Last week, I stepped into the supermarket in my locality, run by a corporate giant, where I am a regular customer. I handed over my privilege card to the guy at the counter and discovered that I have been gifted a voucher worth Rs. 100 for being their loyal customer for the past two years.
Cool. Their business is moving pretty well – I can see that from the number of customers entering and leaving the showroom.
Two years back, before this air conditioned bazaar revolutionized my shopping habits, what kind of a consumer was I ?
I used to pedal my way to the grocer’s shop and the fish monger’s stall with a jute bag dangling freely on my bicycle handle. The grocer seemed to know everything about the people of my locality. It was from there that I learned about the recent deaths and latest gossips. The fish seller never failed to feed my cat with cheap fish while I made the transaction. The ‘coconut man’ always used to smile at me as he weighed the coconuts on his weighing machine and occasionally gave me an extra large coconut for free because he knew that I liked ‘coconut chammandi‘ (a pasty dish made from grated coconut).
I remember the first day I visited the supermarket. I picked a push cart and rolled it along the infinitely long rows of shelves that contained everything from snerples to zombies. I was mesmerized by the huge volume of products dumped into the market by the producers. If you want to buy a floor cleaner, you have Brands A to X, and if you are particular about buying Brand Y just give a quick note at the counter and you’ll be provided with it the next week. I who used to be satisfied with the single brand of soap offered by the local grocer suddenly got curious to try out different brands of soaps that came in gleaming packages with half the price. The end result was a long bill and an almost ’empty’ ATM card.
Dumb was what I were.
The basic principle on which commerce exists is trust. Trust is what I see in the eyes of the fish seller when he refuses to sell me stale fish even if I ask for it. A civilized society cannot endure without trust. It is interesting to note how customers are deceived by the manufacturers.They make you think you’re getting the same item in the same packet at the same price when you are actually getting less. Go complain, and they’ll say that they are saving you from price rise by reducing the contents. The manufacturers pack shampoo and dish wash in funny shapes of bottles that make the real estimate of contents impossible(Yeah, they do print the volume of the contents, but in a font too small, merging into the colour of the background). Every item is marked with lovely phrases ‘New’, ‘Activated’, ‘Jumbo’ and so forth. We see ‘New’ and we reach for it.
Why do we allow this to happen even after being aware of it? Not because we are dumb or careless. But because we are too engrossed by the packet than the content. We are too tired to take a calculator and a Harward graduate to the mall to figure out what we are buying.
Just look at the advertisements on the showroom’s wall. Ads exist not to satisfy our desires but to create them. We are taught that possession is happiness, and that possessing is responsibility. We buy things which we don’t really need, and grow tired of it when a newer model is released. Most of the luxury goods we buy are bought only for the sake of buying. And we end up draining our handbag after every purchase.
I still go to the local grocer and fish seller for a purchase. Because I see in them trust and generosity. I know that I am being deceived at the supermarket and the gift voucher they offered is their token of love for my acceptance to remain deceived. But I can’t get rid of their privilege card just because I am addicted to the comfort of shopping in an air conditioned room.
20 thoughts on “Deception-Filled,Corked and Sold”
Mee first:)That was a wonderful read. Yes i do agree with you in all of the things but don’t you think the govt is also helping them indirectly to cheat us? How and why are they allowed to pack the things in odd amounts of weights and volumes? How and why are they allowed to use unnecessary superlative degrees which misguide the normal public? And moreover are we not snatching the livelihood of the ordinary people who sell items in shops or at the footpaths? Then there are some advantages also here… Because of super markets we are actually gaining lot of time and money. See in big cities where different things are available at different places and being a normal man of this fast paced competitive modern world who can afford to waste the time in going to all different places and the traveling expenses? Again there is a major thing called trust. If you are buying something like rice or dal at super market they have their name as guarantee for the quality but if you go to a new grocer shop, can you guarantee the quality of those things? In such scenarios the super market fellows can't cheat you as their name will be at stake. This has become the main reason for most of the people living in India to go to big big super markets even though the price of those things is a little big higher than the grocers outside.And coming to the fish and mutton shops you are talking about trust because you have never been cheated by such people where as in most other places of India they are renowned to cheat their customers both with quality and quantity.Personally I want to do my shopping by selecting each and every item fresh but how many people have that time and patience? I used to stay in Bangalore once and there it was very difficult for me to find good places where I can find good commodities. Hence even I used to depend on big supermarkets for my needs. Because of all these reasons these many super markets are making their way into our normal lives.Ohhhh i never thought that this comment will become soo large. :)Have a nice day!
