Shopping is the examining of goods or services from retailers with the intent to purchase at that time. Shopping is an activity of selection and/or purchase. In some contexts it is considered a leisure activity as well as an economic one.
When I was growing up most people went to the grocery store just once a week. If I had to guess I would say that in the 1960's most supermarkets offered 4000-5000 items. Since that time the average number of products carried by a typical supermarket has skyrocked. By 1980 the average number of items being offered rose to 15,000. These days the number has risen to around 50,000 items! Are all of these choices really necessary?
A few weeks ago I was shopping in a local supermarket when I happened upon a guy about my age (I am 58) who was contemplating which bottle of bleach to buy. I remarked "Did you ever think you would live to see the day when there were 25 varieties of bleach to choose from?" He just laughed and shook his head. I find that I have the same dizzying experience in just about every aisle of a supermarket nowadays. Just go to the cereal aisle where you will find more than a dozen varieties of Cheerios, four kinds of Total and seven or eight flavors of Chex. Is this really necessary? Just 25 years ago the very idea of purchasing water at a grocery store seemed incomprensible. Today many markets feature a bottled water section half the length of a football field. What a hideous waste of resources! For me all of these choices make grocery shopping a very confusing experience. Prices change constantly and can vary considerably from store to store. Meanwhile, manufacturers tinker with the sizes constantly. You will note that most ice cream is no longer sold in half-gallon containers and that 7 oz can of tuna you used to buy has been reduced to just 5 oz over the past few years. The simple fact of the matter is that the more choices there are the easier it is to deceive and confuse the consumer. You have to be on guard every step of the way. I find that even though I know my prices backwards and forwards getting the best value for my hard earned money is becoming more and more of a challenge. I have found that the secret of successful grocery shopping is to resist purchasing items that are simply overpriced or not on sale that week. Otherwise you will find yourself at the mercy of the manufacturers and the markets.
Now from where I sit people view other forms of shopping a lot differently today than they did years ago. I think attirudes changed dramatically sometime in the 1980's when restrictions on Sunday sales were lifted in many states. Prior to that time shopping for clothes, appliances and other necessities were part of a Saturday morning "to-do" list for most folks. But with the advent of Sunday sales and extended shopping hours during the week shopping has become something of a pastime for many people. I simply cannot relate. Drive by any mall on a Sunday or a holiday and the lot is jammed packed. Of course it is nice to treat yourself to something special from time to time and going shopping can be a great opportunity to get together with family or friends. But in all honesty the last thing I want to do on my day off is traipse around a crowded, stuffy mall all afternoon. Having said that I realize that I my view of shopping is probably in the distinct minority these days.
So for me shopping remains for the most part a necessary evil. I figure out what I need and try to get in and out of stores as quickly as I can. I am always looking for the best deal and have precious interest in browsing. But for the vast majority of Americans shopping has become something of a pastime or activity. Spurred on by cable channels like HGTV and Food Network shopping has been taken to a whole new level. But at the end of the day there are many other things I would rather be doing with my time. How do you feel about shopping?
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