American Consumerism

February 2016

There comes a point in everyone's life where they look around and ask themselves where can I get some food?  In NYC, Amish Market was the answer.  One stop shopping at its finest.  Then I moved to Budapest.  Usually one-stop shopping at Spar albeit with frequent indulgences at Culinaris.  Now I live in Prien am Chiemsee.  I generally get all my groceries at Rewe, but there are certain organic items that are better quality & cheaper at Denn's, Regional Markt or DM.

Now I'm in Pennsylvania.  And sometimes New Jersey.  The nearest supermarkets are Giant, Acme & Walmart.  I like Whole Foods and Wegman's, but they are farther away & not along the way to any other places of business that I may frequent.

The first thing that hits me when I walk into your typical American grocery store, besides a rush of cold air, is the sheer size of these super-sized-markets.  Today, my primary 'exercise' was stalking the aisles of Giant.  I wandered around looking up at the aisle contents signs like most tourists ogle NYC skyscrapers.

The second part of my shopping experience is awe over the selection.  A short-sighted economist might think, you're welcome!  You may thank me for economies of scale, optimal productivity, and globalization!  You may now choose between 10 brands of potato chips.  To me, however, it's not simply the selection that is appalling, it is the awful quality of the selection.  Bacon for example.  It all looks the same, is more or less within the same price range, some is from turkey, but not one is organic or from a happy pig.  Every pig that provided that bacon led a miserable existence wading through its own excrement.  A lot of people don't care about the pig's life, but don't pretend to care about your own when you eat 'meat' injected with a plethora of chemicals.  I don't need 12 bacon brands.  I need one.  One quality bacon from the village pig.  Choosing from 12 different kinds of shit isn't consumer choice.  At least give me a local or organic option, even if it costs a ridiculous premium.

Finally, as we prepare to leave the freezing black hole, we encounter the epitomization of America's worst characteristic:  the plastic bag; a singular symbol for the disgusting, excessive waste in the country.  Why is everyone so obsessed with plastic bags?!  They give me a worried look and ask if I'm sure I don't want plastic.  Are you absolutely sure you'll be ok with just your reusable bag & holding that carton of milk in your hand all the way across the parking lot to your car?  Not even paper?

In Germany we complain about the packaging on food items, but at least there are always recycling counters at the exit to leave behind any unnecessary wrappers or boxes.  

I think America's love affair with waste is a subliminal expression of conspicuous consumption.  It's time for American consumers to realize that conspicuous consumption is an ugly characteristic and is actually conspicuous stupidity.  Intelligence supposedly differentiates humans from other species though to deny your impact on the planet is ignorance.