How wonderful you have such a grocer and a fishmonger! Here in Trivandrum, I have been cheated umpteen times by sweet smiling fisherwomen, passing over decaying fish, fish stinking of ammonia, ( some has tried to convert me too! See my post, 'the bible and the fisherwoman). So now i go to Spencer's or Reliance, get fresh veg or fish – maybe i end paying a little more, but i get value for my money. I am still sympathetic to the local small vendors, but sometimes I feel my sympathy wasted.
Well shopping experience is to be enjoyed to the hilt, then why not with a little comfort? And deceiving is the part of every business, we are customers, so its our duty to get deceived 😛 Nice post!
On Star Movies, there was this movie yesterday: "Confessions of a Shopaholic." I enjoyed reading your bit as much as I enjoyed watching that movie!!Riyan.
Let me quote the first comment.."That was a wonderful read".Loved the way you presented your ideas.Well done.
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hey netha, hmm… a nice read in d first place. u have raised a few questions, n urself have answered it towards d end as well…n,comin to d personal relationship wit kirana shopwallahs, its one of d major challenge for organized retail in the longterm (especially in a relationship centred mkt like india), hw-much-eva they r tryin to replicate d personal relationship element through loyalty cards/points, nothin is clickin as of now.N yeah,advertisements do create demand.hweva, in d same lines; if u don go philosophical, advertisements have upped our standard of livin.N, one more, Everything is fair in Love, War and Marketing*. :-)*as long as not it is misleadin..
That was very nice…….i opt to shop from the local shops in my village than go to the town …to those fancy supermarket ……where they sell a fake business smile also……after effects of urbanization may be…..naatya pradhanam nagaram daridram…naattin puram nanmakalaal samridham….
Hi Netha,First of all,its a great observation.Though I believe the supermarket giants are killing our small scale tradesmen,I think its inevitable for the middle class to depend on the supermarkets as we can't waste time going to ten stores.The pace of life has changed and I'm afraid we can't oblige the 'trusty' local tradesmen.And the ambiance of the well kept supermarkets do tend to drive us in..Anyway nice post,I enjoyed it…
we live in a give-take world na?
nice post…interstngly thought..!!yesterday, i was taught the basic principles of economics n i guess they really apply here…trade-off between comfort and affection, the owners make marginal decisions n all that..!!its all a rule of the world abt the flourishing supermarkets.had we not asked for them, they wud hav never been here in the first place..!! Its us only whom v can blame.
Quite an interesting thought and beautifully put.
@Asif,(out of breath)!!!!!…Okay.Back to senses."super markets we are actually gaining lot of time and money." I'd say this is true, at least in my case.I can't always afford to run from one local vendor to the other all the time for buying my stuff.Again, unless you are very familiar with the local vendor, the chances for being cheated are high. I once had such an experience in Banglore.I was fooled by a group of local cloth sellers.(not to mention the numerous other situations where I paid heftily for goods of cheap quality)Unfortunately, we can't see trust everywhere.Thanks for turning up first to share with me your shopping experiences.
@Balachandran sir,Thanks for the comment,sir.I must say that I am lucky.It is not always possible to see generous vendors, especially in the cities.I too have almost fully surrendered to 'Reliance' and 'More'.
@Tanvi,Thanks.Not necessarily should we surrender to deception.There is always scope for protest :)@Latika, Kavya, Pulchaadi,Thanks guys.@Rahool,Enjoyed your comment. Well, in 'upping' the standard of living, we have shelled out pretty much cash. And all the cash goes to the corporate giants.Thus, in buying things we don't actually need, we are becoming poorer and poorer, while the shopwahlaahs, who already are rich, get filthy rich.Thereby, the gap between the rich and the poor widens.This situation, for sure, is dangerous."Everything is fair in Love, War and Marketing*."You are indeed very philosophical!!
@myside, Vaisakh,Thank you. Thank you. Besides selling the best products, the local salsemen share with us emotional bonds.So, if you turn up to their shops, they'll not only give you milk and butter, but also enquire about your and your family's well being.
@deeps,Thanks for the comment.The transaction is fair when, and only when, the customer gets the full worth of his/her money.Give and take, as long as you are not cheated.@Engima,Thanks.
@Dhawal,Me no economist :)Do they really teach this stuff for engineering course?Without supermarkets, I think, it is practically impossible for the middle class to meet their day to day needs.Take my case for instance.I can't get all products of my choice from the local sellers, so i have to depend upon the supermarkets to a large extent to meet my consumer needs.Besides, we can't do anything but ask for it. Just think of life without supermarkets!!You'll have to run around everyday from one vendor to another!!
true indeed..!! n yeah! they do teach economy, psychology, english and even philosophy at IIT… dunno wat i will bcum wen i ll get my degree!!:P