By Richard E. Noble
Interestingly enough, I was actually living before the “Supermarket Age”. Yes, yes I was actually raised in the “Age of the Corner Store”.
The Corner Store had a little bell above the door that rang to wake up the retired old person who lived in a room in the back of the store. Everything in the Corner Store was overpriced - but nobody knew that until the Supermarket came to town. The complaint of the Corner Store owners who went out of business due to the arrival of the Supermarket was that the American people would rather stand in line to save a dime than to support one of their friends and neighbors in that little corner store. Corner store owners were bitter and didn’t understand “progress” or “marketing” or supply and demand or technology or economics.
With the arrival of the supermarket the Corner Store vanished - but not for long. Suddenly came the “Convenience Store”.
The “Convenience Store” was the corporate version of the Corner Store. The motto of the Convenience Store was “why stand in line to save a dime when you can give us that dime and be on time.”
Unfortunately for the general public that dime has turned into a quarter and the quarter into fifty cents and that fifty cents into a dollar.
I went into a Convenience Store the other day. I don’t think it was a chain or corporate type but a privately owned version. I was standing in line with my $2.00 wilted green pepper that I had forgotten to buy on my last trip to the grocery store and there was a fellow in front of me with a gallon of milk.
He was obviously a young working man - a laborer. He had the boots and the wardrobe to prove it. He had three one dollar bills in his hand.
The lady behind the cash register rang up the young man’s gallon of milk and then announced the price. I think the price was something like $5.35 which seemed considerably more than what milk was selling for at the supermarket. But this was not a supermarket: this was a “Convenience Store”.
The young man was somewhat startled by the cashiers announcement, but without a word he dipped back into his wallet and pulled out three more one dollar bills.
As he was standing there waiting for his change he mumbled to no one in particular; “Boy, I’m sure glad I ain’t got four young ones at home. Kids need and drink a lot of milk. A working man could go bankrupt at these prices today.”
The lady behind the register said; “Don’t worry about them, they have WIC and welfare. The Social Services take good care of them kind of people.”
The young man took his change and left the store.
The cashier lady then turned to me and said; “If he can’t afford it why don’t he just shop some place else - we’re not a Discount Store; we’re a Convenience Store.”
Well, to be honest, I’m in agreement with the young man. I also feel sorry for those young working people who must buy $5.00 a gallon milk for their kids. And young, non-college graduates, working not-so-great jobs in America represent 80% of the younger work force. Interestingly enough many of those who do have good jobs and college degrees are in their late twenties and early thirties and still living at home with good old mom and dad - they can’t afford their own home or even an apartment. What is going on here?
Today in America there are 38 million people who, by our American standards, are classified as living in poverty. That’s the entire country of Colombia.
There are another 58 million who are classified as nearly poor. These 58 million are living on the edge of “getting by” and falling into poverty. If one of the workers in these nearly poor families loses his or her job or gets sick, they are over the cliff and tumble into poverty.
Thirty-eight million poor and 58 million almost poor - that is 96 million people.
Right now we have almost 1/3 of our nation living in poverty or almost in poverty. During the depression of 1929 we had 40% of our nation living in these conditions (though even worse) - but we only had 100 million people in those days.
I think somebody should start being concerned.
I can afford to go to that convenience store to buy a $2.00 wilted green pepper if I choose to - but I’m not going to. That lady turned my convenience into an annoyance. I dislike being annoyed even more that I crave convenience. I won’t forget my green peppers at the supermarket in the future and they will no longer see me at the “Annoyance Store”.
Richard E. Noble has been a resident of Eastpoint for around thirty years now. He has authored two books: “A Summer with Charlie” which is currently listed on Amazon.com and “Hobo-ing America” which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” which will be published soon.