28.11.08

Good shopping?

In an earlier post, I stated that shopping at Trader Joe's does not make you a better person.

Cam read that post, and commented that
'Cause the thing is, I have recently been thinking about the same topic in precisely the opposite terms-- that is, thinking that shopping at TJ's just might possibly make me a better person!... Work with me, people. I'm not asking you to rule on the evidence with respect to the merits of Trader Joe's (although that would be an interesting discussion); instead, I just want to entertain the notion that choosing to shop at one place rather than another could be connected to personal virtue. People who don't choose Wal-Mart because of sweatshops or because they think big box stores upset local economies are making the same sort of claim. Are they all wet?
She then says that, in her reading of my post,
Unless I mis-read her, she was referring to the fact that when she shops at TJ's, she is routinely pushed about by aggressive yuppies who appear to regard their time as more important than anyone else's-- such un-virtuous behavior constituting prima facie evidence against any claim that TJ shoppers are an across-the-board superior class of human being!
Actually, Cam, you are misreading me.

I've shopped at TJs exactly twice. Both times were unpleasant experiences, filled with the type of shopper who look down on those of us that prefer Hannafords, A&P, Stop&Shop or other grocery stores. As I said in my post, I don't like being locked into one store's brand when shopping for food. Since I'm trying to reduce the gluten in my diet, I want choice. TJ's gluten-free breads are pretty bad; Kinnikinnick has a much better product. Pamela's does great brownie and bread mixes (not to mention the cookies). TJs has great soup, and there are other products I enjoy eating. But it's not the only place I'll shop, ever.

While I may not choose to shop at Wal-Mart, that doesn't make me a better person than those that do. I prefer Powell's to Amazon, and Book Court to both. Again, that doesn't make me a better person: it simply means that I have choices and that I'm exercising my right to choose. Ain't capitalism grand?

Choosing to shop at any store shouldn't make you feel like a better person. It shouldn't make you feel superior to anyone that doesn't follow your choices - something I saw at TJs and hear from those that have decided to shop there or at Whole Foods. In some ways, it reminds me of the holier-than-thou vegetarians who say that everyone should adopt their choice. One person told me that it was healthier to eat soy and other products and to avoid meat; when I responded that not everyone had that option (I know people for whom the local food bank in Vermont, stocked with "leftover" venison, fish and other hunted food, is their lifeline during the winter), I was told that everyone - and he meant everyone - could afford to eat other foods, even when they're out of work, trying to do the best they can for their families and unable to afford to go to the local IGA.

Arrogant? Yes. Narrow-minded? Yes. Living in a bubble? Yes.

That's what I get from the people who oh-so-ostentatiously shop at TJs. Cam, I'm glad that you feel that choosing to buy from them makes you, somehow, a better person than the type of person who doesn't. It may mean that you can afford those products... that you live close enough to a Trader Joe's... that you don't mind limiting your purchases to their products... I could go on. It's your choice. But I don't think you're a better person for it, just as I wouldn't think you a worse person for choosing another store. You're just Cam.

Isn't that enough?

1 comment:

camillofan said...

LG! You are perfectly free to disagree that a person's choice of grocery store is connected to personal virtue. However, it's very unfair of you to ellipsis out the bit of my post where I expcitly stated that I didn't think it made me better than other people, only better than the self than the one I would be if I didn't follow my conscience!

I said,
Now, I don't necessarily mean that I think it makes me more virtuous than other people (viz., non-TJ shoppers); I'm only wondering whether it mightn't make me better, in some morally relevant sense of "better," than I was before I started shopping there (or, if you like, better than I would be if, now that I've found TJ's, I were to go back to my old grocery store).

You said,
Cam, I'm glad that you feel that choosing to buy from them makes you, somehow, a better person than the type of person who doesn't.

Please don't put words into my mouth.