The Illusion of Choice: Who Really Chooses What We Eat?

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On Thursday March 20, 2014 I visited Crest Fresh Market in Norman Oklahoma in order to observe everyday people shopping for groceries. It was a rainy day and this supermarket was relatively empty. This is a relatively new store in Norman and caters to a higher end consumer than some of the other supermarkets in town. It was well managed with friendly staff and clean floors. Walking in the door, I grabbed a grocery basket and started following behind the woman in front of me. This was the way I observed, following from a respectable distance while pretending to be shopping myself and taking notes on a pretend shopping list. I was able to follow several individuals as well as one couple and one family who were shopping during this time sample. I saw interesting trends in behavior and analyzed these trends in order to see the causes. As I looked though my notes after leaving the store, I thought of something that linked all these shoppers; they all thought they chose what to buy. Their personalities and the possible personal benefits of certain items led to the purchase of particular goods, but they still bought things available in this store. No matter what the shoppers bought, they were supporting the choices of the large invisible commercial agencies that made the items available. The first shopper I followed appeared to be an upper middle class woman around 40 years old who appeared to have made all her shopping choices before arriving at the store. The first thing I noticed about her was that she carried a piece of paper, her grocery list. Following her around the store led me to notice how spread out the items on her list were; this was a very large grocery store and she walked it three times over in search of ite... ... middle of paper ... ...o observe several very different types of people shop in the Crest Fresh Market in Norman. They all chose items based on their personalities and possible monetary or health benefits. Their shopping habits varied widely, especially those of groups of people shopping together. The link between all these people is that while they think they chose the food they bought, but this choice is just an illusion. Large invisible commercial agencies control the products that are available to these consumers, and these do not necessarily pick the products the consumer would pick in a completely open market, but the products that allow for the greatest profit margin. The everyday grocery shopper does not consider these huge corporations during their shopping trips, but without knowledge of the true decision makers, the supermarket will continue to be full of false decisions.

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