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The PJ Tatler

by
Stephen Kruiser

Bio

August 28, 2013 - 3:47 pm

Yes, they’re judging you.

Then he looked down at his grocery cart and felt quite a different tug. Inside the front of the buggy, hooked onto its red steel frame, was a mirror. It stretched nearly a foot across, and as Mr. Pulido gripped the cart a little more tightly, it filled with the reflection of his startled face.

The sight was meant to be a splash of reality in the otherwise anonymous la-la land of food shopping, a reminder of who he was, how he looked and perhaps what he had come in for. And if the spell cast by the store wasn’t entirely broken, it seemed to have lost at least some of its grip.

“I’m looking at myself, and thinking, ‘O.K., now what?’ ” he said.

The mirror is part of an effort to get Americans to change their eating habits, by two social scientists outmaneuvering the processed-food giants on their own turf, using their own tricks: the distracting little nudges and cues that confront a supermarket shopper at every turn. The researchers, like many government agencies and healthy-food advocates these days, are out to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. But instead of preaching about diabetes or slapping taxes on junk food, they gently prod shoppers — so gently, in fact, that it’s hard to believe the results.

In one early test at a store in Virginia, grocery carts carried a strip of yellow duct tape that divided the baskets neatly in half; a flier instructed shoppers to put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart. Average produce sales per customer jumped to $8.85 from $3.99.

Here in El Paso a few months ago, the researchers focused on the floor, laying down large plastic mats bearing huge green arrows that pointed shoppers to the produce aisle. The outcome surprised no one more than the grocer.

Yes, I am aware that retailers have been trying to nudge patrons in subtle ways for a very long time. Their motives were purely profit driven and, as a raging free market guy, I’m quite OK with that.

What’s going on here, however, it that paternalistic “We know what’s best for you” load of condescension that makes me cringe. It’s a lot like recycling, which I didn’t mind doing until people started telling me I had to do it. I’ve always spent more in the produce section of the grocery store than the snack or dessert sections but that is my choice. Those who choose to fill a SUV with Cheetos & Dr. Pepper every visit should be free to do so as well. The only reason their choice becomes the business of others is if we have to pay for their exploding hearts. That is just one of the many reasons I don’t like taxpayer subsidized health care.

What my neighbor is having for dinner should never be any business of mine.

It’s quite perplexing that in this society that’s obsessed with feelings (“Words are bullying”) and self esteem (“Letter grades can demoralize some kids”) we’re now signing off on the public shaming of physical appearance.

As the El Paso store found out, an increase in produce sales doesn’t really do much for the overall bottom line. Of course they’re not going to hit the Ruffles and onion dip if you’ve just used your mojo to get them to buy carrots and apples.

Doesn’t anyone think about these things ahead of time?

Stephen Kruiser is a professional comedian and writer who has also been a conservative political activist for over two decades. A co-founder of the first Los Angeles Tea Party, Kruiser often speaks to grassroots groups around America and has had the great honor of traveling around the world entertaining U.S. troops.

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All Comments   (4)
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Loved this line from the NYT:

“We’re trying to give consumers the same power the companies have.”

Uh, no, you're not, Mr. Payne. You are substituting YOUR judgement - not at all the same thing.

God, these nannies are obtuse.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, a local chain that can't sell the ad space on the front of their carts lets a busy-body put mirrors in, and that merits news coverage?

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Geee, and here I am under doctor's orders to gain weight. (Large doses of Ibuprofen over long periods of time can screw up your appetite.) Maybe I should sue all these people calling Americans too fat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I guess it's not enough to just sell food and make a reasonable profit anymore......

My food retailer starts pulling crap like that, and I'll tell them I don't appreciate it, and until they cease and desist, I'll just do my food shopping elsewhere.

Or in reality, I'll probably just ignore their efforts; arrows on the floor? Oh, I didn't notice. Mirrors in the grocery carts? Oh, I thought that was a courtesy for the housewife who wants to freshen up her makeup.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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