Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Trip to the US. Places to Visit for impressions.‏

Don't know if you had a chance or were planning on it, but I would imagine visiting either a Costco or a Sam's Club warehouse superstore might be of interest to you. Most American's shop there ambivalently, without thought to the abundance they take for granted. I would find it very enlightening to get your impression. You need a membership to visit / shop, but maybe one of the readers would be willing to take you. If you are visiting the southern california area, I would be willing.


Yes, I visited the big Cabela’s in FW/Dallas and then a few supermarkets.
It was surprising in all of them the abundance of just about anything. Shelves full of ammo (and cheap!) as well as all kind of gear. Same thing in supermarkets, huge family packs for little money compared to what I’m used to. Over here in Argentina everything is smaller and more expensive.

There’s also much less variety of everything. I’d say 1/10 or 1/20 of what you guys have at least. We have chesse, muzzarela ofr pizza and a couple other, maybe four or five more in a bigger store. In a walmart in USA there’s dozens of varieties, maybe hundreds.

You guys are used to seeing all that as normal, it really isn’t.
The same translated to other areas as well. We don’t get soda drink refills here in any diner or fast food store. You just get one cup, small medium or large, and that’s all you get. (and of course its more expensive and more diluted with water).
I went to Starbucks in College Station and asked for a small coffee… they didn’t have any. The smallest they had was “medium”, and the medium is about twice the size of a large coffee in Argentina.

The abundance and excess of everything isn’t bad, but I can see how it can spoil people, specially if they don’t know any better or think that normal.



Lamb said...

"Nothing succeeds like excess" as the old saying goes...and that's the problem here in the US. Everyone is so used to having so much, that the thought of having less (or dear heavens, NOTHING!) is virtually inconceivable to most. Even the poor folks are used to variety and abundance through food stamps and other gov't programs. Did you notice the size of houses and apartments when you were here? Everyone thinks they are entitled to their own 4000 sq.ft. "McMansion" or a huge apartment with an "open floor plan" and a "gourmet kitchen". Don't forget those granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, now!

Yeah...in the event of collapse, most Americans will starve or just die of stupidity because the majority won't even be able to scratch dirt and drop in a seed or two. I know that sounds cruel and mean, but it is the truth.
I have family members that live in upper middle class suburbia. Professionally landscaped yards, swimming pools, all the bells and whistles of the "successful life" and the "American Dream".
I shudder when I think of how hard it will be for them.

They don't garden or hunt, they don't even own guns! They don't know how to can or dehydrate or preserve food. They don't sew or have any skills I would consider worthwhile to have when the SHTF.

Yes, most Americans are too accepting of excess as "the norm" and too complacent about the future.

russell1200 said...

Our restaurants have learned, that with a lot of competition, the expensive part is the marketing and overhead necessary to get people in the door.

Giving people lots of, by comparison, inexpensive food so that they leave with that overfilled feasting sensation, brings them back. Since we also tend to eat out a lot, it helps us further along with our obesity problem.

There was a Wall Street Journal a few years ago that noted that British restaurants served relatively small portions compared to US ones. When some of their restaurant chains began mimicking US practice, portion size went up: as did profits.

dc.sunsets said...

From the Notebook of Lazarus Long: Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded--here and there, now and then--are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

Also, from http://mises.org/daily/2982 , "Everything you love you owe to capitalism."
Excerpt: "To put it differently, we owe this scene to centuries of capital accumulation at the hands of free people who have put capital to work on behalf of economic innovations, at once competing with others for profit and cooperating with millions upon millions of people in an ever-expanding global network of the division of labor. The savings, investments, risks, and work of hundreds of years and uncountable numbers of free people have gone into making this scene possible, thanks to the ever-remarkable capacity for a society developing under conditions of liberty to achieve the highest aspirations of the society's members."

Anonymous said...

Nice post on the abundence in America.

Anonymous said...

This kind of abundance is normal in a capitalist society. The problem is most of the world lives in more socialist economies than ours. But I see the things changing in the US for the worse. For example, the other day I went to a new store named Aldi(German mid-size food market) after a friend recommended it highly because it had low prices. So I get there and the first thing I noticed was that there are no shopping carts scattered on the parking lot. All the carts were neatly lined up at the entrance. I tried to yank one out and it was tied with a cable to the cart in front. The way to release it was to place a quarter in a slot. OK, a little unorthodox for Texas, I thought, and kept on moving. The prices were low but the brand names were all unknown, and the things I wanted were really not that much cheaper than at Wal-Mart. When I paid, the cashier placed all my items in the shopping cart without bags. Now, this was flat out disappointing. Imagine commuting 10 miles back home with jars and cans rolling on my truck's floor. Once I emptied the cart, I had to return it to the entrance of the store and hook it up to the cart line which in turn released the quarter. They claim that the reason their prices are "lower" is because they save on grocery bags and employee count. Yes, but they do that at the expense of customer service. They have a niche market with low income minorities.

This place is also next to a Dollar General store in shopping plaza that is slowly declining. At lot of shady characters roaming around with no apparent reason. The parking lot was a little trashier than normal.

