective to some degree. She grabs an impossibly large Teutonic salami and inhales deeply, almost putting her lips around the fleshy end of this mighty Germanic meat such is her lust for the toned, spicy flesh.
Some chicken thighs and breasts are her next target - they call out to her from across the aisle and, after a brief and barely critical investigation of their rational merits, into the basket they fall.
Now she wanders around the shop, almost aimlessly. She has forgotten she has a list of precise instructions on what to get, and finds herself lost in a trance of orgiastic consumption. Anything is game.
French bread, long and thin, with a rough, ribbed texture. Olives, stuffed with Anchovies and succulent, waiting to be pincered in forceped fingers and orally consumed. Ice Cream, straight from Napoli and on the verge of melting, a fine lubricant and satisfier of any appetite.
After a long while, and yet after no time at all, she finds her trolley won't accept any more. Spent and tired, she wanders out to the check outs and prepares to pay and go home.
$300!!! She can hardly believe it. Her family income is only $150 a month. Shame faced, she hands over her credit card and vows not to lose herself next week as well. She knows the bank account is dwindling, and this is money she can barely afford. How to send the children through college when her net funds are decreasing at this rate?
And this sorry tale is repeated millions of times everyday across this small globe of ours. How can you protect yourself against the subconscious ministrations of the supermarkets? I am not sure. For in protecting ourselves, we would lose so much. My only suggestion is that shopping be done in groups, such that we can keep an eye on each other and make sure we do not fall into the trap of wanton shopping. I really don't have a better answer.
[Editor's Note, by zikzak]