Ramblings from the Warrior's Den
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
OK, assuming that this thing still actually works, I think I'll post my semi-annual entry here. II've well transcended the point of starting with excuses for lack of posting, to the point of a nagging thought of "Oh, I still have a blog?" somewhere in the back of my mind. Back in school now, with 1 quarter's worth of classes to finish up for my degree in three quarters, thanks to the schedule. I can say that I'll be really happy the day I never have to set foot on that campus again (I'd elaborate, but the 2.5% maximum politics content of this blog doesn't really allow me to do so.)

You're probably aware of the competitive nature of the grocery business. With no less than 3 major grocery stores within two blocks of here (and a couple more not far from that) the competition for business is intense. So of course, when you want to try and bring the customers in, it's time for a sale. But nowdays, you can't just throw up the sale sign and expect everyone to come and unsuccessfully try to crash down the automatic doors (but if anyone cars to form a mob and attempt to do so, please let me know so I can watch from a safe distance away.) These days, you have to have some sort of gimmick to get people to show up. There may have been a time when you could just stick big posters up in the window saying things like "Bananas, 15 cents per pound" in that whimsical number font that Home Depot seems to have ripped off for their procetags and that would be plenty. But in this day of short attention spans, even the quiet, unassuming grocery store has been transformed into 20,000 square feet of retail hubris.

Take for example, a couple of the advertising circulars for grocery stores that came in the daily dead tree spam today. One, for QFC (the local semi-yuppie mart, as opposed to Larry's Market, the uber-yuppie mart in this area) advertised in big bold letters the "Milk Madness" sale. This could either mean that you'll have to jump into the middle of an all-out, no holds barred steel cage match with Bruno the Bruizer (also known as the Disaster in the Dairy Aisle) in order to get the specialy priced gallons of milk, or the specially priced product comes from reanimated dead cows, and will turn you into a rampaging, mindless, calcium-fortified zombie at the sight of the full moon. But since I doubt that QFC has enough lawyers to deal with the side effects of either of these, they have to resort to just assigning the fancy name to a fairly run-of-the-mill special.

Not content to let QFC hog all the madness for themselves, Albertsons responds in their ad with a sale of their own: The Xtreme one-day Meat Sale! They even managed to come up with a fancy logo for it. The prices really aren't all that special, but just think of the ramifications: A meat sale that even skater dudes and bungee jumpers can associate with! You could even get one of those monster truck announcer guys to come in and do the commercial:

This FRIDAY FRIDAY FRIDAY! It's the Albertson's XTREME ONE-DAY ONLY MEAT SALE! It's ground beef... LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE! See T-Bone prices SLASHED TO THE BONE! Beef, pork, chicken, fish.... ALL HALF OFF! Hurry now to the Albertson's XTREME ONE-DAY-ONLY MEAT SALE! You can use the whole cart, but you'll only need... THE EDGE!

Given the fact that advertising circulars are often hard pressed to get anyone's attention, it doesn't surprise me much to see such gimmicks starting to creep in. In general, such circulars are most often tossed in the trash with nary a glance. Even if you were going to take a look at it, there's never anything earth-shattering, and unless you're one of those crazy smart shopper types who spends hours clipping coupons from the paper, you'll probably not pay attention to it even if you're going to the store. I find that on the rare occasions I go to the store (Costco: It's a beautiful thing) I have a specific list of things to buy, which being male, is a good thing to prevent me from wandering around the store aimlessly for hours with a confused expression. Rumor has it that several men who got so lost they couldn't find the exit have set up an encampment in the canned goods aisle at the local Safeway, awaiting rescue by the spouses who sent them there. If any of these items happen to be on sale, so be it. I probably just saved a couple of bucks.

It occurs to me that grocery store marketing is largely a matter of trying to win over the hearts and minds of a populace that isn't even listening.

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