In comparison to Wal-Mart, Kroger, Thumb Thumb:

Carts are free to use and dispose of—in designated areas on the parking lot.
Items are bagged for the customer.
Prices are just as competitive.
Parking lots are hectic but kept clean.

Needless to say, I'll continue to patronize Wal-Mart.

Gallo@GTA Forum

Anonymous said...

In Mexico, the street vendors will sell you soft drinks in plastic bags, or charge you extra for the extra deposit you would get. But its the original Coca-Cola formula, not American imasculated sugarless substitute.

When serving food with tortillas, they use the tortilla as a untensil, picking up the hot food and taking a bite using it. Pretty efficient - no utensils to clean.

Anonymous said...

I had a good laugh at Anonymous's comment about Aldi. Aldi is a German company that has been operating on the "minimum customer service" model since the 1960s. The US Aldi markets are set up exactly like their German stores, except in Germany, there is no social stigma of shopping at one. The store is by no means "new" or an indication that "things are getting worse" (not that I'm disputing the worsening economic conditions in the US, but using Aldi as an economic indicator is silly).

If Anonymous wants nice bags to put their groceries in, perhaps he or she should visit Aldi's other chain store Trader Joe's. That's right--the upscale market much beloved by the American upper class is run by Aldi. The generic no-name stuff you see on Aldi shelves is the exact same food sold under the more expensive Trader Joe's brand; just under a different name and package. Personally, I'd rather buy at Aldi and cut my grocery bill in half instead of paying extra for the illusion that I'm better and richer than those "low income minorities". Then again, I don't buy into the typical American attitude of paying extra for bigger houses, bigger cars, and junk you don't need in order to feel good about yourself.

Lamb said...

Gotta agree with Anonymous on the Trader Joe--Aldi's connection. There are no Aldi's where I live, but if there were, I would shop there. I shopped at one when I lived in Missouri years ago. Made my own shopping bags (reusable---think of that!)
I always found the groceries at Aldi's to be of excellent quality and...c'mon...they carry stuff that most discount grocers don't! Aldi's was the first place I bought whole wheat pasta, sun dried tomatoes and other gourmet items I couldn't afford elsewhere.
As for Wal-Mart...I don't even walk into one of those places unless it is of absolute necessity.
I also shop for groceries at a "Everything $1" store (yes, some have groceries and even frozen foods!), local farmers markets and ethnic grocers (Hispanic and Asian) where I live.
Think "outside the box". Especially the "big box", aka Wal-Mart. The freshest and least expensive spices I find at the local Hispanic grocers. Fresh produce and oils (such as sesame oil) and the best noodles are at my Asian grocers.
Yes, it requires a little more effort...but I have made friends in several different ethnic communities in my area (when the stores are small, you get to know the people better!) and I have learned recipes that aren't in any book! (I can make my own kim-chi now!)

Anonymous said...

Lamb's advice is great for any American looking to cut down on their grocery bills. I've lived in many US cities, and the family-owned, small ethnic markets ALWAYS had the freshest and cheapest produce no matter where I live. You could also find great deals on spices, oil, beans, and other staples.

Anonymous said...

I sort of knew my post would arise emotion since Aldi is a good store with a clearly defined business model—perhaps even with trendy customers in some parts of the country. However, the one I went to is clearly barometer for a neighborhood in transition from good to worse. I speak from experience since I used to live a couple of blocks away from this store in 2005 and moved away from that area because of increased criminal activity, especially after Katrina-displaced people took permanent residence in the area. Aldi was not there in 2005 neither was the Dollar store but they moved in as the neighborhood tanked. Must I mention that in the same shopping plaza there is the “We Buy Gold” store, too, and a couple of blocks away, the pawn shop. Needless to say, you won’t find an Aldi across the street from a Flagship Thumb Thumb or Krogers. It just doesn’t happen.

I did find good quality products (no brand name, but very good) at Aldi, but still I will not go back to the store. To me it’s a bit depressing, reminds me too much of ‘East’ Berlin circa ’95. Their pricing is done in such a way that some items seem like a great deal and others are marked just a bit higher than, say, Wal-Mart. In the end, if you make the store a one stop shop, you pay just as much or more as you would in Wal-Mart. If you just buy the low priced items and drive to Wal-Mart to buy the rest of the things, well then you just wasted time and gasoline. So I just stop at Wal-Mart or Costco for real saving and at Sprouts for really good prices on fruits and vegetables. My stuff gets bagged (or boxed as in Costco) by a young kids with a smile. I don’t have to put a coin into a slot to get a shopping cart. And I still save more using the brand names I’ve come to trust.

I may sound like an elitist prick…I’m not. But if you want abundance at great prices got to America’s icon of capitalism—Wal-Mart. You want to experience a different culture, bag your own crap, and push an empty cart 100 yards to recover 1 quarter—Aldi is your place.

Gallo@GTA Forum

Anonymous said...

The Aldi in my area is directly across from a Kroger and Kmart and Blockbuster are not too far away (about a street over). In my area Aldi is a lot cheaper on some things and the same and more on others than Walmart. My area may be an exception though.

Anonymous said...

the trader joes by my office in cerritos ca has some of the nicest looking female customers of any grocery store. this is true of most TJ locations in SoCal.

if beutiful women is not a great reason to survive, well i don't know what is.